Music

Matisyahu: Light

Aaron Basiliere

Most of Matisyahu’s moralist heralding feels quite contrived and unsure of its position, or it is simply drowned out.


Matisyahu

Light

Label: Epic
US Release Date: 2009-08-25
UK Release Date: 2009-08-24
Website
Amazon
iTunes

While cool rasta rhythms, bouncy riffs, and catchy hooks populated rap-reggae maestro Matisyahu’s two previous albums, his third faith-laced major-label release Light might be a bit of a puzzlement to fans. It ditches, almost entirely, the signature reggae roots, and uncomfortably flirts with other genres, incorporating brash rock guitars, and flashy, bass-bumping hip-hop production.

Light is produced by David Kahne, whose repertoire includes such credits as ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, Sublime, and the Strokes, and features a host of different collaborators, including the Glitch Mob’s Ooah, reggae supermen Sly and Robbie, songwriter Trevor Hall, and acclaimed Jamaican producer Stephen McGregor to name a few. And, yes, the production value is, indeed, impressive in its scope, with songs like the beat-frenzied opener “Smash Lies”, the grimy Kanye-sounding backdrop of “Struggla”, or the anthemic pop and buzz of “We Will Walk”, but all the jittery big beat programming is so excessive that it tends to overstep Matisyahu in an attempt to vie for our attention. What’s more, most of the overtly polished pop confections on Light greatly detract from Matisyahu’s own bullish vocal, replacing it, on a number of songs, with campy AutoTune reverb.

As few and far between as they might be, Light is not without its moments of musical precision. The album’s first single, “One Day”, which sounds like a meatier version of When in Rome’s “The Promise”, finds Matisyahu calling for a unified people and world peace over tick-boom drum machines. The lively So-Cal ska foundation of “On Nature” sees the Crown Heights MC sharing vocal duties with a children’s choir, and warbling of the duality of mankind, and the prospect of unrestrained spiritual freedom. Likewise, fans will feel at home with songs “I Will Be Light” and closer “Silence”, which break away from the snares of overproduction, offering the solid introspection and breezy acoustic work that Matisyahu is known for.

It’s unfortunate, however, that only a handful of songs truly resonate with lyrical solemnity, given the predominant themes on Light are those of soul searching, struggle, and waiting upon Yahweh. Under such conditions, Light tends to suffer to some degree, and most of Matisyahu’s moralist heralding feels quite contrived and unsure of its position, or it is simply drowned out, made unrecognizable by the sheer bombast of the album’s impulsive production techniques.

Ultimately, Matisyahu’s latest plays like an experiment in reinvention rather than a fully-realized piece of musicianship, seemingly more concerned with sounding commercially viable and dancehall-ready than operating as a musically-competent catalyst for hopeful moralism.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.