“Spark Seeker” by Matisyahu

If there were ever a wild card in the pop music hierarchy, Matisyahu is hands-down one of the most unpredictable and unconventional artists on the charts. His fusion of hip-hop, rock n’ roll, spoken word, and beat boxing combined with his latest effort to perform as an acoustic singer/songwriter on Spark Seeker: Acoustic brings some much appreciated diversity to the weekly radio countdowns across the country. If all of those musical and performance qualities didn’t convince you of his uniqueness, it should also be mentioned that Matisyahu has become the most prominent Jewish musician in popular American music over the last decade.

With his first album Youth in 2006, Matisyahu launched into the mainstream on top of his single “King Without A Crown.” Released near the beginning of the iTunes & iPod craze, this single gained immense popularity and just kept selling online. It’s a special thing when a contemporary and catchy hip-hop album is played on repeat without talking about girls or money, and Matisyahu has consistently done this.

Three years later, with the release of Light, Matisyahu’s sound evolved into a more electronic and effected reggae and dub style. The huge single “One Day” exposed the world to a hopeful and pleasant song about peace and unity. “One Day” also played non-stop during the winter Olympics in 2010, which introduced Matisyahu to an entirely new fan base.

And now seven years into his career, Matisyahu has released his third full-length studio album Spark Seeker. The sounds are louder and the tempo is a little faster than what he has released before, but the music is still very relatable and approachable. Along with the studio record, there has also been an acoustic EP released called Spark Seeker: Acoustic.

The seven songs on this acoustic EP fit together so effortlessly and all serve to create a solid and consistent sound for the collection. With bright acoustic guitar on every song, the large roomy space that gives a beautiful reverb effect to the vocals, and the pristine stringed instruments that accent most of the tracks, it is obvious that the recording of this EP had a lot of thought put into it.

The single “Sunshine” presents Matisyahu seamlessly balancing and controlling his gentle and soft verses with his belting and emotion filled choruses. There is an enthralling sort of presence that his voice has on this EP that makes me want to, in a way that few other artists do, just stop what I’m doing and listen closely.

My personal favorite song on this EP is “Live Like A Warrior.” This encouraging and motivating song paints a strong image of positivity, which is always appreciated in today’s popular music. “We all got dreams that we can’t let go / we wanna be great / don’t be afraid” is repeated throughout the song with other simple and heartening lyrics that I have come to expect from Matisyahu.

As much praise as I have for this great record, there is one thing I want to say about acoustic EP’s in general. It’s a trend that I have seen for years, and listening to this album has prompted me to make a statement. Acoustic EP’s and live sessions are not the best place to play a song that accentuates an artists rapping ability. “Searchin’” finds Matisyahu spitting dry and unfitting words over a muted and groovy acoustic guitar line, and it honestly doesn’t work too well. There are parts of the song that display singing in a more classically melodic style, and those are great, but I am not convinced that acoustic rap is a good idea (obviously, unless you are Ms. Lauryn Hill, and it’s still 1998).

But like I said, I have so much more praise for this album than I do criticism. The lyrical content is exciting and different from most other pop music right now, the quality of the live recording is above par, and the arrangement of the bare bones instrumentation is impressive. If for some reason, only this EP were released and not the accompanying full length studio production, Spark Seeker, I would not have any complaints. That said, all the better to have both!

By Chris Paredes

If you liked this, check out:
“The Low Highway” by Steve Earle
“My Rocks Are Dreams” by Psychic Friend

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