Head in the Dirt

Like hundred-dollar sandblasted jeans, the grit and grain on Hanni El Khatib's second LP feels less like the product of time and more like careful craftsmanship. Produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, this is desert-burned blues rock boosted by punk, soul and hip-hop – music that has a retro heart but couldn't have been made before 2013. He's less convincing as a badass ("Family") than as a guy who fights desperation by partying ("Low"). The Motown-esque "Penny" is full of sweet nothings, most charmingly off-key. The effect? You believe him. A former creative director for a skateboard fashion line, he knows how to package a look.

From The Archives Issue 1183: May 23, 2013