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Published: 2014/06/25
by Josh Frances


Reggae/Dancehall sensation and Grammy-nominated superstar Matisyahu has dropped his fifth studio album, Akeda (Uh-Kay-Duh). Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu has come a long way since 2005 when he released his breakout album Live at Stubbs. Since then he has pushed himself creatively remaking his musical image with nearly every album. After three weeks with this album, Akeda proves no different.

Akeda was written with change in mind- and many Matisyahu faithfuls know that he has undergone a pronounced transition since Sparkseeker was released in 2012. Akeda focuses on this transition and change, with its attention on the emotional quality of the music and getting back to the rawness of what Matisyahu was first recognized for. Recorded in Brooklyn’s Studio G and produced by Dub Trio’s Stu Brooks, the material is a culmination of new and old beat ideas, dynamic rhythms and whole songs written at home and on the road over the past few years. Riddled with what many may call sound of his roots- or reggae beats, the album has a fantastic display of harmony and instrumentals coupled with some serious electronic arrangements too. According to Matis himself, the album is a rebirth in a way, with lyrics and sounds coming more from the gut as it is compared to his previous albums. Revamping old dancehall beats from years ago, and approaching the new writing in a much less thought out way (and with Stu on bass), the two connected over “Hardway”, a fantastic arrangement buried deep in the track list of Akeda and a personal favorite.
Pay close attention to “Reservoir,” the lead song on Akeda, which is an example of how deep and personal this album is. “Reservior” sets the tone for the entire album in many ways. The track relives the pain in and around the criticism Matis felt during his recent changes. Through references to Torah and self-reflection, Matis lyrically explains how he overcame these feelings by focusing on closure and moving past the judgment he has endured from his Chasid “brothers.”

“Broken Car” is another stellar track about finding a home in the world and acceptance. Related to the themes of loneliness and the feelings of being judged, lost and broken, “Broken Car” addresses those feelings as well as looking for acceptance and feeling fortunate for where he is at this moment in his life.
The title track, Akeda is a Hebrew word that refers to the sacrifice, or rather the near-sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham in the bible at Gods command. For Matisyahu though, it is also a powerful symbol of the “toll” that such acts of faith take on one’s life. An example of self reflection of life on the road while chasing a musical and creative dream while at the same time dealing with hurt feelings, betrayal from past friends and fans alike.

Akeda proves to be another stellar collection from Matisyahu. It deals with deep feelings and rebirth. Fans will appreciate the deep roots music with some fantastic dancehall mixed throughout. For the die hard fans-they will hear less Hebrew- as Chasidic ideas and ideals play a much smaller supporting role compared to previous albums and they are integrated more than they are up front on many prior tracks. Akeda is surely the most self-reflective and purely conceived album Matisyahu has ever put together, but is radically experimental for him and adds a new layer of sophistication to Matis’s album collection. Fans new and old will not be disappointed.

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