This summer, Jagwar Ma’s debut, Howlin’, has flown on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand, the buzz-worthy Australian duo has earned praise — especially in the UK — for their 90s- meets- psychedelics- meets- synth-pop sounds, essentially repping every genre under the sun (and then some). On the flipside, some have called Howlin’ one of the most criminally overlooked records of the season. Have you actually heard of Jagwar Ma until now? Whether you have or haven’t had these fledgling phenoms on your radar this summer, now is the perfect time for a second (or first) glance.
To say that Howlin’ is an eclectic record would be sheer injustice. Will the album beg you to dance? Absolutely. In fact, the activity may be more requirement than mere suggestion. Its first two tracks, especially, are tailor-made for grooving; “What Love” and “Uncertainty” could be Jagwar Ma’s best and brightest thus far, that sort of vibrant dance vibe suiting the band beautifully. Still, Howlin’ proves that Jagwar Ma aren’t really interested in one style over another. Throughout, there are elements of psych-rock, electro pop, and house to be found, all with a decidedly trippy twist. The aforementioned “Uncertainty” is repetitive in the best of ways, its hypnotic hook curving smoothly around a slick, killer beat. When Jagwar Ma decide to bring the hits, they definitely make an impression.
However, there are clear misses as well, although “The Throw” isn’t one of them; the track is a slow dance floor burner, peppered with a variety of striking sounds (synths, drums, rainbows, unicorns, etc) that soar over a hazy, golden glow. Later, Jagwar Ma disappoint slightly in their quest to keep us guessing. “That Loneliness” wins as a marriage between swingin’ sixties pop and surf rock nostalgia, but the epic electronic “Four” is all Disclosure, minus the carefree, youthful punch.
By the time that “Backwards Berlin”– a wispy ballad of the dreamiest sort– wraps things up, it’s obvious that Howlin’ is a super cool gift, but maybe one that’s not so practical. Despite small missteps, Jagwar Ma are definitely well on their way towards making memorable releases, and Howlin’ is just the first of many.