A few months ago I wrote on Twitter and Facebook that the reggae year has been musically blessed so far with a huge number of very worthwhile album releases.
And I’m happy to say I feel the same way today. The first six months of 2012 have presented strong efforts from veterans and upcoming newcomers and dancehall and one drop alike. There have also been two sublime acoustic sets.
The album output so far also shows a healthy roots scene in Jamaica with an acclaimed set from the nowadays incarcerated dancehall deejay Busy Signal leading the way. He will hopefully have a good influence on Jamaican youths, and increase their interest in more old-fashioned reggae.
But the album output also shows that reggae is global. You don’t have to be in Kingston to record a great album. Just listen to the excellent sets from Bambú Station, Nazarenes, Winston Reedy, Lymie Murray and Skarra Mucci. These albums were mostly recorded in Europe or the U.S.
Below I have selected five of my most played albums so far this year. The competition for these five spots has been fierce between the many combatants. Compilations and reissues were ruled out at the very beginning, and I truly hope the coming six months will be as solid as the past ones.
Artist – album title (label)
Da Professor – The Laboratory (Don Corleon)
Lymie Murray – Deeper Roots (I Dwell)
Busy Signal – Reggae Music Again (VP)
Nazarenes – Meditation (I Grade)
Clinton Fearon – Heart and Soul (Chapter Two)
Curious on the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with all of them.
Later this week I’ll publish a half-year report with 15 favorite tunes. Stay tuned. More to come.
Ethiopian brothers Noah and Medhane Tewolde are known as the vocal and multi-instrumentalist duo Nazarenes, a duo that has been based in Sweden for many years.
They established themselves in 2001 with their self-produced debut album Orit. Their breakthrough came three years later with the acclaimed set Songs of Life, a set followed by Rock Firm in 2008.
Now the Tewolde brothers are back. Back in full swing with an album produced by Tippy I of Virgin Islands-label I Grade, a label known for working closely with Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite.
The first collaboration between the Nazarenes and Tippy I was the single Everlasting which was included on the various artists’ compilation Joyful Noise put out in 2009.
On Meditation the Nazarenes have made an album that confirms just how great roots reggae can sound in 2012. Meditation is reggae in the same school as excellent vocal harmony groups like The Meditations or The Mighty Diamonds. And hearing these two brothers sing together is a soulful experience.
Meditation re-uses some of the riddims used for previous Tippy I productions, and if you’re familiar with Jahdan Blakkamoore’s Babylon Nightmare, Toussaint’s Black Gold or Perfect’s Back for the First Time you’ll most likely enjoy tunes such as Mamy Blues, Everlasting and Lonesome Lady.
But there are also a number of new riddims. The dreamy Alive is one such, Politrickcians, in a UK dub style, is another.
Several of the songs come close to pop and rock arrangements and Get Together will probably make Chris Martin of Coldplay proud with its catchy sing-a-long chorus. It sounds like it’s made for playing at large festivals or stadiums.
The Nazarenes might have a long way until they’ve achieved a following as big as Coldplay, but if Noah and Medhane Tewolde keep making music as good as Meditation it’s just a matter of time until they play at Glastonbury or Madison Square Garden.