Monday, August 14th, 2017

Mashrou’ Leila – Roman

Lebanese long-runners make their Jukebox debut…


Alex Clifton: Damn. Not only is this song catchy — those falsetto harmonies might be among the best I’ve heard in recent years — but there’s a quiet power to it. The chorus is simply “Charge!” It’s a haunting battle cry of resistance. The song builds and winds elegantly, too. I wish the build-up were stronger, but the melodies intertwine so beautifully together, so it’s a small complaint. The video’s also a knock-out celebration of Arab women of all sorts, life-affirming and joyous rather than the timid, “oppressed” vision the West is used to from news reports. A beautiful choice, and a band I’ll return to in the future.

Nortey Dowuona: This is amazing. The drums spring and shudder. The bass pops like Newman’s Own in the microwave. The singing leads you down a path you don’t want to leave. Go forth and never return.

Jessica Doyle: I love the way it seems to circle around carefully, while Hamed Sinno’s voice contains anger, sorrow, accusation, and resignation all at once without losing control or force: the calm simultaneous with the storm.

Jonathan Bradley: “Roman” has a gnawed and empty foundation with two striking elements: a keening instrumental wail that courses through the mix, and a fixed-stare bassline that begins passes from ponderous pulse to a darker sawtooth lurch. These threaten to overwhelm a song that instead only broods.

Austin Brown: Nearly three-quarters of the way through, the song picks up, coalescing into a moody synth-driven swirl that feels undeniable. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to justify the three minutes of precise but formless trip-hop that precede it.

Katie Gill: Hamed Sinno’s beautiful, haunting voice pairs wonderfully with those beautiful, haunting lyrics. Which is a damn shame because most of the lyrics are kind of the same. I might be missing out on some nuance here — after all, lord knows the YouTube closed caption translation is iffy on a good day. But I don’t need the iffy translation to tell me that far too much of the song was that mediocre beat and not enough of it was Sinno’s soulful voice.

Tim de Reuse: Not very much happens here but I don’t think anything really needs to. No element is particularly feathery or indistinct, nor does anything whine or distort or add any significant amount of energy; It’s a calm, straightforward groove that sounds pleasant and doesn’t care for showing off. The hook is a long, haunting command to “charge”; the steady, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other momentum of the entire rest of the arrangement contextualizes this not as a statement of anger or passion but of steely-eyed confidence and self-determination. In this way, it’s absolute genius in its economy; every element has been chosen with exacting, delicate intent, all towards an immediately obvious stylistic goal. To shoot exactly once and hit a perfect bullseye is remarkably audacious, but, of course, they make it sound easy.

Reader average: [9.5] (2 votes)

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