Thursday, March 30, 2006

Matisyahu - Youth

It's a good day today. The sun is shining, I've just got classes to go to, and two songs from this album are running through my head.

Matisyahu is difficult to describe. He's a Chassidic Jew, who sings a sort of reggae/hip-hop amalgamation where the lyrics come from his deep religious convictions. This is his third album, though just his second studio effort. I've heard them all, and I'm actually going to see him in concert in a couple weeks. This is a more mature effort than anything he's put out yet. He deals more with social issues, and even touches on the powder-keg issue of Israeli politics here, in the song "Jerusalem." He emphasizes the importance of the issue:

"Don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea
Not the country but the dwelling of his majesty"

and with

"Jerusalem, if I forget you
May my right hand forget what it's supposed to do."

And takes a de facto approach to the question of Israeli immigration:

"They come overseas, yes they’re trying to be free
Erase the demons out of our memory"

Very melodic, powerful lyrics, overall an excellent song. The other new track which is most in my mind today is "Time of Your Song" a reflection on a life lived poorly. The narrator relates his downfall "I don’t mean to glorify/ Ate the apple of the tree and tried to lie, " and finishes with a warning to avoid his course. Fairly typical "don't do what I did" preaching, but quite well done, and the production, especially, is excellent on this track.

The album as a whole is good, and finishes with a new studio version of his hit song "King Without a Crown" sung a bit faster than on his previous album. I hesitate to be too effusive because there are more than a couple tracks that really drag the album down, but the excellence of the good tracks is impressive. Overall, I'd consider just downloading the three tracks I mention above from iTunes rather than spring for the whole. I'll have to revisit this one in a few days to make sure though.

3/5 stars, with three top notch tracks.

Addendum:
I found a great quote from a reviewer discussing his concert in the Chicago Tribune:
"Most impressive of all was Matisyahu's rapid-fire beat boxing. With guitarist Aaron Dugan providing melodic fills, Matisyahu sat on the raised drum set platform, legs crossed nonchalantly, and replicated a turntable on his microphone with stunning realism. If anything sounded more remarkable, it was the sound of a thousand jaws hitting the floor."

2 comments:

MrStandfast said...

As a gentile, I find it a little hard to really get into most of Matis's lyrics, but let it never be said that the man fails to rock. The guitar solo on Chop em down from the live album is AWESOME. One of his buddies from music school or something like that, but a pretty rockin song.

As an aside, did you know he has, after his wife's admonition and his Rabbi's confirmation, put aside one of his great loves, Crowd surfing, because of it's apparent contradiction with talmudic, or maybe just chasiddic ( I will defer to my kabala obsessed brother here) prohibitions about women touching men.
Matis is also a Philly boy. West Chester originally I think.

Anyway, hope you enjoy his concert.

gloria jean said...

I'm getting old! I hadn't heard of him. He sounds really interesting. I'm going to check him out.