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“Get Loose” by Molly Hanmer and the Midnight Tokers

Molly Hanmer’s preceding album Stuck in a Daydream ran the stylistic gamut of psychedelia, pop, rock, and other genre touches. It now seems somehow illustrative of its time. In 2018, we hadn’t heard the word COVID yet, face masks were for hospital staff, Halloween, and hockey players. Her new ten song album Get Loose, however, equals the former as a reflection of the times and Hanmer’s reaction.

Hanmer and the Midnight Tokers fortify themselves and their music with first principles. Blues is the underlying bedrock of many songs included on Get Loose, but Hanmer draws from a broad range of influences for her music. There is a light insolence in Hanmer’s voice recalling a near-punk spirit, ala Iggy Pop and the Stooges, but this is in keeping with the overall spirit. We begin, however, on a distinct bluesy note.

“Gunman” reminds us that traditional blues, like its later progeny gangster/hip hop, is often violent. The heavy atmosphere running throughout this track, even during its rising and falling, comes from its understatement more than anything else. Hanmer sounds completely convincing in this role and that points the way to one of her greatest strengths. “Gunman” illustrates her skill for digging into a lyric and embodying its narrative or message with affecting artistry. You believe her.

The light R&B soulfulness of “I Just Wanna Love You” is a welcome touch after opening the release with a harder edge. Incorporating brass into the album at this juncture, trumpet and an assortment of saxophones, diversifies the cut without ever pushing the song off course. Alethea Mills and Marley Munroe’s background vocals nicely complement Hanmer’s voice. “Get Loose” bristles with guitar-fueled physicality without ever succumbing to any kind of overkill and there are similarities between this track and the album opener.

Hanmer, once again, emphasizes a dynamic-dependent approach. The contrast of light and shadow helps make this one of the most memorable recordings yet for her and the band. Sheldon Gomberg’s exceptional production, engineering, and mixing further elevates the song and makes it one of the album’s undoubted centerpieces. “Blah Blah Blah” has several defining elements, some more successful than others, but the churning and thrashing guitar arrangement has a rocky aggressiveness. It’s a hard-charging and economical effort.

The finale “Boil It Down” concludes the album on a muted but deeply felt note. It’s just Hanmer’s voice and her foot stomps adding primitive percussion. Many will love her ending Get Loose with such a vulnerable and naked statement; moreover, it finishes the album in an unexpected way. There’s the surprise of its sound, of course, but the real pleasure comes from hearing how well the song works as a closing curtain.

Molly Hanmer and The Midnight Tokers aren’t accomplishing this alone. Hanmer surrounds herself with talented individuals such as the aforementioned Gomberg as well as Claudia Miles, band manager and co-author of many songs. Let’s hope this same team return for any future release because it’s obvious there’s much more than can explore together. Get Loose is one of the year’s most satisfying releases. 

Mindy McCall



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