The third studio long player from the Swedish-Malawian duo, Makes a King finds The Very Best doing what they do the very best; offering up an alluring amalgamation of politically charged afro pop and slick European house music. Recorded in the lakeside Malawian village of M'dala Chikowa, Makes A King sports a small army of typically cosmopolitan guests, including Baaba Maal, Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio, Vaccines guitarist Freddie Cowan, Nigerian-born, London-based electro-pop maestro Seye, LA-based EDM specialist Jutty Taylor (Jutty Ranx), and Jerere, a local Malawian choir. A more bucolic, melodious, and immediate collection of songs than 2012's largely synth-based MTMTMK, Makes A King makes good use of both Esau Mwamwaya's powerful voice and the distinctive environmental sounds and regional instrumentation of M'dala Chikowa, and its best moments occur when the tones reflect the dazzle of the midday sun above ("Mwana Wanga," "Sweka," "Let Go"). Johan Hugo's thick beats and keen ear for melody goes a long way in keeping things lush and DJ appropriate, but when he applies his considerable skills to evoke darker hues ("Hear Me," "Umasiye," "The Dead and the Dreaming"), Makes A King loses some momentum. That said, it's the group's most lived in and emotionally authentic sounding release to date; it certainly doesn't fiddle too much with the formula, but that's hardly a negative.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
feat: Esau Mwamwaya