The Very Best

Thursday

SXSW Records

The Very Best

Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl)

Making the leap from mixtape to a proper album can be even more difficult than overcoming the dreaded sophomore slump – the bar being measured against is one of critical hyperbole, not commercial success. Global in its scope and appeal, the Very Best – Malawian-born, London-based singer Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit, the British production duo of Johan Karlberg and Etienne Tron – accomplishes this feat with rare relative ease on its debut LP, Warm Heart of Africa, a summery celebration of cross-pollinated Afro-pop. The trio borrows from its free 2008 download (the Architecture in Helsinki-sampled "Kamphopo" and remixed "Kada Manja") but also adds 1980s synth-pop ("Chalo"), dancehall grooves ("Nsokoto"), and the M.I.A.-stormed "Rain Dance" to the mix, along with the West Coast-meets-UK grime of "Julia." It's upbeat and inspiring almost to a fault – the lilting, diamond-soul yelp of Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig holds its own on the Upper West Side Soweto of the title track – which also makes Warm Heart feel like some sort of Disney tourist attraction – enjoyable but not yet revelatory. (Thu., 1am, Beauty Bar Backyard; Fri., 1:15am, Emo's Main Room.)

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