Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: album reviews, Anthony Kiedis, Let It Be, Light, Matisyahu, Releases of the Week, The Beatles, Youth
PREVIEW: Download “On Nature” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 10/20 Watts
Youth was one of the more refreshing listens of 2006 — a fun, catchy and free-flowing reggae album from the unlikeliest of sources — a Hasidic Jewish singer (real name Matthew Miller). Its identity may have been a bit unorthodox, but Miller seemed genuinely comfortable in his element, and ultimately gave us one of the year’s most consistent albums.
Now, three years later, we get Light, which not only sounds contrived and forced, but also, at first listen, seems to have been made by a completely different artist. Much of the natural reggae sound that made Miller’s earlier work so great has vanished, replaced instead with more hip-hop influences that don’t always work in the context of his songs.
While this approach has afforded Miller a fresh new library of beats to drive his songs (look no further than the opening track, “Smash Lies,” for proof), it has also brought a number of unwanted side effects, including some absolutely silly and overtly simplistic lyrical content.
In spite of it all, Light does showcase a few brilliant moments. The album’s centerpiece is “On Nature,” which ranks among Miller’s best songs to date. It’s an infectious piece of reggae-pop, and Miller delivers his environmentalist message (“We are men of nature / We are made from the earth”) with more passion than anything else on the album.
There are a few more peaks scattered throughout the album, but for every good track, there unfortunately seems to be a mediocre counterpart. The low point is undoubtedly Light’s lead single, “One Day,” where Miller attempts to hide The Beatles’ “Let It Be” underneath one of those hip-hop beats. (Nice try, Matt, but you’re fooling nobody.)
Fortunately, the album closes on a bit of a high note, with three strong, albeit very different songs. First, there’s “Darkness into Light,” a real rocker that also lets Miller show off a bit of his beat-boxing ability. Then, on “Thunder,” we hear a bit of an Anthony Kiedis influence, before calming things down a bit on the beautiful acoustic closer, “Silence.” It’s an excellent ending sequence, though maybe not one that such a mediocre album deserves.
— Dan Kaplan