Editor’s note: From 2012 to 2014, Matt Rice wrote the music column Matt on Music for The Eastern Echo, the student newspaper for Eastern Michigan University. Beginning in 2016, Matt relaunched this column on The Young Folks. You can read past installments of this column here.
Who else is tired of American politics? American music? Let’s leave American for a bit and talk about some records from Europe and Africa.
Putumayo Presents African Rumba (Putumayo ‘16) There seems to be a limitless supply of Afropop, and even with World Music Network, Crammed Discs, and Awesome Tapes From Africa, among others, working at collecting it, something like this can always pop up. Ten recordings of dancey, Latin-infused African music that span decades and countries, this is the best world music comp that I’ve heard in years. Horns, piano solos, and guitars galore, it’s as wonderful as rumba gets beyond a Franco or Tabu Ley Rochereau album. 9/10
Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian) At his best, Lekman is among the greatest melodists and songwriters in the world, but he has yet to produce an album that consistently shows that. Since his early EPs, he has always been most easily enjoyed on a song-by-song basis (a mix C.D. I made for my fiancée proves that a strong enough compilation would be a masterpiece). He doesn’t quite reach the level of perfection I’ve been hoping for on this one, but he’s never gotten closer before. Never one to get outside of himself for long (after all, he does have a song called “WWJD,” in which the J doesn’t stand for Jesus), these story-songs are something new and unique from him, and the same can be said about the Magnetic Fields-esque electronic sonics. But he’s still the same old Jens, with the witty, intimate lyricism and tuneful power to prove it. 8.5/10
Tinariwen: Elwan (Anti-/Epitaph) Their biggest flaw is a very rock and roll one: overlength. Their biggest strength is also rock and roll: they take their sound and run with it, using it as a method of protest. Their pain and anger at the conflict in Mali, which has forced most of the band out of the country and into recording studios in France, Morocco, and the U.S., shows in the guitar swells and drums. And though most reviews put heavy focus on the indie stars who show up here, the band has such a strong control over their sound that I wouldn’t have even known there were so many outliers if I hadn’t read it. Of course, at 46 minutes, some of this could be cut. But it retains its intensity throughout, peaking with four or five songs in the middle that should be considered among their best work. 8/10
Single of the Week — Yelle: “Ici & Maintenant (Here & Now)” (Recreation Center)