27 Mar 2014
With so many bands popping up all the time, I really hope I can be forgiven for having never heard of Habibi before accepting this assignment. Led by the Detroit born duo Rahill Jamalifard and Lenny Lynch, this Brooklyn based quartet is a refreshing and whip-smart re-tooling of the classic girl group concept. It’s a very mid-60s sound, with surf beats, reverb in just the right amounts, cool vocal harmonies, and sing along choruses.
I think we’re all intrigued by the girl group. Pretty young women playing electric guitars, wearing leather jackets and boots? Well, of COURSE I’m going to give them a listen. Habibi check all the right boxes, but there is much more to them than just the highly appealing physical image.
Opening track "Far From Right" sets the mood for the rest of the record, and it’s a standout track on a record FULL of standout tracks. This is also the song where the Detroit influence comes through strongest. "Sunsets" is a particular fave, with perfect harmony vocals and even a catchy little chorus complete with the call and response ‘his name was Joe’. "Sweetest Talk" is a groovy little surf number. "She Comes Along" strikes me as a bittersweet lullaby. The main arpeggiating guitar gives way to a perfect guitar lead with perhaps a slight Middle-East influence. The driving "Siin" has an almost Joy Division energy to it, but it’s an energy born less of angst and more of heartbreaking sexuality. ‘If he hurts me slow, I’m going to let him go’. "Tomboy" is a very self-aware choice for the band, and one that really works. Here, Habibi really reminds me of the Marine Girls, made ten times better because Habibi are far better musicians. The album closes with "Wrong to the Right People", an excellent closing track that leaves me wanting more. Again, smart.
Songs are hooky, well crafted and clever, with intelligent lyrics, flawless vocals and understated yet period-perfect instrumentation. Don’t expect blazing guitar solos or any single musician putting themselves before the integrity or the mood of the song. In this age where the typical music consumer is served up a tasting menu via the shuffle feature, Habibi has figured out the value of making every song a potential single. There is absolutely zero filler here, and each song is strong enough to stand on its own.
Habibi has been around since 2011, but I think they are only now getting their legs under them. Their recent trip to SxSW opened eyes and ears, I’m sure, so I am hopeful that they will soon be getting more opportunities to tour and record. If you’re a fan of smart pop groups with a 60s flavor, you are really, really, REALLY going to fall in love with these young ladies.
Available from Burger Records.