Having struggled to find middle ground between refining his novelty for a wider audience and retaining his reggae and hip-hop flourishes on 2006’s Youth, Matisyahu’s third album finds him caught between returning to his core and pushing further into the mainstream. The surprise is that the world’s leading (and only) Orthodox Jewish dancehall star actually succeeds by doing the latter, enlisting producer David Kahne (Sublime, Paul McCartney) and an eclectic cast of reggae all-stars (Sly & Robbie, Stephen McGregor), creating an album loaded with oversized guitars, electronic beats and anthemic choruses. Reggae and spiritual self-improvement remain Matisyahu’s foundation, but they’re increasingly buried in the mix, allowing him to focus on his developing ear as a pop songwriter (the soulful “I Will Be Light” and the pitch-shifted hookery of “Struggla”). Add in a few banjos, clarinets and a children’s choir, and you’ve got an eclectic album that’s unrepentantly over the top.
Listen to Matisyahu on imeem.