On their highly anticipated third LP, Houston based psychedelic trio, Khruangbin, makes listeners feel as though everything is, and will be, alright. Known for their unique, distinguishable instrumentals and influenced by musical styles from around the world, Khruangbin delivers a soulful and enriching record with Mordechai.
Mordechai showcases the band’s versatility, as tracks are influenced by Spanish culture along with influences personal to the band. The band also pays homage to specific people and places directly associated with them.
The album opens with the jazzy, sunny track “First Class.” The opening bass chords and the vocal textures, including the words “champagne” and “first class,” paint a picture of a cool, glamorous summer afternoon – riding shotgun with a friend throughout a city. The city in particular is Houston, Texas – as the band pays homage to their origins, proclaiming “H-Town” in an expressive, cathartic way in the second half of the song.
“Time (You and I)” is a sweet song about making the most of life, with a kickin’ bass line from the band’s bassist, Laura Lee. The song closes with the bandmates singing “That’s life!” in multiple languages. Guitarist Mark Speer hoped to include a disco break on the album, and found it in this song.
Much of the album creates an atmosphere of an easy, Spanish summer afternoon. One can envision listening to the tracks while sipping a drink with good company on a summer day. Tracks “Connaissais de Face” and “Pelota,” in particular, evoke this feeling. On “Connaissais de Face,” Lee and Speer engage in an abstract, soothing banter about people they know and their shared experiences. Dedicated to a late acquaintance of theirs named Stacy, the song embraces the fact that although she may not have known the bandmates by name, she knew them by their faces, as the translation of the song title suggests.
The following track, “Father Bird, Mother Bird” is a beautiful display of Speer’s guitar talents. The guitar drives the melody in this song as the chords are incredibly soulful – it seems the guitar is singing in a profound, heartfelt way. The progression of the chords is captivating. A solely instrumental song, this track finds Khruangbin revisiting their traditional, instrumental roots.
“If There is No Question” encapsulates two lessons which have “become part of the ethos of the band.” The first lesson being, “if it’s not a yes, it’s probably a no,” and the second – “if there is no question, the answer is yes.” An introspective and reflective track of one’s decisions, this song is undoubtedly a special one on the album. Lyrics such as “The glass will shatter/I’ll go with you/You’re not crazy/You’re wild/But, you’re not crazy” encapsulate what it means to be human – humankind shares in vulnerabilities and moments of self-doubt.
The second half of the album maintains the spirit and musicality of the first half. “Pelota” is an incredibly fun, contagious song with an adventurous tone. The track’s accompanying music video encapsulates the song’s energy. “One to Remember” features an awesome “nonsensical drum fill” at the track’s opening, and serves as a teaser for the later track, “So We Won’t Forget.”
“Dearest Alfred” is a meaningful track, with lines pulled from letters written by Lee’s grandfather to his twin brothers – one of whom was named Alfred. This is another track in which Speer sings with his guitar, and does so beautifully. “So We Won’t Forget” is undoubtedly a standout song on this album. It’s a lively track which finds the band reminiscing while presently cherishing their loved ones.
The closing track, “Shida,” is incredibly soulful. In typical Khruangbin fashion, the trio tells the story of an Iranian woman they met during their travels named Shida. As stated by the band, Shida’s story is “too powerful for words; [they did their best] to sum up her story in this song,” instrumentally. With just a whisper of their subject’s name, this track is profound, emotional, and may be one of Khruangbin’s best yet.
Overall, Mordechai is a delight to the ears and will please existing Khruangbin fans, while surely engaging new listeners. Khruangbin continues to occupy a unique and special space in the music industry, and this project serves as a joyous breath of fresh air.