Playlist (Nov/Dec 2018) | Music reviews

This month’s listening picks, with reviews of the latest by Millbeatz; Jonathan Scales Fourchestra; Anthony Joseph; and Lyfe Az Rose

  • The Revolution
  • Pillar
  • People of the Sun
  • Sweet Vibes Alone

The Revolution

Millbeatz (Fox Fuse)

“Caribbean Wave” is the name given by Trinidadian producer Millbeatz to describe his new sound, a polished fusion of soca and modern R&B. And with this sound, he is “returning the gaze” using our voices, taking back ownership of the idea of tropical pop made so hip internationally by Major Lazer et al. This new album of thirteen tracks delivers the tropes of a crossover soca sound: short bursts of danceable songs that will have clubs moving to the beat of two becoming one; a kind of libertine attitude in the lyrics that suggests “doing it all night” is cool; sampled drums and percussion sounds that follow the new herd of producers creating soundscapes that signal tropical days and nights. When bossa nova was the “new wave” that brought Brazilian music to the world in the late 1950s, the fusion and the melancholic aesthetic were prime. The Revolution is bolder. Let’s hope it can start our entrée into global music beyond a jam and a wine.


Pillar

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra (Ropeadope Records)

The steelpan and its sound have become almost the cliché of Caribbean fantasy and escape, but in the hands of musicians with a determination to move away from that old trope, the music can challenge listeners to reimagine the unique timbre of this creole invention and its canon. North Carolina native Jonathan Scales revels in odd metres and radical time signature changes to produce music for the instrument that can be complex, intriguing, and ultimately funky enough for listeners to bop their heads. On this new album, the bass guitar serves as a fulcrum for a rhythmic chase as the steelpan matches it on tracks like “This Is the Last Hurrah”, or plays counterpoint, standing in awe of the superb musicianship of the likes of Oteil Burbridge, Victor Wooten, and MonoNeon on “Fake Buddha’s Inner Child” and “The Trap”. Scales’s musical hero, banjoist Béla Fleck, guests, showcasing the adaptability of the steelpan in musical settings born outside the archipelago. 


People of the Sun

Anthony Joseph (Heavenly Sweetness)

The last album from UK-based Trinidadian creole griot Anthony Joseph was a survey of Caribbean roots and routes. This new album is grounded in Trinidad, the land of his birth and the source of his poetic exploration of the lives and stories of its people. It is a connection beyond metaphor. Joseph says he is “a poet, which is a small word with a huge meaning and responsibility.” Those People of the Sun an apt symbol for this polyglot nation of many biographies, histories, and destinies — serve up a wide spectrum of narratives for Joseph’s explication in that throaty voice that balances between the accents of his home and his abode. His poems as lyrics are given life by this music, a blend of rapso, calypso, Afro-Caribbean soul, jazz, and funk that is magic to the ears, with superb production by Jason Yarde. Featuring guest appearances by iconic musical artists 3Canal, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ella Andall, Brother Resistance, and John John Francis, this album is Trinidad distilled. 


Singles Spotlight

Sweet Vibes Alone  

Lyfe Az Rose (CMMG Records)

The opening line of this catchy island pop song is “Goodbye sadness, and hello to happy days.” And with that salvo, the listener can just forget about anything else but having fun. This new track by singer Lyfe Az Rose (L.A. Rose/Rosezanna Winchester) has the potential to grow into an earworm you won’t want to dispel in a hurry. A celebration in song about overcoming pain and disappointment, this anthem may well have the effect of inspiring sing-alongs. The “soca lite” feel and the pop phrasing make it an ideal crossover candidate, and a chart climber if positioned correctly to take advantage of the light at the end of the tunnel of the winter blues. The tropics are the antidote for temperate souls, and the “sweet vibes alone” positivity-sharing mantra, that feel-good but not over-syrupy vibe, are keys to hearing this song on repeat on your favourite playlist of tropical pop. Survival after defeat should always sound this great.