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Monday, January 25,2010

'Ya-Ka-May,' Galactic's latest, is a blast

By Eli Boonin-Vail

Just like the album’s cover, Ya-Ka-May by the New Orleans band Galactic and released on Anti- records is a stunning combination of so many unrelated things that they all become related just by how random they are. It’s safe to say that the power that pulsates from this album is nothing short of great.

Ned Sublette, a fellow musician and author, says in the inside jacket of the album that Galactic’s latest work is a post-flood album. Indeed, that may be the only genre to describe Ya-Ka-May, since being any more specific would inherently leave out a song or two on the album.

To state that Ya-Ka-May has an appetite for musical variety is to understate. The album wants to include so much that it’s willing to bring in the big guns. Alan Toussaint, Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas – they’re all there.

But Galactic also wanted their album to reflect the underground New Orleans, so they included unknown hip-hop hopefuls as well. Galactic shares the album so much it’s pretty much communist. 

Ya-Ka-May, apparently a traditional Louisiana food according to the band, is a sample of just about every kind of fantastic New Orleans Music. From the straight up jazz on tracks like “Boe Money” and “Cineramascope,” to the rap in songs like “Double It” and “Do It Again,” the album has it covered.

Galactic’s latest release plays jovially along without an objective. The songs don’t lead into each other and there’s no deeper meaning once you’ve listened to the album more than a few times. But it’s hard to admit that this album is anything other than a blast.

Listening to Ya-Ka-May brings out all the white boy in me. The Badass Jazz, the pounding hip-hop, the heavy soul; it’s all got me yearning to get up on the imaginary cafeteria table and work it. Galactic has found my fun-loving side and taken it on a rollercoaster while my faux serious side watches from a bench with a smirk of disapproval on his face.

From the start, the album is a rotating carousel of awesomeness. Galactic progresses from a quirky science-funk to dirty jazz to hip hop to soul to funk to R&B with a furious determination to rock out in all genres before they run out of time.

Galactic does everything with its instrumentation. Horns will play smoother than ice on one song only to blast dirty on the next, the guitar plays smooth up until songs like “You Don’t Know,” when it comes out with the wah-wah like none other.

The best way to sum up Galactic’s latest extravaganza is to say that New Orleans made a new album, and it’s kind of like a greatest hits – but with a spin.  Like the CD jacket says at the beginning: “This is not your Grandfather’s New Orleans Record.” But at the same time, it’s every inch from the city that care forgot as Louie and Mardi Gras. Whatever it is, Ya-Ka-May raises a hell greater than any hurricane.

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