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Matisyahu – Spark Seeker

on July 16, 2012, 7:59am

As Matisyahu blogged back in December, he no longer resembles a long-lost, Jewish ZZ Top frontman. In his latest video, he looks happy, healthy, and quite normal sans beard, with a handsome head of short, blonde hair. He said he’s reclaiming himself, relaxing on the religion, and trusting his “goodness and divine mission.” As a result, we have Spark Seeker, the 13-track album, produced by Kool Kojak (Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj), and recorded internationally, more specifically New York, LA, and Israel.

The record includes some feel-good pop songs, including “Live Like A Warrior”, an empowering, do-whatever-the-hell-you-want anthem (“Today, today, live like you wanna/ Let yesterday burn and throw it in a fire”). “Sunshine”, a track of buoyant beats, fits a similar mold: The verses may at first feel disarmingly poppy, but Matisyahu’s trademark reggae raps traverse into a chorus that could belong to anyone in the Top 40. His fans might not be down with with the more mainstream sound, but the attitude he’s recently adopted–that spending ten years immersed in Judaism did a lot for him, yet he’s ready to be whoever he damn well feels like–is infectious, as he sings, “I believe in love, yeah/ Now I’m free.”

The layering of the US-recorded songs with additional Israeli sounds and instruments gives the album the Matisyahu feel that followers have come to expect. Plus, on what other album does one find Hebrew croons that become English raps, everything segueing into extraterrestrial-sounding effects (album opener “Crossroads”)? Or guest vocals from an ex-convict turned Orthodox Jew (Shyne on “Buffalo Solider and “King Crown of Judah”)? Or a smooth-jazz sax that rivals the solo on Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” (“Summer Wind”)?

Many will dwell on the musician’s new look, but they shouldn’t. As he wrote of ridding himself of his beard, “just as when I was 18 and I shaved my dreadlocks to let go of my identity, I felt as if I was returning to a time prior to religion or rules or right and wrong.” Who can say they were the same person five or 10 years ago as they are now? As Jesse Pinkman would say to Mr. Matthew Paul Miller: Mad props, yo.

Essential Tracks: “Crossroads”, “I Believe In Love”