Album review: Matisyahu remains a true ‘Spark Seeker’

Matisyahu
“Spark Seeker”
Fallen Sparks Records

Reggae artist Matisyahu has made a name for himself through speaking on a platform of positivity and personal change. His uplifting message shines through on “Spark Seeker.”

When he first caught mainstream attention in 2004 with the single “King Without a Crown” he wore a yarmulke and waxed poetic over reggae rhythms and his own beatboxing skills. Since then, Matisyahu has gone through some personal and musical rebirth. Where there was a yarmulke is short blond hair. And on “Spirit Seeker” he explores electronic music and mixes it with his lyrical storytelling and percussive vocal technique.

The album starts off with “Crossroads,” a track that rings like an opening piece of a musical epic poem or a primer of some sort. Where before the tone of many of Matisyahu’s songs was inspiring from beginning to end, “Crossroads” is a substantial song of determination and conviction. It picks up and carries the momentum that might fade out with the more lightly-optimistic tones of other tracks on “Spirit Seeker,” such as “Sunshine.”

The first few seconds sound like a low Hebrew warble that could be heard in the streets of Israel. Coupled with a sprinkling of traditional instrumentation and sounds, Matisyahu declares that “I’ve been searching for my bite/They say I inspire but I’m still looking for my fire.” It’s clear on “Crossroads” that though his music may be inspirational to listeners, Matisyahu works to also inspire himself through his songs.

Matisyahu cannot be pigeonholed, especially when it comes to “Tel Aviv’n.” With a heavy hand on the synthesizers, Matisyahu’s vocals merge with the electronic beats and melody as he sings “I’m feeling easy/The ocean brings me/Carrying me, I’m Tel Aviv’n/And now I’m seeing and I’m believing/Because these streets got melody in them.”

The song has a distinctly groovy feel and carefree attitude; it’s not hard to imagine “Tel Aviv’n” oozing out of the speakers in discotheques and clubs lining the streets referred to in the song. It’s no coincidence that part of “Spark Seeker” was recorded in Israel, as well as Los Angeles. “Tel Aviv’n,” especially, captures an urban-noir atmosphere.

For seasoned listeners that fancy Matisyahu’s reggae music “I Believe in Love” is the quintessence of that sound on “Spark Seeker.” Anchored by a slow, rocksteady beat, the softly-frazzled, bouncy guitar work and Matisyahu’s echoed voice, “I Believe in Love” is a sweet slow space on “Spark Seeker” that allows listeners to take a break from the more heavy, electronic tracks.

“Spark Seeker” doesn’t lack any opportunities for Matisyahu to show just how well he can make music, regardless of its genre. The album’s production locales parallel some of the music influences, and while there are elements of Matisyahu’s previous work, the album doesn’t feel remotely recycled or repetitive as far as creativity goes. Rather, the album simply attests to Matisyahu’s impressive ability to explore different musical landscapes.

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