Unlike Obsidian’s heavy lyrics, the light instrumentation keeps the album levitating heavenward. Wiesenfeld’s minimalist palette is heavy on crinkling squiggles, dulcet pianos, various effects of mysterious origin and melodies that bloom unexpectedly. The basic strategy of mixing happy instrumentals with sad vocals (or vice versa) has been active in rock and pop for decades, and Obsidian demonstrates how durable that formula is and how powerful its results can be. This record gives you lots to chew on, making it a prime contender for 2013 best-of lists. May 28, Anticon (Reyan Ali)
While fans of world music might know Tuareg music pioneers Tinariwen, Bombino is decidedly a more rocking affair (think an Islamic Mark Knopfler or a West African Carlos Santana) whose sound isn’t necessarily influenced by blues-rock revivalist Auerbach. If anything, Auerbach added depth with un-Saharan sounds like lap-steel guitar, vibraphone and organ to a few of the album’s 11 tracks, which were already filled with Bombino stuttering, jangly riffage.
At Nomad’s most rollicking, hard-hitting rock side is opener “Amidinine,” the album’s strongest tune. Bombino continues to stay close to his desert-blues roots with saturated guitar sounds and loping polyrhythmic playing on crunchy “Azamane Tiliade.” But the album is far from just head-banging. Bombino, a longtime peace advocate, sings about his homeland, which has been mired in conflict in recent years, and how it’s time for the people to unite and overcome (translations of tunes can be found in the liner notes). He also sings about protecting his Tuareg culture and heritage on the down-home, bucolic blues-folk tune “Imidiwan,” one of the few slow, beautifully paced songs that’s filled with call & response chants and a dash of misty-eyed soul. April 2, Nonesuch (Performing on Tuesday, May 28 @ The State Room, 638 S. State, 8 p.m., $22) (Austen Diamond)