Some will insist that Galactic's earlier, more traditionally funky albums should make this list over 2010's "Ya-Ka-May," but they are underselling just how fantastic this record is. A triumph of modern day record producing, "Ya-Ka-May" casts a new light on some of NOLA's most beloved musicians through sampling, mixing and other studio tricks prevalent in the last several years.
The idea behind the album is simple: Pick at least one guest artist per track to sit in, take the essence of that artist and churn it into a distinctly post-Katrina hip-hop sound. And what wonderful contributors they are -- legends Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and Big Chief Bo Dollis sit on tracks, as do budding stars Trombone Shorty, John Boutte and Glen David Andrews, along with several more.
Irma in particular shines on "Heart of Steel." Her voice is sampled over a pulsating bass line and rumbling organ that redefines the soul singer's iconic deep voice. Bo Dollis is given the same treatment on "Wild Man," a track that takes a Dollis Indian chant and lays it over a break-beat funk groove. John Boutte's regularly sweet, romantic voice is suddenly filled with bravado on "Dark Water," a song best played on headphones while strutting down the street.
At its heart "Ya-Ka-May" is not so much a facelift of New Orleans music -- that would imply Galactic added a superficial layer just to hide its age -- as it is a declaration that NOLA's music scene is evolving, alive and well.
Wondering what the phrase "Ya-Ka-May" means and how it's relevant to the album? Get the scoop in this BoingBoing interview with Toussaint and Galactic Drummer Stanton Moore.