Review Summary: New look, new sound. Matisyahu singing directly from his heart, blending today's music into an enjoyable hour long listen.
Most people discovered Matisyahu in 2005 when he released Live At Stubb's with the hit single King Without A Crown (Top 40 in the US). He was known to be the Jewish reggae singer who had such an impressive flow and good beatbox skills. Matisyahu has since shaved his beard and adopted a clean look showing us his inner self. He moved away from his Jewish community in Brooklyn and settled in California where he is now self releasing his music. His fourth LP titled Spark Seeker is his first with this new look and sound.
If you are expecting to hear songs similar to Youth and Light you will be disappointed, this is totally different. Blending electronic, hip hop, pop and reggae this album sounds a lot like today's mainstream hip hop only you can hear the clear difference between the two: composition. The complexity of the songs reminds us of Gorillaz's Hip Hop at times. While you might think he sold out, radio play was definitely not his intention with this album. A few songs could stand out as singles for radio, like Fire For Freedom or Live Like A Warrior but most others aren't as accessible as those two. The general sound of this album is Hip Hop mixed with electronics, influenced by Israeli music, reggae and dub. The closest you'll get to a reggae song is I Believe In Love, a slow pop reggae ballad with a dub bassline.
While most of Matisyahu's LPs featured lots of different styles (mostly Hip Hop, Reggae, Ska and Dub) Spark Seeker finds it's style and stays in it. This is actually the downside of the album, most of the songs last between four and five minutes and you can easily get bored from the pop songs. There are a few songs that got lost in the “Feel Good Pop Songs Land” such as Breath Easy or Live Like A Warrior. Some will enjoy those songs but most old time Matisyahu fans won't.
Althought this album is definitely popier than anything Matisyahu has released, it is still enjoyable on a lot of levels. Some songs are better than other but overall this a great album. The blend of electronic and Hip Hop is actually well executed, which could make Flo Rida or other radio big hits blush. Many people will say that he lost his identity when he shaved his beard but like he said himself: “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.“ Matisyahu showed his inner self, his true heart.
Songs to check out are:
Crossroads, Buffalo Soldier (which is not a Bob Marley cover), Searching
Album streams here: