Michael Franti & Spearhead

The Sound of Sunshine

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With a chorus that’s bubbly, a hook that’s infectious, and a title that’s “Hey Hey Hey,” the key track on Michael Franti’s 2010 effort is wide open for ridicule, but on the cut, the man who once seemed like Gil Scott-Heron for the techno generation makes an excellent argument for happiness. “Hey, hey, hey/No matter how life is today/There’s just one thing that I got to say/I won’t let another moment slip away” it goes, and while that’s coming from a man who just had his first hit -- and in the U.S., his first beer commercial -- with 2009’s “Say Hey (I Love You),” it is also coming from a man who ended up facing his own mortality when his appendix ruptured around the same time. The Sound of Sunshine is the “seize the day” result to a reggae-pop, jam band beat, filled with bliss and gratitude plus a bit of swagger and some pointed political moments that remind you this isn’t Jack Johnson or John Mayer. That dynamic duo certainly couldn’t trade lines with dancehall diva Lady Saw as well as Franti does either, and the great “Shake It” winds up “Say Hey”’s worthy successor, perfect for adding some solid songwriting to your next pool party. “Only Thing Missing Was You” and “Headphones” both fit the bill for when the sun sets and good friends gather round the beach bonfire, and you couldn’t ask for a better closer than “The Sound of Sunshine Going Down,” which executes its heartwarming day exit strategy flawlessly, from its mood to its title. To say the record isn’t “challenging” is an understatement, especially when looking at his early work, but it’s easy to overlook how skillfully the man crafts positive music that’s sunshine, and yet not sugary. Don’t let the wide smiles or welcoming music steer you away, because there’s as much meaning and heart here as there is anywhere in Franti’s discography.

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