LJX Brighter Days coverLJX, Brighter Days, 2010

If you yearn for melodic, thoughtful, satisfying reggae music that’s rootsy in style yet contemporary in outlook, search no further. Toronto-based LJX (aka Lyndon John X) has created what you need under the title Brighter Days.

The disc has a long list of strengths, but let’s start with the song-writing, which features consistently attractive and original melodies as very road-worthy vehicles for intelligent, clear-eyed commentary. There’s a definite Rasta sensibility in the lyrics, including a few references to “politricksters” and the like, but for the most part the “burn down Babylon” clichés are replaced by novel approaches to a wide range of significant contemporary issues. If there is a common theme, it’s the necessity to keep vigilant for the manifold sources and methods of the destructive social conditioning process we’re undergoing. Consider the honesty of this, for example: “and now the brainwashing has caused us to call ourselves niggers at the drop of a hip hop sound.”

Just as impressive as the songwriting is the musicianship, especially the vocals – not merely soulful, supple and inventive, but often incorporating an enthusiasm and joy that I find absolutely infectious. The rhythms are propelled by a rich, deep bass, a solid foundation for arrangements that although never dramatically inventive or far-reaching, are sufficiently variable to include keyboards, some dub, even a touch of nyahbinghi percussion.

For me, the most amazing thing about Brighter Days is the way it distils so much of what is appealing about classic roots reggae without ever becoming generic, and without LJX emulating any other artist. Yes, this album is a real treasure, and deserves all the attention it can possibly get. (A warning, though: once you buy and listen to this one, you’ll find yourself craving LJX’s brilliant first album, Two Chord Skankin’ as well.)