Top 16 World, Fall 2013
by Rachel Devitt | October 31, 2013
So many great new world albums have come out in the past couple months that we wound up with a whopping top 16 -- and even that feels like it's not enough to really represent just how fascinating the international rhythms have been lately. This list hops all over the globe, starting in Argentina with our top album (from the beguiling Juana Molina) and then jetting off to India, Mali, Niger, Serbia, Ethiopia, France and beyond. Whirlwind is an understatement. Take a listen to the sampler playlist while you check out our picks below (complete with mini-reviews since many of these artists might be unfamiliar). Happy journeying!
Juana Molina, Wed21.
The Argentinean comic-turned-electro-pop-siren's latest breathtaking haze of beats, neo-folkloric rhythms and layer after richly textured layer.
Anoushka Shankar, Traces of You.
Ravi's daughter pays tribute to all the "traces" that inform her captivating mix of traditional and game-changing global sounds, from musical to familial (half-sister Norah Jones guests on several beguiling tracks).
Rokia Traore, Beautiful Africa.
The contemplative singer-songwriter pays tribute to her homeland in the wake of Mali's political turmoil with this powerful, at times angry, at times heartbreaking new album.
Omar Souleyman, Wenu Wenu.
The Syrian purveyor of dabke (folk dance music) has become an unlikely hipster hero. It’ll all make sense once you have a listen to his proper debut (20 years into his career), a collection of hypnotic electro-folk-pop.
Various Artists, Red Hot + Fela.
Artists from Africa and beyond (Nneka, My Morning Jacket, tUnE-yArDs, ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo, Spoek Mathambo) pay tribute to the Afrobeat master and tackle his considerable oeuvre on the latest comp from the HIV/AIDS fundraising org.
Etran Finatawa, The Sahara Sessions.
Niger's desert-blues mega-band works up a series of mesmerizing, meditative grooves that emphasize the acoustic/country blues element of its equation on this critically acclaimed new album.
Beats Antique, A Thousand Faces - Act 1.
Part one in a two-part concept album by the heat-making, globe-trotting beat-seekers is an adventurous, electrifying tour through Balkan brass, Middle Eastern strings, gamelan and more, all grounded in big, throbbing beats.
Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar, Gipsy Manifesto.
The father-son-led brass band keeps the centuries-old Rom musical tradition of multicultural pastiche real with this pop-friendly new slice of frenetic horns and dizzying dance numbers.
Mulatu Astatke, [Sketches of Ethiopia].
Heavily jazz-fueled new album from the godfather of Ethio-groove.
William Oneyeabor, World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Oneyeabor?.
This one wins "weirdest entry" on this list. Luaka Bop celebrates its 25-year anniversary with its latest psychedelic classics comp, this time focusing on the mysterious, elusive, much-bootlegged, almost never-licensed Nigerian artist. Fascinatingly weird stuff inside.
Various Artists, Soundway Remixed.
The groundbreaking crate-digger label dug through 11 years of its own crates to curate this genre-jumping collection of remixes by its stable of global bass producers, Afropop stars and more.
JeConte & the Mali All-Stars, Mali Blues.
American blues artist JeConte went to Bamako and recorded with luminaries like Khaira Arby and Vieux Farka Touré to create this moving tribute to (and fundraiser for) Malian music and the hardships faced by Malians today.