Album Review: Jagwar Ma - Every Now & Then

Album Reviews
Anna Kaplan

Back in 2013, Noel Gallagher said he was too busy talking about Jagwar Ma to reform Oasis. That was before their first record was even released, and once their debut, Howlin, hit the airwaves, Sydney's Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma quickly entered the ranks of Tame Impala and Django Django. Jagwar Ma scoured a few corners of the planet in making their sophomore record, Every Now & Then - starting at home in Australia before heading to their own hand-built studios in the French countryside and North London. Knowing all ears are on you isn’t always the best way to dig into record #2, but Jagwar Ma managed to drill deeper than ever before and pull out some enchanted and obscure gems from the end of the rabbit hole on Every Now & Then.

While some tracks like “Falling” and “Say What You Feel” are memorable of songs from their debut record, others, like “Loose Ends”, they weren’t capable of until now. Gab Winterfield opens up more than ever in the lyrics, and shows full range of his vocal ability. The chorus is dazzling as well - the use of horns is ingenius as Winterfield’s vocals bounce around creating the album title’s namesake. Songs like “Ordinary” and “OB1” follow suit in the same repetitious, sample-friendly manner, and reach further into new Jagwar Ma territory. They have laser sharp guitars, anthemic choruses, and even feature Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa on the drums. Jagwar Ma can often be a lot for the ear between endless samples, continuous synth loops, deep bass, and hypnotic vocals (see “Give Me a Reason”, which floats past the seven minute mark), but these tracks are the dynamic sweet spot.

These bright, radio-hit tracks on Every Now & Then are ultimate high for the duo, but Jagwar Ma also shows what’s possible at the other end of the spectrum - fully departing from the danceable lightness of their first album. The latter half of record has more space between the samples, synth, and bass - allowing the songs to become much darker and suspicious. “Slipping” picks this dark energy up, as it glides the fine line between light and heavy. Turning threatening in “Batter Up,” a turbulent sound arises towards the end, signaling the storm that’s about to strike. “High Rotations” is the goldmine of the album. Jono Ma nails a pounding, industrial beat, as Winterfield whispers his way through the verses. The chorus explodes into an intense interrogation, as Winterfield hauntingly chants over and over, “I’ll look in between every gap you have.” These tracks seem to come from a necessary trip to another post-apocalyptic world, where Jagwar Ma reached far down in order to make these songs.

The last tracks on the record return from the upside down, but still show their scars. “Don’t Make It Right” and “Colours of Paradise” barely manage to eclipse back into the sunny, synthy single territory, but they do give adequate closure to the album. Jagwar Ma shows what they’re capable of in the middle chunk of this record, transcending everything they established on Howlin. Every Now & Then is a product of combining where ominous and luminous meet, and as ambitious as that may be, Jagwar Ma does it well enough that the risk pays off.

Every Now & Then is out now via Mom + Pop. Grab a limited edition signed vinyl, or stream it virtually anywhere.

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