ALBUM REVIEW: Jagwar Ma ‘Howlin’
When I first heard about JAGWAR MA, I was very excited. This was mainly because I realised they were primarily made up of Jono Ma from LOST VALENTINOS and Gabriel Winterfield from GHOSTWOOD.
Both of these bands I had really enjoyed listening to over the years, so I was interested to see what they had come up with together as JAGWAR MA.
Their debut album ‘Howlin’ opens up with ‘What Love’, which keen followers of the band would have probably heard through a YouTube upload. Earlier this year, others may remember it from their Big Day Out performances, during their support slot on THE XX Australian tour, or for those who were really lucky, on the first half of JAGWAR MA‘s own headline tour, before they had to cancel the remaining dates due to Jono’s unfortunate illness. If you haven’t already heard this track, it’s synth driven, contains a heavy bassline and the vocals will probably remind you of LOST VALENTINOS.
I felt very privileged to be the reviewer of such a highly anticipated album because it meant I’d be one of the first to listen to it anywhere in the world. Friends begged me for the secret link of the stream but I was sworn to secrecy.
It was now time to listen to the second track known as ‘Uncertainty’, which commences with a solid disco vibe and moves into Gabriel’s calm vocals, followed by a nice guitar riff. Almost a minute and a half of the way through, the song takes a rapid turn into a more explosive direction.
The third song is one many people have been frothing over since its single release, ‘The Throw’. On this occasion we hear the extended version, featuring over three extra minutes of distorted vocals, intense percussion and some quality jamming of synthesizers. ‘That Loneliness’ is next and upon hearing this song and their first single ‘Come Save Me’, which follows directly after, it’s obvious THE BEACH BOYS were one of the main inspirations behind JAGWAR MA‘s sound.
Halfway through the album, the club orientated ‘Four’ erupts with its tribal like beats, giving us a sense that the band have definitely participated in their fair share of rave parties in the past. Later in the album we hear the recently released ‘Man I Need’, which reminds me a bit of the now retired band THE MUSIC.
Continuing on there’s ‘Exercise’, which is basically an encore of ‘Man I Need’ and features a collage of acid house and Brit rock. JAGWAR MA then finish off with the two most down tempo songs on the album, ‘Did You Have To’ and ‘Backwards Berlin’, to help us wind down.
I think the reason why JAGWAR MA are already so popular is because of their ability to intertwine genres effectively. The combination of Jono’s knowledge of electronics and Gabriel’s addictive vocals creates an interesting contrast and after this album is officially released, it’ll be easy to see why they’ll continue to infect people with their impressive sound all over the world.
Words by Tony Kingston