Quaker City Night Hawks
QCNH is tied together in more ways than one. Recorded at Niles City Sound (where Leon Bridges tracked his Grammy-nominated debut, Coming Home,several years earlier) in the band’s hometown of Ft. Worth, the album weaves a handful of signature riffs and melodies throughout multiple songs, filling the tracklist with a common strand of musical DNA. The result is a boldly heterogeneous album that still functions as a cohesive whole, produced by White Denim’s Austin Jenkins and performed by a group of road warriors who smartly balance their strengths — Anderson and Matsler’s hook-driven songwriting; drummer Aaron Haynes raw rhythm; the band’s blend of Tex-Mex desert rock and street-smart, big-city bombast — with their desire to explore and experiment.
The exploration begins with the kinetic kickoff track, “Better in the Morning.” Loose and coolly confident, it’s the sort of rock & roll anthem meant to be blasted loudly through open windows on a car stereo. From there, the album follows its unique muse into uncharted territory, from the sexed-up soul-funk of “Suit in the Back” to the heartland rock & roll of “Colorado” to the taut, riff-filled abandon of “Freedom.” Along the way, the Night Hawks nod to Heart’s Dreamboat Annie by pairing their acoustic guitars with analog synthesizers (“Elijah Ramsey”) and deliver their own version of southern rock (“Fox is in the Henhouse”).
The Night Hawks find some time to get weird, too. “Tired of You Leaving” was inspired by African artists like Ali Farka Toure (“It’s a ‘love/love lost’ song that appeared during a week or so of more-or-less freebasing Fela Kuti records,” Matsler explains), while “Grackle King” visits the heady heights of Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelia. When asked about the latter song, Matsler adds, “‘Grackle King’ is about a guy on the verge of a psychological breakdown who has a quasi psychedelic experience while looking into the eye of a crow…which is how I feel most days.”