Hanifi's tunes easily allow for such variety, even as they are all similarly slow paced and comfortably accessible. He has an uncanny gift for melodic intervals that ring true to the ear. And he knows when to repeat these lines to grab and keep your attention. At the same time, he doesn't rely on any standardized pop-song construction. Most tunes include a significant change of tempo and style partway through, and few songs offer a definitive chorus. Hanifi's clear and pretty vocals hit high notes better than lows, reminding me of a young Paul McCartney. His voice blends well with Werth's on occasional harmony.
Lyrically, Hanifi's songs quietly demand repeated listening. Many of his best lyrics are showcased by the musical line itself, but you may still appreciate the rhymes and sentiments in lines like "I dream without you of you without me / And you seem kind of happy," or "I forget, did you better me / Did I swallow you or did you swallow me," or "I might fall tomorrow / It's a bull market on sorrow."
Khalid Hanifi and his band are at the Del Rio Tuesday, September 16.
[Originally published in September, 2003.]