When you learn that there is a band called Killer Whale, you might immediately think that it’s a band that plays loud and aggressive music. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth with this band from New Orleans. As evidenced by the new album Tastes Like Yesterday, this is a band that delivers some mellow, groovy sounds that frontman Thomas Johnson refers to as “pontoon soul”.
Of the new album, Johnson said, “I’m not a perfectionist. Yet I want each new record to demonstrate some progression from what came before, and I think Tastes Like Yesterday accomplishes that.”
Pontoon soul is an interesting description, but the word pontoon brings images of boats and water to mind, and that doesn’t quite hit the target. Soul and jazz sounds are prominent throughout. However, the vocals are airy and the guitar parts allow for a lot of space between notes. On top of that, the guitar tone is sometimes drenched in reverb that is closer to psychedelia than surf. Perhaps space-station soul is a more apt description.
The band does a great job of creating an atmosphere, whether it’s the loungy sounds of “Stay Looking” or “Slip Away”, whose rhythm has a distinct island sound that brings a beach bonfire to mind. Likewise the melody incorporates some exotica sounds that might have you looking for a rum drink.
It’s not easy to find a comparison for this band that is clearly comfortable doing its own thing. They combine the psychedelia of Buffalo Killers with the groovy, jazzy feel of Medeski, Martin, and Wood (especially in the bass lines) and tie it all together with percussion that would fit in just as well on a Martin Denny record. It makes for an interesting listening experience no matter what you choose to call the band’s sound. Do yourself a favor. Grab whatever gets you “in the zone”, put this album on, and enjoy the ride.