They say you have a whole lifetime to write your first album, and a year to write your second. In Jagwar Ma’s case, it took 3 years. Made up of synth player Jono Ma, and vocalist and guitarist Gabriel Winterfield, Jagwar Ma recorded Every Now & Then, the follow-up to 2013’s debut album Howlin, in a farmhouse in La Brèche, located in the French countryside (with additional sessions in an industrial estate in Tottenham, North London). It’s therefore only logical to say that the songs on this album have a better passport than most people, yours truly included.
Howlin received praise from artists like Foals and The xx, both of whom Jagwar Ma toured with, as well as Noel Gallagher (one of the more bizarre music happenings of 2013), so it was always going to be a hard album to follow up. With the two singles from Every Now & Then so far being the 7-minute epic Give Me a Reason, and slightly shorter (yet still epic) O B 1, it is, therefore, a bit of a surprise that the album starts off a bit listless. Say What You Feel and Loose Ends both feel a bit lethargic, tending to overstay their welcome. Indeed, Give Me A Reason seems to kick-start the album, with the band’s energy that was present on the first album re-appearing.
Ordinary feels like the Jagwar Ma that audiences have come to know, with the use of samples reminiscent of The Avalanches (a band Jagwar Ma have cited as a big influence). This new-found spirit continues on Batter Up, arguably the highlight of the record, featuring slinky guitar chords and a drumbeat that threatens to envelop the whole track, showcasing the best elements from this sophomore album.
So much praise has been heaped on O B 1 that not more needs to be said about it, except that it was a fine choice as a single. Slipping continues in the same vein, so apart from the initial missteps, from here on in it’s smooth sailing home, with High Rotations, Don’t Make It Right and Colours of Paradise all wonderful tunes in their own right.
It’s hard to nail Jagwar Ma down as a band. There are elements of dancehall, “that” Manchester sound, acid, trip-hop and more. When your Wikipedia entry lists 7 different genres, you know you’ve either been hit by trolls, or your songs are as much an exercise in flow as they are a listening experience.
Often, when it comes to digesting an album, it’s easy to try and put it into neat genres but this album is truly undefinable. At times, it feels like something is missing, or maybe that’s my genuine distaste for the first couple of songs (opener Falling is more of an interlude than a full-blown track). Regardless, this is a genuine experience. In a world where far too often albums are able to be digested in 2-3 listens, Every Now & Then rewards a dedicated listener with a fine-tuned ear. One day Jagwar Ma will make a career-defining album, but this just isn’t quite there yet. Despite that, it’s worth listening to for anyone who wants to see what the future looks like.
Jagwar Ma’s second album ‘Every Now &Then’ is out today. They hit the Aussie summer festival circuit later this year.