‘Ya-Ka-May,’ Galactic’s latest, is a blast

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.