November: Jagwar Ma – Every Now and Then

So here’s November’s offering and I confess to be coming into this review from a fairly biased starting position.  I love what Jagwar Ma do and have done since seeing them in the John Peel tent on a Saturday lunchtime at 2013’s Glastonbury with my other half and the blog’s Guy Hornsby.  To sum any band up is tricky: they’re original but they steal.  They have their own sound but it’s interspersed with little nuggets taken from elsewhere.  They’re the embodiment of an oxymoron but boy does it work.  Consequently, they’re incredibly easy to connect with, especially if you’re someone who’s easily swayed by a band shamelessly throwing back to mid-90s baggy psych one minute (Man I Need)  and bringing trance-era vibes the next (Four).. Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma are  consummate musical magpies, all about the loops and repetition, like so much electronic music that it’s wonderful to disappear into… so with much of that 2013 set it felt almost illegal to be having that much fun on a Saturday afternoon.

That brings us to Every Now and Then which, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really want to review because I’d be buying this album anyway and sometimes it’s tricky to be objective with something you’ve been looking forward to for so long.  But here we are and I’ve had this album for about a month or so now (having caught them live again at the Brudenell Social Club in the meantime).  Again, where Jagwar Ma just do it so well is they’re amazing with taking tropes and little hooks of other sometimes timeless tunes and textures and weaving them into their own songs.  In Say What You Feel, it’s pure Beach Boys harmony and melody thrown in but it’s not immediately obvious that’s what they’re doing as it’s swirling around gorgeous twists of reverse track and backing vocals.  They’re taking what they kicked off with the debut Howlin’ and expanding it, making the soundscapes wider and richer (I know many albums are but it’s one hell of a headphone listen).

The album’s first single, OB1 is pretty much a stepping stone between the debut and this new collection of songs but it’s one where it almost feels like they’re plagiarising themselves it’s so close to The Throw in feel, for instance.  But with them being who they are, it’s a head nod, an acknowledgement and then straight into an immediately accessible belt-out chorus.  I can’t help thinking that if they were a guitar band as opposed to synth dance they’d be quite at home doing the arena tour circuit with refrains like that in their locker.

It took me a few listens to put my finger on it but there’s a moment in Loose Ends which is pure Beetlebum by Blur and another example of where they’re the magpies I’ve been pointing towards.  The song where the album’s title comes from is beautifully crafted, layered and produced; it’s as good as anything the band have done and is so wonderfully hypnotic.

Every Now and Then is a fine example of a band having found their niche and are now exploring the sound that they’ve created.  They’re evolving at a steady pace and they continue to be not only a fine live act (you really should try to catch them if they’re playing near you).  This second album is the sound of a band stretching their legs and hitting their stride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 comments

  1. David Allison

    An excellent first album choice from the blog’s newest ordination, Brother Paul.

    There’s clearly a Balaeric revival going on. You can hear in house tunes, you can hear it in the anything-goes mentality of more forward-looking bands. Jagwar Ma’s latest effort fits squarely into that category for me. It’s a perfect condensing of the last 20 years of dance and indie-dance music – in particular the early 90s, when the boundaries between indie and dance really starting mixing. There were loads of names floating around for me – I was thinking of The Beloved, and obviously Primal Scream and the Happy Mondays, and of the Paris Angels’ All On You (Perfume). I remember coming back from the record shop in York in 1990 with a 12″ of The Vince Clarke remix of the Happy Mondays’ Wrote for Luck and thinking – this is what the future sounds like! This record reminds me of all that.

    It’s a surprisingly hard thing to pull off, particularly as you can easily sound like a tired pastiche. There are other bands who’ve given this a go in the last few years. Cut Copy did an album that was pure early 90s sounding indie-dance – and a couple of tracks were brilliant, but an album it just didn’t sustain. This album does, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to it.

    If I had a small criticism, it’s that the songs don’t deviate from a pretty similar template, and they also do last quite a while. On occasion, I would have been happy with a minute or so less on the odd tune. But that’s a small note – this a lovely ray of sunshine on a cold, wet winter’s day, and I can’t ask for more than that right now.

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    Thanks Brother Paul, and welcome to the blog with your first AOTM.

    As you know, I’m a similar position to you on this one. 2013 – Mel Kingston is squarely to blame here – was a Glastonbury epiphany for me here with Jagwar Ma and I’ve seen them there twice and twice elsewhere. Magpies is a great way to describe them, but it’s a compliment and not a criticism. Nothing, as they say, is original any more, yet they take those influences and sprinkle their own dust on them and make them their own.

    This is, officially, the “difficult second album”, but while it took a while (touring relentlessly, I imagine) it is instantly accessible and enjoyable. It’s definitely less “dance” than Howlin’, with O B 1 the bridge between the two LPs. The more guitar-driven feel seems like a more decided direction, and having seen them live recently, they’re less shorts and vests and more skinny jeans and leather jackets. The band feels as if it is growing up, raving less, recording more.

    And while I still love their more ravier tracks, this is a more coherent effort in many ways, free from the wandering styles and jumps of it’s predecessor. It’s a real grower, too. Say What You Feel is surfer rock, but throws in steel drums, Loose Lips is that languid stoner throb they do so well, and Give Me A Reason grabs that Stone Roses percs manfully once more. Yes, its all very familiar, but it’s very much THEIRS.

    It sounds like a band developing more of its own identity more than anything, but still full of creativity too. Yes, it’s not a huge evolution, but if they love making this music and they’re good at it, why feel the need to change drastically?

    Great album choice Paolo. There’s nothing wrong with choosing something you love. #PLUR

  3. misterstory

    Hi Guys. Usual apologies for tardiness. Usual excuses. I am looking forward to 2016 being done with.

    Anyways, welcome aboard Paul. Interesting choice for me this one. When you suggested 2 album possibilities for the blog my heart was totally committed to the other one … I had no real reason for this other than the 30 second google search that I executed on both options. The first reference I found to Jagwar Ma included the word ‘Madchester’. So it was with trepidation that I first listened to this if I am honest. Whilst being honest … I really didn’t take to what I heard on first listen. My wife asked what I was listening to as it was so ‘unusual for me’. After repeat listens I don’t fully agree with her but I do know where she’s coming from. This album is nowhere near miserable enough for my usual tastes.

    I did listen to it a few more times but then kind of forgot about it. Then I read your write up on this here blog. It reignited an interest in me as you seemed to be describing a totally different album to the one that I heard. So with my new ears I listened again and I have enjoyed it much more since reading your words. The power of the blog. I still don’t think its really for me and I do have to make a proper conscious choice to (want to) listen to it (I am listening to it now) but I can hear what you hear and am perhaps richer for having it in my life and expanding my miserable horizons.

    I can hear Animal Collective in quite a few tracks. These elements are probably the entry point for me as I do like Animal Collective and can find a way in through this.

  4. nolankane706

    Firstly I must apologise about my delayed reaction to this album, essentially I’ve been juggling a newborn, lack of sleep and work which has been interesting.

    Aside from the above, I really wanted to give this album some time to get my head around it. In short musically I was a fan, but really struggled with the lead singers vocals. He just seemed to bang on a bit at times. Over time I did warm to them a bit, especially in the second half of the album.

    The tracks are put together really well and sound amazing. In many ways right up my street. On further listens I think where I may have had a tougher time with things on the vocal front were when the tracks lasted longer than needed and seemed to be pushed by the vocals. Perhaps with these I would have viewed them different in a less is more context.

  5. misterstory

    This hasn’t caught me I’m afraid. I like it when i listen to it but its not making me choose it. Im obviously missing something that Brother Guy is lapping up.

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