Album Review – Habibi by Habibi
Habibi are a four piece band originating from Brooklyn. They blend together psychedelic rock sounds with 60s girl group vocals, creating a classic, nostalgic sound.
The band is made of vocalist (and tambourine player), Rahill Jamalifard, guitarist Lenaya Lynch, bassist Erin Campbell, and drummer, Karen Isabel. In 2014, they released their self-titled album Habibi. This has been my go-to album for the past few months. Habibi flitters across subjects of love, and freedom, and rebellious gypsy types. All with a stripped-back, rock ‘n’ roll vibe. With light guitar solos and witty lyrics on their side, Habibi’s influences span from Motown to punk – and they bring it all together seamlessly.
The album opens with the track ‘Far From Right’. An upbeat tune punctuated by Campbell’s deliciously thick bass, and surf-rock sounding guitars. It sets a happy tone for the album – one that is exceeded by the next track: ‘I Got the Moves’. It is packed full of 60s girl-group style harmonising vocals and this track has lashings of tambourines and wholesome pop beats to satisfy everyone. Equally polka-dotted is ‘Detroit Baby’, where Jamalifard sings to a lover. Lyrics like “sweet sugar lips” and “sweet sugar toy” are thrown about, but just before your molars tinge, the band’s punk influence rears its head. Jamalifard taunts: “You’ve got a story/I’ve got one too”.
‘She Comes Along’ is a much slower track, a soft lamenting with drawn-out vocals, Jeff Buckley-style guitars, and gently-hit cymbals. The minor scales of the track hint at the Middle Eastern influences of the band. Discussing her inspirations in an interview with Les Persiennes, Jamalifard said, “I grew up first generation Iranian outside Detroit, Michigan, which is the birthplace of Motown. So I think I am a composite of my lineage, my environment, and whatever I choose to expose myself to.”
Habibi brings minor scales into many of its tracks, including the more-sultry ‘Sunsets’. ‘Persepolis’ is another direct nod to Iran, with Lynch’s muted guitar opening showing traditional Persian folk influence. That is, before it dives right back into the 60s psychedelic sound that trademarks the album as a whole. ‘Persepolis’ has an eerie, introspective tinge, with Jamalifard giving listeners a little taste of Nancy Sinatra-style vocals.
One of the most sing-along worthy tracks of the album is ‘Sweetest Talk’ – a sun-warm song with a bouncing melody, about a woman with the “sweetest talk”. But, as proven earlier, it’s not all about the sugar – Jamilfard’s interests in nomadic living are shown in the lyrics: “She’ll hang with gypsies/and travelling tramps/but she’s got more culture than a caravan”.
‘tomboy’ is equally enticing with its ear-worm qualities. It’s sung in a teasing, school-girl voice. The track is about a rebel woman who is, amongst other things, a “liar”, a “cheater”, and a “curser”. She’s also a “supervillain’s hero”, and a “walking inquisition”.
Habibi is thoughtful in its simplicity – but it is a simplicity that keeps it from becoming boring, even after playing the album on loop. With hooking melodies and honest lyrics there isn’t much more you could ask for… and all in only 30 minutes!