Thursday, August 06, 2009

Matisyahu: "Light" album review

When I first heard of Matisyahu I probably had a reaction similar to many others. I viewed a Hasidic Jew who played reggae/hip hop as a novelty. It was hard to take the concept at face value.

Matisyahu persevered and proved the naysayers wrong with his successful first album. He is now set to return with Light, his first album in three years (out August 25th).

Light builds on the reggae styles of his first two albums. The album kicks in right away with the dancehall bash "Smash Lies". It's not all reggae however. "Escape" is one of Matisyahu's most hip hop tracks to date, and "Darkness Into Light" may be his heaviest rock-inspired song.

There's a definite pop sensibility brought to the table as well. "On Nature" is a bright singalong featuring a children's choir. The cheerful "So Hi So Lo" is a sunny track that will make you wish summer never ended, while the lead off single "One Day" riffs heavily off Alphaville's "Forever Young".

Further solidifying Matisyahu's reputation are the contributions of some heavyweight artists on the record. Ska-core veterans Fishbone pitch in as do legendary reggae rhythm section Sly and Robbie.

Not everything is a winner on Light. Tracks like "Motivate", "I Will Be Light", and "Struggla" trudge along without ever getting a full head of steam.

Thematically, Matisyahu continues his message of hope and peace. While he makes no effort hide mask his faith, the songs are universal enough that one can take or leave the religious aspects and enjoy them on their own level.

Light is the sound of a unique artist, finding his voice and hitting his stride. No one can mistake Matisyahu for a novelty act now.

Best tracks: "One Day", "On Nature"

Track listing for Light:
  • Smash Lies
  • We Will Walk
  • One Day
  • Escape
  • So Hi So Lo
  • I Will Be Light
  • For You
  • On Nature
  • Motivate
  • Struggla
  • Darkness Into Light
  • Thunder
  • Silence

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Headphone Commute said...

To be honest - I never viewed Matisyahu as a a Hasidic Jew who played reggae as a novelty. In fact, it was always the opposite... His history clearly shows that he was always an aspiring reggae artist who only took on the faith of Hasidic Judaism in his later years. All that means to me is that, Matisyahu is a mediocre reggae artist who uses his Hasidic Judaism as a novelty and a "shock value" in the face of the young generation. That being said, his music is very good, and his message is also very positive... Your review of his newest album is very good...

Anonymous said...

I honestly wouldn't agree that One Day riffs off of Alphaville at all. Yes, there are similar portions (especially the opening), but since the chord progression dates back to Pachelbel's Canon in D (and likely before) it's really not worth mentioning. If you listen to Canon in D you'll quickly realize that Alphaville riffs off of Pachelbel, so in the end it really doesn't matter. Every chord progression has been done before. Matisyahu definitely does plenty to differentiate his song from both Canon in D and Forever Young and the other 500 songs that use the same chord progression, so in the end I'd say that the statement is unfair honestly.