Caspar Llewellyn Smith 

The Very Best: MTMTMK – review

Big on sunny harmonies and feel-good factor, the Very Best's second album is not scared to be too pop, writes Caspar Llewellyn Smith
  
  

It might sound lazy to describe a record that sees a Swedish producer holing up in Malawi to make an album with a local singer that's big on sunny harmonies and feel-good factor as a reincarnation of Paul Simon's Graceland, quarter of a century on, but Johan Karlberg has said hearing that record at the age of five changed his life for ever. Since The Very Best's 2009 debut, The Warm Heart of Africa (a pretty big clue to how that one sounded, too, lay in its title), Etienne Tron has left the group, leaving Karlberg and his box of tricks (running Pro Tools and Ableton 8) and Esau Mwamwaya (who is still refused a visa to perform in the UK) to fashion its eclectic but life-affirming followup. MTMTMK is a clubbier offering – even featuring shades of dubstep – but there's also the occasional balafon (a type of wooden xylophone), contributions from Baaba Maal and Amadou and Mariam on Bantu and those shining vocals. Most of all, as with Graceland, it's not scared to be too pop: Bruno Mars co-wrote We OK, which also features a K'Naan vocal – plus the lyrics are of a sounder political hue than anything Simon essayed.