Saturday, August 22, 2009

Matisyahu Offers Light

I've been spinning Light, the new record from Matisyahu for a bit now and trying to formulate words for this post. I suppose I should start by saying that I began looking forward to checking out Light, which hits stores this coming Tuesday, August 25, since I'd heard that it didn't rely as heavily on the reggae sounds that he has become known for. Being a minimal fan of reggae, this was a positive for me though I've been hearing rumblings that this is a negative for many. Of course rumblings generally happen when an artist ventures to expand, grow or change even in just a small way from what people initially became fans of. I have a respect for Matisyahu for remaining and maintaining himself regardless of musical stylings. I like that he's fun and positive without the whole overbearing, shove it down your throat, preachiness that often accompanies positive messages from those who choose to proudly display their faith.

But, fear not, the reggae sounds are still there though. They just aren't occupying the whole record nor are they as in your face. The record overall seems more reserved and subtle sound wise. Light has more of a crossover appeal than Matisyahu's previous works. I'm undecided as to how I feel about that having been a fan of artists who have crossed over. On one hand you're happy that the "rest" of the world has seen the light while proudly wearing your badge of honor for knowing about it before it caught on. But, at the same time, you feel a bit of loss.

On first listen I found myself facing a bit of irony. That first listen, I found myself immediately being drawn to the more reggae, hip-hop flavored songs. After that first listen however, I attempted to put any previous knowledge of Matisyahu out of my head and just listen. The first songs that really caught my ear and had me hitting the back button was "On Nature," though I could have done without the children singing bit, and the acoustic soul "I Will Be Light" which reminds me a little of Ben Harper. My opinion, "I Will Be Light" is worth the price of the album all on its own. The other stand out tracks for me were, "So Hi So Lo" and "Motivate" which has some nice guitar bits and will get you up and moving around.

When I first listened to "Darkness Into Light" I really liked it. After a few listens, I still like it but not as much. There's something about the music that I can't put my finger on that just gets on my nerves about halfway through. The music is upbeat and danceable but for some reason it just kind of bothers me. The thirteen song disc ends with "Silence." This song didn't really grab me when I first heard it but after hearing it a few times, it is becoming one of my favorite songs on the record and works well as an ending.

I find myself enjoying the stripped down songs more and more with each listen. While Matisyahu doesn't have a powerhouse voice, I'd be interested in hearing a straight up, outright acoustic EP. Though it's not the most flexible of instruments, he does have a nice texture to his voice.

I like Light. But, it is a more commercial sounding effort. Some hardcore fans may have trouble digesting the slightly more accessible sounds. At the same time, I don't think those same fans would tell you it's a bad album. They would probably just recommend his previous efforts first. For those new to the Matis experience, I would probably recommend picking up Live At Stubb's along with Light. For my tastes, I think he has found the right mix between doing what he does best and exploration.

Matisyahu already has a massive "in the know" following. I think his following is about to get even bigger with the release of Light.

Track Listing
  • 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