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Album #309: Songhoy Blues – Optimisme

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Bamako, Mali
  • Label: Transgressive Records
  • Best Track: Badala

A 2020 album about “positive energies”? It’s worth a go, as Malian desert blues band Songhoy Blues once again channel war and oppression in their homeland into something joyous and exuberant.

On their third album, appropriately called Optimisme, their message is reminiscent of Idles on Joy as an Act of Resistance in a way. Obviously it comes from a very different world, but the message is similar – the best way to beat the bastards is through positivity and celebration.

Musically, it falls into that frustrating category of music I want to like more than I do. I think Songhoy Blues would be an inspiring, energising act to see live. On record, it’s decent enough, but it feels stifled by the confines of my small, old-fashioned house in Northern England, and a walk around the block in November with headphones doesn’t do it much justice either.

Still, I certainly appreciate the complex drumming and inventive vocal techniques. The rockiness of opener ‘Badala’ caught me off guard, and the drive and intensity of ‘Worry’ helps it stand out too.

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