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Justin Ancheta Band | Plant

album review by John Powell

Justin Ancheta Band | Plant

There must be something for the indie kid that likes reggae music, right?

In an age where genre lines are melting and music is sense of purpose rather than particular style, Justin Ancheta and the band bring about roots reggae masked in alternative and folk lyrics and musical tidbits. Plant will grow on you, deeply. It’s weird on first listen, a little skewed, and very loose sounding, like it was recorded in one take in a garage somewhere- hence that indie affectation.

“Forever” is a roots reggae opener, though. Low key guitar, a bare one drop, and lyrics like “Blue skies/ tell me it’s better/ if all the weather/ stays the same.” Ancheta has an agenda. Much is positive vibrations, but he doesn’t agree with the state of the environment, and for that reason I appreciate an indie-cred kind of funk man to be saying something important. There’s not a huge amount of shallowness or lamenting. It’s global music.

“Truth Existence” has a melody reminiscent of Elliot Smith, drenched in reggae, horns and all- and man, the horns are great throughout Plant. Songs like “Counter Culture” are as rootsy as they get: “You hate this and I hate that,” Justin puts forth simply. “You think it’s bliss/ and I think it’s crap.”

The second half of the album switches gears. “Simmer Down” caters to Jason Mraz fans, (and Jason Mraz is good; admit it), a song somewhere between pop and folk-reggae. Then there’s songs like “Outer Space” that drops the reggae sound completely, and Justin could not sound more like Sufjan Stevens if he tried. Ethereal, laced with strings, and bittersweet. Sure, a great song, but it suddenly sounds like we’ve put on a mix tape. Plants takes some weird turns that way.

“Feel Better” is the penultimate song, and a real highlight because it’s a story, and songs with stories is a lost art. It’s charming, kind, sincere, and bright. Something you sing along to and might want to start you’re day listening to.

Plant didn’t sit well at first. Recorded music has gotten very digital- tight because computers make it so, but this album sounds open and loose. The lyrics are conscious, the instrumentation smart, and the vibes good, but there’s also clarinet, so, you see where I’m coming from. Indie weird. Roots riddims.

Bottom line: Reggae with indie street cred, conscious hippie lyrics, and interesting instrumentations. What could go wrong?

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