Album review: Alific “Electric Radio”


Alific has been around. He’s lived in several major U.S. cities, and through that has been exposed to myriad sounds of influence, beginning with his time as bassist in Stick Figure. Then he absorbed the DJ scene. After playing keys for The Movement for a while, he set out on his own again. Two years after Pacific, Alific unleashes Electric Radio.

What is this album? Let’s qualify it as DJ music. The use of the studio is effervescent throughout these 14 tracks. But the music is really steeped in reggae, as well as hip-hop. The melting of these genres has been done time and time again, but Alific is so seamless that he’s, in a way, built his own unique sound. The electronic vibe is upbeat, ethereal, and glitzy, reminiscent of Lemon Jelly. But the crux of Electric Radio is the soulfulness combined with fun.

“Bulletproof” conveys this perfectly. Vinyl scratches sneak in under slide guitar, dub style horns, and a fat snare and kick beat. The ending, with vocal synths echoing over an ever growing silence, marks Alific’s use of mixing. Then, songs like “Dawn of The Kessel Run” (does anyone know the reference?), are tighter. In many ways, it’s SoCal vibes, but the number of instruments and their placement in layers, throws in a modern dub style. “Desert Drifter” sounds like Spy From Cairo, drenched in Middle Eastern flare. “Dubbers” is more restrained, but still polished. As per the name, it settles into a meditative groove while splintering horns dance around over it.

The instrumentals are definitely better than the songs with vocals, simply because Alific’s mastery is in compositions, not his voice. But his love of hip-hop and his positive messages, often centered around a short narrative of some kind, work well for what he’s doing here- the best of which is “Soul DJ”. “You can’t kill the vibe so strong/ If it feels this good/ it can’t be wrong… If you don’t know the words/ just hum along… Singing ooh-la-la-la.” I’ve critiqued this kind of lyricism before, but for Alific the old school rapping style matches the fun, exploratory energy of Electric Radio overall.

Really, this album contains no categorically bad songs. The invitation to dance, sing along, and blast the bass loudly is evident at ever juncture. A tuned in ear can pay attention to how much care has gone in to tweaking and mixing these sounds, many of them performed by Alific himself. You don’t have to like reggae to like this album, but if you do, you’ll note the Stick Figure and The Movement influences (especially on “Wilmington Jam”, featuring J Smiles from The Movement). Then again, perhaps it’s a bidirectional affect. I’m sure Alific, with all his skill, has expanded the horizons of those he’s played with. For now, though, Electric Radio is his own, an interesting, funky, upbeat party album. Who could say no to that?

Album review: Fiji “Collection: 50th State of Mind”


Fiji had always been a lovers rock mystic, and as I never much cared for the subgenre, I never got into the Polynesian soul-man who was born in Fiji and moved to Hawaii (hence his name). For various reasons, I’ve now come into contact with lovers rock with an open ear. So, listening through the epic Collection: 50th State Of Mind I realized what I’d been missing. And clearly, what Fiji mapped out artists like J Boog and The Green have followed.

Now, Fiji does suffer from love song cliché, and several songs out of 50 fall to the wayside- cheesy, corny, ridiculous lyrics over uninspired and sparse reggae instrumentation. In these moments, the only thing that saves the songs are Fiji’s incredible, impeccable voice, as on “Riddim of Life”, where he suggests, “I start to think/ if we only knew/ making love is like a honeydew.” Oh, seriously?

That being said, we have a lot of songs to work with here. Two discs’ worth of unreleased singles, hits, and more, this collection is able to span a career and an amazing amount of talent. All the songs hang on tight musical precision, even when the love song lyrics get in the way. Take “Sweet Darlin’”, “Did You Know”, and “Come On Over”. All these songs are sexy, sexy tracks. Close your eyes and you can see the island winds tussling the silk curtains on the veranda overlooking the evening ocean. He really paints a picture.

Disc II reserves space for the more political and spiritual side of Fij. On “Warrior of Love”- a fantastic track- he croons, “The people need a little love sometimes… It’s the kind that one would share brother to brother.” Then, on “Rise and Stand” Fiji offers one of his most roots reggae songs: “We are fighting for our rights now/ because there’s too much corruption in the world today.” It’s heady and fierce. “We Don’t Roll” packs a punch and is one of my favorites on the album: “We don’t roll with backbiters.”

Plus, songs like “Smokin Session”, “Why You”, “Inemlament”, and “Stone Cold” are classics.

So many of the songs contain perfectly constructed vocal harmonies, Fiji’s rollicking baritone, and a groove that’s too succinct to ignore. Also, sometimes props must be given to the masters, and some people build careers on love songs because they’re great at making them, not because they’re doing something original. Fiji is a master, down to the last of all the songs, “Satisfied”. He simply breathes: “Breakfast in bed with champagne/ You’re the reason why/ making love is a beautiful thing.”

Yuck. Only, he owns it. And I find myself hearing the songs of Collection: 50th State Of Mind replaying in my head. I find myself rushing to the stereo to put on a groove that’s been itching me all day. So, there’s something timeless and awesome about Fiji and about this collection. Don’t be afraid to fall in deep.