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Top 14 World Albums, Spring 2013

by Rachel Devitt

Top 14 World Albums, Spring 2013


Various Artists

You know those times when you come across just one amazing new album after another -- albums so exciting, it makes you want to just make a ton of mixtapes (or, you know, "mixtapes") so you can share them with everyone you know? That's where we are with this World Roundup, which covers a new clutch of the kinds of albums that make us wish more people had more access to more "world" music. Oh wait -- we can take care of that!

Coming in as our No. 1 pick is Khat Thaleth, a compilation of Arabic hip-hop that's fierce and groundbreaking in more ways than one. Here in the U.S., we have almost no contact with Middle Eastern hip-hop. But the music is not only alive and thriving in countries like Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, it has become an integral part of the Arab Spring uprisings, often providing a politicized artistic voice for the struggles of the people. Sounds exciting, right? Well, this electrifying album also sounds really good.

Here's a quick breakdown of the rest of the list:

Owiny Sigoma Band's Power Punch pairs up Kenyan traditional music, African funk and electronic beats, and delivers the awesomest album title/cover combo we've seen in a while.

Bombino, the Tuareg blues-rock star, recorded his powerful second album, Nomad, in Nashville with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach at the helm.

The self-titled debut album from Family Atlantica (out on the esteemed Soundway label) introduces a hot new husband-and-wife band that swirls together Cuban and Venezuelan folk and dance music, Ghanaian highlife, Ethio-groove, psych rock and jazz.

You may have heard Mop Mop on Woody Allen's To Rome with Love soundtrack, but get to know Isle of Magic, their fourth album of funk and jazz from across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and the U.S., featuring guests like funk legend Fred Wesley.

Carlinhos Brown's Mixtura Braileira technically came out last August, but it's been re-released, and you don't want to miss it. Booming samba meets electro beats and deep soul grooves. A heart-pounding listen, and the Brazilian funkster's best album in years.

Mãe Carinhosa collects unreleased material recorded before Cesária Évora's death last year. A moving experience, down to the Cape Verdean star's low, almost gravelly late-life vocals.

Soundway gets back to its crate-digging roots with Colomach, a thick, ferocious slice of Nigerian-Togolese psychedelic funk, released in miniscule numbers in '74 and unheard for decades.

Innovative Sierra Leonean artist Sorie Kondi overcame extreme difficulties en route to releasing Thogolobea, his collection of shimmering melodies played on the kondi (a traditional thumb piano) and set to thumping electronic beats.

The latest edition of the legendary Ethiopiques series compiles cuts by Oromo poet and singer Ali Mohammed Birra. Gorgeously funky.

Speaking of great reissues, the aptly titled Awesome Tapes from Africa just released a collection from Somalian funk-rockers Dur-Dur Band, who hail from the early '80s era of Mogadishu's cosmopolitan heyday.

Antibalas' Chico Mann follows up his great Manifest Tone series (which finished last year) with Magical Thinking, which delves more heavily into the electro side of his electro-funk than ever before.

Finally, Major Lazer, Diplo's dancehall persona, assembled an impressive cast of guest stars (Bruno Mars! Vybz Kartel! Ms. Dynamite! Shaggy!) for a second album, Free the Universe. Dig in.