Khruangbin shines on the hazy, sun-soaked Mordechai
According to lead singer Laura Lee, Mordechai, the title of Houston–based psych funk trio Khruangbin’s third album, refers to “a friend who [she] met last year that was really kind to [her].” It also refers to the name of the hawk from Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tennenbaums. I can’t think of better descriptors for the album: it radiates with the gentle warmth of an embrace with a dear friend, while showcasing the twee quirks of an Anderson film.
Mordechai may not be the most technically complex psychedelic rock album of the year (Yves Tumor’s Heaven To A Tortured Mindstill holds that title), but it’s certainly the most inviting. This is soothing, deeply engrossing music that simultaneously massages your brain and makes you want to lazily head–bop; the best kind of background music.
Khruangbin’s previous project, Texas Sun, an EP with Leon Bridges, similarly showed off bright, warm, sun–soaked vibes. Because Bridges and the members of Khruangbin are all Texas natives (Bridges hails from Fort Worth), they were able to capture the laid–back heat of a Texas summer night with outstanding clarity. The state remains an important sonic reference for the trio on Mordechai, too. The upbeat “Pelota” is clearly influenced by the Latinx diaspora in Houston, and features Lee singing entirely in Spanish. “First Class,” the opening track on the record, ends with the band singing “H–Town,” looped over and over again. Mordechai is a summer album, meant to be enjoyed while sun–bathing outside in Southern heat (preferably in Texas, of course).
While the funky instrumental backbone—arguable Khruangbin’s defining feature—is certainly still at the forefront of Mordechai, the album also makes great use of Lee’s vocals; previous Khruangbin projects have been almost purely instrumental. By adding an additional topline, Khruangbin fills out their bass–heavy mix: Lee’s pillowy, meandering voice is a welcome addition here. Songs like “So We Won’t Forget” most benefit from this change. Lee’s descending vocal melodies open into euphoric guitar riffs that dance around each other gracefully.
Other highlights from Mordechai include “Father Bird, Mother Bird,” a purely instrumental track that hazily floats along, grounded by sparse drumming and a rock–solid bass guitar. “Time (You and I),” the record’s lead single, features staccato, percussive guitar strums that propel the uptempo track along. It clocks in as one of the longest songs on the album, but never drags. Each section of the six-minute-long track switches vibes, influenced by a variety of musics around the world, stitched together by the proclamation that “If we had more time / We could live forever / Just you and I / We could be together.”
Purchase Khruangbin’s Mordechaihere, out now on Dead Oceans.