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Hanni El Khatib  

Head in the Dirt (Innovative Leisure)

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With one album under his belt, this LA-based rocker teams up with Dan Auerbach. If Head in the Dirt sounds a bit like early Black Keys, chalk that up to Auerbach’s enthusiasm and Khatib’s flexibility. Both sense that older blues and rock will inform what they do, but need not limit it. “Save Me” has all the rambunctious mojo of Bo Diddley, adding robust reverb, timely handclaps and youthful vulnerability. A dazzling array of keyboard sounds weave together the hooks that make “Penny” jump out. “Sinking in the Sand” is the musical embodiment and potential antidote to anxiety. Garage rock’s vitality survives this trip through a Nashville studio intact.

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