Night Beats: Outlaw R & B–Album Review
Night Beats: Outlaw R & B–Album Review
Night Beats is an American psychedelic/garage rock band from Seattle, Washington, that formed in 2009. Danny Lee Blackwell is both the only member of this band and the only remaining founding member. The newest release, Outlaw R&B is exactly what the title suggests: psychedelic rhythm and blues. Outlaw R&B brings us modern music with a retro feel.
Night Beats began as a popular college rock band in Seattle, where Blackwell studied comparative religion at the University of Washington. The band gained a fan base by touring extensively and releasing a series of popular EPs and split releases before releasing albums like Night Beats, Sonic Bloom, Who Sold My Generation, and Myth of a Man. They signed with Fuzz Club Recordings in 2020 before releasing their latest record, Outlaw R&B.
With sharper production values than some of their previous releases, Night Beats bring us modern music with a retro feel on Outlaw R&B.
The band’s sound has progressed over the last decade +, and Outlaw R&B is their most sophisticated album yet. With sharper production values than previous releases, Night Beats bring us a mixture of blues, psychedelia, soul, rhythm & blues, country, and even hints of vaudeville on Outlaw R&B.
The album was recorded against the backdrop of a global pandemic, devastating wildfires, and national riots over police brutality. This gives the album a tone of existential dread that permeates nearly every song on the album. But rather than succumbing to the darkness, Night Beats is desperately searching for a reason to be hopeful. Much like the recent release from Mdou Moctar, Outlaw R&B is desperately searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Stuck in the Morning” opens the album and feels like waking up in the morning in quarantine. The song features Beatles-esque harmony that reminds me of “Strawberry Fields” and is the very definition of psychedelic rock. The mellow fuzz and psychedelically filtered vocals continue through the next few tracks, “Revolution” and “New Day”.
The album was recorded against the backdrop of a global pandemic, devastating wildfires, and national riots over police brutality.
Things take a darker turn on “Hell in Texas”. This song is a spooky, psychedelic country song with dramatic vocals that sound almost like vaudeville. This trippy style combined with Johnny Cash style “Carter Strumming” makes this the best and most interesting song on the album.
“Thorns” opens with the catchiest riff on the album and is the best example of the album’s high-quality production values that help make the record so interesting.
Things get more raucous on “Never Look Back”, a song that features Robert Levon Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This song gives us a break from the country sound and features an extended guitar solo that weaves with intense percussion.
“Shadows” opens with mysterious sounds and features exotic percussion. This is the most psychedelic song on the album and is also strongly influenced by world music.
“Crypt” is the heaviest song on the album. This spooky track is full of ominous sounds and riffs. The strong beats on this track give it a powerful sense of forward momentum.
“Cream Johnny” slows the album down and showcases Blackwell’s superb songwriting. This might be the most beautiful and radio-friendly song on the album and sounds vaguely like Bob Dylan. This song ends with feedback that leads us directly into “Ticket”, a song that opens with a hard, driving beat, and the rawest sounding song on the album. The record wraps up with “Holy Roller”, another song that moves with a hard-driving beat.
Outlaw R&B was produced during one of the most turbulent years in American history. These songs were written and recorded against a backdrop of police brutality and riots, rampant and uncontrolled wildfires, and a deadly global pandemic that shut down society for the better part of a year. Despite the turbulence, there’s a sense of hope that permeates the songs on Outlaw R&B. Night Beats mastermind Danny Lee Blackwell still sees light at the end of the tunnel and wants us to see it too. Listening to the album feels like taking a beautiful acid trip, with smooth riffs and hallucinogenic hooks. An initial listen might give the impression that these songs are simplistic, shallow pop songs. Listeners with short attention spans might quickly dismiss the album, but repeat listens are greatly rewarded. If you don’t connect with it the first time you hear it, be sure to give it another listen.