Published Jan 20, 2015Hanni El Khatib's rise to the upper reaches of the garage rock world began after traveling to Nashville in 2013 to record an album with Dan Auerbach. Sophomore effort Head in the Dirt saw the Innovative Leisure co-founder's music earn placements in everything from video games to television ads. It wasn't difficult to identify Auerbach's heavy influence on the recording, with many likening El Khatib's work to his producer's blues-rock output with the Black Keys — a fair comparison given that the two share eerily similar vocal timbres, among other musical similarities.
Opting to go it alone in recording his third studio record, Moonlight doesn't find El Khatib straying far from the formula that improved his musical fortune a few years prior. Those content with the polished production of record number two will find it in straightforward blues rockers "The Teeth," "Servant," "All Black" and the drum-driven stomp of the opening title track. But for each retread of familiar territory, there is a new instance of intrigue. El Khatib offers up a glimpse of something different by waltzing listeners through the outro of "Worship Song (No. 2)," dialling the volume back for the slinky "Dance Hall" and getting groovy on the infectious string-assisted "Two Brothers." Though few and far between, these moments show that El Khatib has his best foot forward in moving towards experimentation and individualization. (Innovative Leisure)