Hanni El Khatib: Moonlight Review

It’s been nearly two years since Los Angeles-based Hanni El Khatib released his third album Head in the Dirt, an 11-track record that featured several catchy tracks including three leading singles “Can’t Win ‘Em All,” “Family,” and “Penny.” On this bombastic follow-up, Khatib invites listeners to dive into his signature garage rock style with lead single “Moonlight”, a track full of the fuzz and swagger heard on Head in the Dirt and 2011’s Will the Guns Come Out.

When “Moonlight” begins, you wonder for a moment if you’ve accidentally begun playing a Black Keys track. It’s a common reaction, one that Khatib encouraged on Head in the Dirt by partnering with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach to produce it. Yet as soon as Khatib’s vocals come in, the song is distinctly his. Both artists have a similar garage rock sound, drenched in the fuzz effects they each are fond of, but while the Black Keys lean toward power choruses (especially on recent records, e.g. El Camino’s “Gold on the Ceiling” or Turn Blue’s “Fever”), a trend even Khatib tried on for size on Head in the Dirt, Khatib’s latest album is far more individualized. Moonlight does not have nearly as many catchy hooks as Head in the Dirt; it’s hard to call a garage rock album “pop,” but Khatib’s 2013 single “Penny” certainly bobbed within reach of pop’s protective umbrella. Not so with Moonlight. The record has hooks (the rhythm in “Moonlight” is catchy, while Khatib’s pleading lyrics “come over and melt me” of “Melt Me” give it a gravitational pull of sorts), but the album as a whole is distanced from Head in the Dirt. At odds with the first ten songs is closing track “Two Brothers,” which spends nearly four of its six minutes building into an orchestral grand crescendo, backed by a simple but necessary beat that holds it all together like glue.

Moonlight is not flashy, which is typically a good thing for a modern rock album; however, it does stand out in the purely experimental sense. Khatib has come a long way since his 2011 debut, when he was known better as a creative designer for a skateboard label than as a musician. Now he’s performing on Conan, touring through the U.S. and in Europe, and teaming up with Converse for the company’s latest CONS EP. Each new venture gleans untapped audience and media resources, and with Moonlight entering the ring as a style Khatib has previously only scratched the surface of, it’ll be interesting to see how fans react.

The Review: 7/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Moonlight
– Melt Me
– Two Brothers

The Big Hit

– Melt Me

Review by Meghan Roos

Buy the album: Amazon | iTunes

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One Response to “Hanni El Khatib: Moonlight Review”

  1. Ed Pauley says:

    I can’t get pass placing stick-on letters on a Gibson Les Paul Custom.

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