Shane Philip - Life.love. Music.
Shane Philip's poppy White dub may not appeal to everyone, especially given the too-often stressed spotlight on the fact that he plays may indigenous instruments like Kona, Didgeridoo and Djembe drums. That is a lot of cultural appropriation for a lineup of acts, let alone one man. Canadian semi-legend Philip's makes admirable use of others' touchstones, and "Life.Love. Music." is more inoffensive than controversial. But controversy aside, that inoffensiveness is fatal to music built off dance and tribal motifs. The music is solid and occasionally evocative, but the soul that needs to be here is missing.
Clearly, you can't argue with songs like "Sacred, "See You Again," and the title track, which all have a light groove and solid melody. But they don't linger very long in the listener's mind; they ultimately don't win you over. Lore problematic are tunes like "See You Again," "Earth Dance," and "Exodus," which try too hard for deeper emotional effect, and don't reach that height; they sound like covers of tunes that had been in better hands. Much better are "Island Soul" and "January 28," songs that feature a more stripped down sound, and which give more room for Philip's weary but approachable vocals to emerge.
Shane Philip's music can't help but pale under the weight of all of its World Music pretentions, and the level of press he gets for his "authentic" uses of native styles. "Life.Love. Music." is a decent record by a decent singer-songwriter. It is the singer, not the song, remember. Or the instruments. Or the culture borrowed. Philip's has a lot of heart and soul, and I think he undermines his best qualities by trying to be eclectic for its own sake.
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