Album Review: Jagwar Ma-Howlin

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If, through some random deliberation, you believe you’ve never heard of Jagwar Ma before, you are wrong. It doesn’t matter if all you listen to is Kerser or Beethoven, you’ve definitely heard the band through some format or other. The only possible way Jagwar Ma could escape your radar is if you literally live under a rock. Jagwar Ma have been one of the most hyped acts of 2013. Their name has permeated almost every music publication available to the public from Rolling Stone, to the deplorable NME. They even got the tip of the hat from Noel Gallagher from Oasis, because apparently he’s still relevant. For a band of relatively few musical releases, everything they have released (which, before the album, accumulated to a couple of singles) was universally praised, and Jagwar Ma moved up one more spot on the hype ladder, somewhere between Frank Ocean, Snakadaktal and Palma Violets.

Now, in most cases, hype’s a killer. It’ll chew you up, spit you out and no one will remember your name, or the fairly mediocre album you left behind (cough, Lana Del Ray, cough). However, for Jagwar Ma, a Sydney duo that blend infectious Madchester sounds with modern pop sensibilities, their sound is one of unbeatable pragmatism. Indulging in a soundscape from obvious caretakers like The Happy Mondays, New Order, and The Stone Roses, to the rave subculture of The Crystal Method and Junkie XL, to subtler shades of  Primal Scream and Stereolab in their experimental-pop days. Jagwar Ma present the world with their best foot forward, with ‘Howlin’, an album that shifts in deliberate, cohesive patterns that ca only draw the listener in more and more.

The opening three tracks to the album paint a verbose, shady atmosphere for the album. The double dose of ‘What Love’ and ‘Uncertainty’ are heroin induced tracks that prepare the listener for the ecstasy riddled bona-fide fuck-you-up cascade of ‘The Throw’. And throw it does (sorry, that was too obvious), all around the room, a slow-burning tribal wave that starts out gingerly and then blasts you with gooey, green muck a la Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. You were expecting it anyway, but its still a fucking delight when it comes anyway. The album version of ‘The Throw’ is way better than the edited single we got a couple months back, simply for the fact that it has that extra couple of minutes to buck and weave and cement itself in a soundtrack of Trainspotting, should it ever get re-made (fingers crossed, knock on wood). Those disconcerting jungle chants around 3 minutes in would be perfect for the scene in which Rent Boy overdoses on heroin and gets carried around on the carpet.

So after a near 7 minute medley of ugly truth, what do Jagwar Ma logically follow up with? ‘That Loneliness’, a delicately balanced ode to romance, complete with counter-tenor chorus, subtle, jiggly worms of uninvited electronica, and more than a passing resemblance for the next track, and one of the first songs Jagwar Ma ever released to the public. I am of course talking about the feel good hit, ‘Come Save Me’. Swaying and fully immersed, it’s addictive simplicity is what many feel is Jagwar Ma’s unique and identifying quality.

Chanty, sing-song lyrics that draw the listener with a siren-like quality, latched together with dripping synths and multiple musical influences that all clash in beautiful harmony seem to be all in a days work. You can see it clearly in ‘The Throw’, ‘Man I Need’ (which happens to have one of the best music videos of the year), ‘Four’, and ‘Exercise’. Everything a sophisticated listener could want in an album is heartily available on Jagwar Ma’s debut. The palette is astounding, and the sonic shifts are all logical, and better yet, sound as cohesive as the move from a sip of Dom Perignon Champagne to a small dip of caviar. Regardless of the fact that I have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about, and just looked up ‘shit rich people eat and drink’ on Google, it sounds pretty fucking good doesn’t it? Well, Jagwar Ma deliver all the goods and more, without any of the bullshit. I doubt they’ll be fading off into the NME Graveyard any time soon.

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