atharsis can bring its own comfort in times like these, and Hanni El Khatib knows how to deliver it. The half-Palestinian, half-Filipino San Francisco native, whose 2013 Head in the Dirt
album was produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, has since strayed from the more conventional blues-rock path with his 19-track Savage Times
album. Recorded over the course of a few years and released in February in three formats (compact disc, cassette and, for vinyl collectors, a box set of three 10” EPs plus limited-edition hardcover booklet), the collection finds El Khatib taking a more one-man band approach, augmenting his trusty electric guitar with electronic keyboards, a drum kit and other instruments with which he’d previously been less conversant. Taken together, it’s a musically eclectic and lyrically harrowing affair, from the Suicide-style electronic throb and distorted vocals of the identity-conscious “Born Brown” to the acoustic folk-blues of “1 AM,” which, despite its more singer-songwriterly approach, packs its own punch: “Where did you come from? / Somewhere from behind me / Rolling around with a gun in your hand / Thinking you’re a man / But it ain’t so / Goddamn you scared me / But I ain’t scared no more.” Not always the most easy-listening material, to be sure, but sometimes complacency is overrated.