Album Review: Hanni El Khatib - Head in the Dirt (2013 LP)

Hanni El Khatib's second album Head in the Dirt delivers some sexy riffs and a pounding garage rock sound. But what else should you expect from an album produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys?

The title track, 'Head in the Dirt', leads the record and has a grinding intro that builds up to a very Black Keys-esque riff. The track switches tempo throughout, while adding more layers every few bars. There is so much going on, and so much to get caught up in, that you miss a few elements of the song in the first listen. Each subsequent listen has you notice something you might not have picked up before, which is always an exciting feature to have in any song.

The album is made up of killer track after killer track, with the only real ballad being 'House on Fire', the album's closer. It's misleading though. It lingers and moves slowly and then jumps through the last few bars of energetic riffs and fun. The album is a test of endurance and energy, perfect if you need some motivation.

Second track 'Family' doesn't waste any time, with a fast and energetic drum riff that hits you in the face within the first few seconds. Try and stay still while you listen to this song. You can't. It explodes in the last minute and this is where all the fun happens. A section you can imagine clapping to, lots of energy and a drawn out end. This is one of the stand out tracks on the album.

Most of the songs on the album are very similar to each other. This isn't a criticism though, it's an observation that they have a great thing going and shouldn't do something different for the sake of it. 'Nobody Move' is sinister with its lyrics "Nobody moves and nobody gets hurt", and contrasts between stripped back verses and a stomping chorus. This is another stand out track, one that I hope will surface to win them some more fans. I love the way El Khatib and his band build up each layer of every song and throw in new instruments every so often when you're not expecting them. The raw blues sound is done to perfection. Tracks like 'Can't Win 'Em All' and 'Low' are impossible not to listen to on repeat a couple of times.

The production on this album needs to be commended. The use of different instruments is perfect on each track; the layering is done expertly.

This album is a great reflection of Hanni El Khatib's abilities as an artist, and his songwriting skills. It's typically garage rock and blues in style, but what's wrong with that? Today's world needs more raw blues music.

Review Score: 8.2 out of 10.

Head in the Dirt will be released in Australia on POD via Inertia on 3rd May 2013.