Galactic: Ya-Ka-May

RIYL: Greyboy All Stars, The Meters, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

As an instrumental band known for kicking down big jams in the live setting, Galactic is part of a jam band genre not particularly known for creating classic albums. But the New Orleans funk rockers used to have a singer (the Houseman) and have enjoyed collaborating with vocalists when they can. They’ve taken the opportunity here to bring in a bunch of local friends to create a real album instead of just a collection of grooves. The liner notes deem it as “post-flood musical reality from a 291-year-old-city that’s had a near-death experience.” It’s an apt characterization for what will surely be one of the most unique albums of 2010.

The album kicks off with a fellow who sounds sort of like Professor Farnsworth from “Futurama” talking over a groove about some of the creative science behind the band’s festive formula. And then it’s on like Donkey Kong, with Galactic and friends throwing down one fresh cut after another to create a genuine party album. The Rebirth Brass Band joins in for “Boe Money” and “You Don’t Know,” bringing the extra horns that signify a truly authentic New Orleans style fiesta. The latter song also features Glenn David Andrews singing the blues on a sizzling cut with funky wah-wah, sharp horn lines and snazzy percussion from drummer Stanton Moore, long the driving force behind the band.


One of the best cuts is “Cineramascope,” which features extra horn action too, thanks to Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry (trombonist from the Rebirth Brass Band.) Bassist Robert Mercurio and keyboardist Rich Vogel get a deep groove going with Moore, giving the trombones and saxman Ben Ellman a great platform to jam over. Henry played a number of shows with the band on their fall tour and the chemistry shows. This track is probably the closest on the album to what the band sounds like live these days. Another stand-out is “Dark Water” with John Boutte, which has guitarist Jeff Raines helping to conjure a gritty yet still ever-groovy vibe with some slick bluesy riffage. Irma Thomas brings some old school soul to “Heart of Steel,” while Big Chief Bo Dollis does the same in a more up-tempo way on “Wild Man.” Allen Toussaint guests on “Bacchus” and sings about getting with the future so you don’t get left behind. This is a concept that Galactic personifies, blending jazzy old school roots with their trademark future-funk. Legendary guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington also shows up to bring his patented old-school bluesy vibe to the slow burning “Speaks His Mind.”

Hip-hop out of the New Orleans subgenre known as bounce is featured on several tracks, with the band taking the opportunity to introduce several gender-bending “sissy rappers.” Big Freedia throws it down over a slamming beat in “Double It,” while Katey Red and Sissy Nobby dual with each other on the high-energy “Katey vs. Nobby.” But the best bounce song on the album is “Do It Again,” featuring Cheeky Black on a cut that’s so hot they reprise it at the end of the album. The ridiculous video for the song is to be avoided, but the audio track rocks. Using so many different guests could create a disjointed feel, but Galactic tie it all together with a cohesive vibe thanks to their ace musicianship that serves as the foundation. (Anti- 2010)

Galactic MySpace page


Mutemath: Armistice

RIYL: Power Station, Wire Train, Gomez

When the members of New Orleans-based rock band Mutemath were beating their heads against the wall with the new material they had written as the follow-up to their stellar 2006 debut, the band almost broke up. The songs just were missing something, and they all knew it. Instead of channeling their energy into a bitter divorce, though, Mutemath enlisted the help of producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, The Hives, Elvis Costello), who told them to start over again and write some new stuff. They did, but they did so with an angry passion they lacked before the near-breakup, and the result is a powerful set of new tunes called Armistice. Singer Paul Meany may be one of the best rock vocalists you know nothing about, but that should hopefully change with this groundbreaking album. Right from the start with “The Nerve,” Meany and his band mates symbolically pay tribute to their own rebirth, with the gang vocal chorus shouting, “Set it on fire!” The layers of guitars and strings, slapping bass and tasty drums all mesh well with Meany’s vocals in a way few bands manage to these days. But just like the band’s debut, Armistice has twists and turns and variations in style and texture – especially on the electro-funk of “Backfire” or the title track to the alt-pop beauty of “Pins and Needles” or “Goodbye” to the Goo Goo Dolls-ish “Lost Year.” Whether or not the band does feel like it lost a year, they sure did gain back their self-respect and have delivered one of the best rock records of the year. (Warner Brothers 2009)

Mutemath MySpace page


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