Release Date: Feb 9, 2010
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, R&B, Funk
When Galactic released From the Corner to the Block in 2007, they fully embraced hip-hop as an inseparable element in their sound for good. That said, Ya-Ka-May's 15 tracks (named appropriately enough for an Afro-Orleanian soup of Asian origin that can be made with any meat you have around, noodles, hardboiled egg, green onion, and any array of spices) are more rooted in the diverse musics of post-Katrina New Orleans than on any record they’ve previously issued. There are more vocals than on any previous Galactic record -- but the album is better for it.
In the world of jam bands, Galactic has always proven itself to be a bit of an anomaly. Where other groups seemed content to recycle the same tired blues riffs and neo-psychedelic meanderings, Galactic has always shown a willingness to experiment, to incorporate humor and new musical styles into its cornbread-and-whipped-butter brand of jazzyfunkypop. Where other groups increasingly featured musicians with bloated egos engaging in self-indulgent solo theatrics, the members of Galactic have always proven themselves to be slaves to the groove, never putting individual expression above the integrity of the tune.
Galactic's Ya-Ka-May works as a concept album, but its execution ranges from grating to tolerable. By meshing together 200 years' worth of New Orleans music - revival, big band, funk, blues, bounce rap (sometimes all in one track) - the five-piece band manages to strip most of the charm from each genre. [rssbreak] The fact that they're trying to synthesize NOLA's entire musical history into a marketable sound gives the disc a self-important feel, even if their intentions are sincere.
Galactic Onstage, Galactic is a New Orleans funk band that jams through marathon dance medleys. On its albums, it’s becoming something else: a studio outfit, still funky, that merges hand-played, sampled and programmed tracks and that doubles as a tour guide. “Ya-Ka-May” (Epitaph) is named after a Chinese-derived noodle soup that the locals use for a hangover cure, and it traverses the city’s music in three-minute chunks featuring many luminaries, among them Allen Toussaint, the Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty and Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias.