Artist: the Very Best


As should be obvious from the plaintive opening blasts of fog-horn, the Very Best are a dance band, and MTMTMK is a bright, shiny, transnational, transcultural electro-pop dance record … Well, fine, but it *becomes* obvious once the fog-horn has been made to hold down the very_best_mtmtmkultra-low bass end. Meanwhile, groaning synthesizer has been drafted to hold down the almost-as-low bass; ultra-trebly synthesizer whistles and bleats have started playing the high end; oscillating disco synths have begun to hold down the middle; African drums and Phil Collins-y drum machines have pushed things along; and the song’s vocals have been processed, chopped, and strewn rhythmically, techno-style, over the top. Then there’s Jamaican-style rapping/toasting, some uplifting group/choral backup singing, and a stirring keyboard melody. That’s just the first song.

Over the course of MTMTMK, we hear lots of African-style call-and-response singing — some of it melodically quite nimble — and rapping both playful and gritty, as well as modern pitch-corrected pop mantras, knob-twisted sudden rises and falls in vocal notes, and more disconnected vocal samples. Sometimes the synthesizers remind me of the Pet Shop Boys, sometimes of Erasure, sometimes of Dr. Dre, sometimes of ecstatic Japanese pop hits, sometimes of me and the kids futzing around with minor keys and Casio presets at the store, sometimes even of an imaginary happy Trent Reznor. African percussion plays, or sometimes it’s reggae, while dozens of cell phones clap their hands and snap their fingers. Mghetto, the record’s one serious/ somewhat-dark feeling track (and one of its best), may even feature flute and brass, although they could obviously be synthetic.

MTMTMK is, for me, an album that loses momentum in the second half; an album where most of the songs are longer than strictly needed. And while I think it rallies to end with its absolute highlight — transitioning from chorus-worthy verses to chorus-worthy choruses to a chorus-worthy bridge in the celebratory We OK — I’m also aware that this highlight was written for the Very Best by Bruno Mars, and that I as a reviewer should find this damning. Whatever; I don’t listen to obscure music for the sake of credibility. I listen to find good music. Which sometimes is made by scouring the world’s pop charts for the many ways to make people smile.

– Brian Block

To see the rest of our favorites, visit our Favorite Albums of 2012 page!