Caribbean Playlist (September/October 2014)

New releases to get you in the groove — from “island rock” to jazz and soca

Catch MeEasy To LoveHomeward BoundOMG It’s 5 Miles 1st EP

OMG It’s 5 Miles 1st EP
5 Miles to Midnight

The young Trinidadian band 5 Miles to Midnight have innovated the genre of “island rock” (iRock), a fusion of rock and the diverse sounds that make up Caribbean music. This is fleshed out on OMG It’s 5 Miles 1st EP  (the title says it all), with six original tunes of urgent aggression that belie the perception of peaceful island life. The lyrics that fluctuate between sensations of helplessness and of feeling free — “I take control of my own soul and I don’t know what I’m doing now,” a yen for psychological order and control — are the cris de coeur of an oil-boom generation of T&T youth. Singer Liam King’s piercing tenor is a voice that commands attention, and the solid musicianship of his fellow 5 Milers suggests that this well- produced album is noteworthy to understanding another side of Caribbean life.

 

Homeward Bound
Clifford Charles

Guitarist Clifford Charles’s fifth CD, Homeward Bound, continues a trend of re-definition of the music of these isles. Charles has endeavoured to convert soca’s high beats-per-minute freneticism into smooth jazz for easier consumption by an audience less inclined to be defined as “bacchanalist.” This may not be high achievement for the jazz connoisseur, but in the hands of this player, the ongoing efforts of many Caribbean artists to “cross over” make sense. The music never veers towards the kitschy excess of the genre. Recent soca hits such as Destra’s “Call My Name” and Bunji Garlin’s “Differentology” evoke the essence of universal popular appeal. Recording live in studio with his quartet, Charles maintains the chops that are recognisable for the effortless rhythm playing and solid soloing. Three originals balance the five soca–smooth jazz covers, and provide the basis for a soundtrack for a resort-inspired frolic.

 

Easy To Love  
Maxi Priest

UK-born reggae singer Maxi Priest’s latest album contains eleven tracks (with a bonus track on iTunes) of the most accessible reggae music I’ve heard for a while. Included in the pot are elements of dancehall, lovers’ rock, rocksteady, R&B influenced ballads, and modern reggae — all making for a satisfying dish of what critics have called “grown folks’ reggae.” Priest, who came out of the UK lovers’ rock and sound system scene in the 1980s, remains true to that genre by ignoring “conscious” songs in preference to love: both romance and benevolence. The collaborations are a key to this album’s worth. Priest sings with reggae legend Beres Hammond on “Without a Woman” and popular dancehall DJ Assassin on “Bubble My Way”, showcasing a range of mood and an ear for a hit. A cover of John Mayer’s “Gravity” seals the deal for the potential of a smash here and everywhere.

 

Single Spotlight


Catch Me  

Fay Ann Lyons

On entertainment website MTV Iggy, writer Greg Scruggs recently noted the trend of soca “drift[ing] away from its calypso roots and into the maelstrom of global pop, dance, and hip-hop.” Trinidad soca queen Fay Ann Lyons bends the genre further with her new single “Catch Me”, produced by Brooklyn-based DJ/producer/remixer Richie Beretta, debuted during Carnival 2014, and now in wider release outside the Caribbean on VP Records. Lyons sings with the cadence of a soca chantwell while the music pulses towards a new horizon, where the elements of island rhythm are exchanged by EDM synthesis. The lyrics signal a new call-and-response aesthetic — “hands up and catch me if I fall, don’t let me down” — while the music juxtaposes handily to replace the road with the club, the tropical fete for the summer rave. This is the Carnival road march evolved.

Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell