Killa Maus is one of those Arizona artists that defies genrefication. Part blues, part jazz, part spoken word with a big swirl of desert strut might be the best way to describe the music. The eleven songs from Killa Maus and The Desert Rats are a ticket to sonic paradise.
The man behind the art, Jesse Morrison aka Killa Maus, wrote and co-produced the album with Tony Brant. Brant is also an engineer at Highland Recording Studio, tackling the mixing board on this complex record. Billy Sutherland joins on stunning guitar, with Killa Maus adding bass, keys, guitar and his signature vocals. Ethereal, funky, and jazzy each describe the soundscapes that are achieved here. Opener “Picture” struts in with that throwback vibe, but just teases out groove to slide on into the next track.
“Magnificent” flows with its horns and heavy bass line. The jazz oozes here, laced with the trademark Killa Maus falsetto. This feels like a New Orleans party until the abrupt end. Slipping into “Such A Mood,” featuring vocalist Haley Green, the tension builds to perfection here. The narrative seamlessly flows through follow-up “Hano Culture” featuring Human. These two tracks reflect Maus’s ability to create a completely relatable narrative experience.
“Hold Strong” featuring Laura Hamlin shifts gears, revealing the depth of musical talent lurking in the desert. This sweet sonic treat with an Americana flair defies the notion that this album can fit into a box. Expectations are blown out of the water on this bit of brilliance. Tracks like this highlight mixing as a craft, and Brant handles the changes masterfully. With its tone of defiance, “L.W.Y.D.” hits the 80s rock vibe superbly, intentionally or not. This is one of the most lyrically meaningful tracks as well.
The next section of the record is a sonic party, and sequencing plays an integral part of the listening experience. “Loosey Goosey” leads the chill out conga line. The angsty build leading up to “Sunshine Dayz” featuring Cori Rios slips a Caribbean cool in as well. Simple, like hitting the pool, the “Good Cookin’” party is back with horns. “Moonshine” seems reminiscent of the sonic palette of Pink Floyd’s Animals. Its ethereal rock mix fits here. Saying goodbye to a new friend can be difficult, as “Sonia” soars with its strings. The sweetly simple lyrics of love surround a chorus with subtle instrumentation.
Firmly nestled in the list of “best things I’ve heard in 2021” (even though the album came out in 2019; but who’s counting?), Killa Maus and The Desert Rats is brilliant! —Lisa Whealy