New Orleans is notorious for its colorful and cultural heritage with delights such as vibrant street celebrations, Beignets, étouffée, and jazz festivals coming to mind. One such contributor to the lively scene is indie songwriter Max Bien-Kahn.
Bien-Kahn channels an old-school, lo-fi jangle-rock kind of sound, yet maintains a sharp influence from his city within his music. This is evident in his newest project Max and the Martians, and their days-old album, All the Same.
All the Same has been preceded by three singles: the title and opening track, followed by “Please Hold On,” which we took a look at in December, and the appropriately-interstellar-themed “Milky Way.” This is their first LP since their self-titled debut in 2016 and their EP, Curtains, in 2019.
The band also released a colorful, semi-psychedelic music video for “All the Same.” In an article with V13 promoting the video’s premiere, Bien-Kahn explained how the song represents the whole record: “It’s a reckoning of all the forces in my life, some within my control and some much bigger than me. In this song, I’m drifting unaware of what will come to me. I’m living in a burning building. Inside, I’m dreaming of the past, recalling old lovers and heartbreak. I simultaneously feel love, nostalgia and regret. In the end, the house burns to the ground, and what’s left is all the same.”
This title phrase appears as a tag in the sixth track “Little Dog” as well, acting as a joining thread between the collection of songs. It is a very cohesive and self-contained album indeed, drawing from familiar roots of 60s rock-and-roll with inviting storytelling, topped with a dollop of jazz chords throughout that ensure two tracks anything but “all the same,” while maintaining sonic consistency.
“Love on Vacation” and “Please Remember” are two of the more upbeat songs on an album of mixed emotions, the former bearing a throwback beachy-playfulness, and the latter riding on an almost doo-wop rhythm. More of the vintage style can be heard on “What It Means,” which opens with a long organ note and is supported throughout by layers of female vocalizations.
To close out the album, “Lay Your Body” acts as a cinematic outro at the comfortable length of 1:33, filled with swelling strings that gives it a dramatic but satisfying finish.
Bien-Kahn has not escaped the thrall of New Orleans jazz entirely. He is also a member of album collaborators Tuba Skinny and Esther Rose’s band. He is also a frequent session musician at Mashed Potato Studios.