Howlin’, the debut from Austrlian duo Jagwar Ma, holds together well for music that slithers in, out and around genre so much.
In many cases, it’s psych rock meets electronic music, and dropping the D from EDM is key here because you wouldn’t call this dance music. Howlin‘ opens on the beat-driven “What Love,” but it’s a loping, spaced-out beat. Maybe the right crowd can get in some tranced-out booty shaking to “The Throw” or “Four.”
And it isn’t heavy psych rock. At times, it’s psych with a pop sugar coating: In “Man I Need,” the twisted backup vocals and gnarled guitar sounds are grounded with delightful ‘60s pop melodies and lyrical lightness. In other tracks — “The Loneliness” and “Come Save Ma” — it’s pop dressed up in psych ornaments.
The comparisons to fellow Aussie psych band Tame Impala will be unavoidable, and the Beach Boys melody comparisons have already been talked about. Jagwar Ma isn’t redefining any genres by bending them like this, but it’s fluid enough that it sounds like something that’s definitely their own (thanks, largely, to the stronger beats and even lighter electronic touches).
The last two tracks — “Did You Have To” and “Backwards Berlin” — wrap it all up with hypnotics. It’s somewhat of a let down after the pop-infused, nearly-danceable stuff that came before, but maybe Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield wanted to ease us out. It’s a hypnotic comedown from a trip that shouldn’t make sense and maybe felt very familiar, but it was exciting while you were in it.