The Very Best + Heems

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Time Out says

In the interest of innovation, a well-respected catchphrase is “diversity trumps ability.” But in the case of Afropop duo the Very Best—an unlikely pairing of a Swede hipster and an African expat with a wide grin—there is no need to trade one quality for the other. On their newest album, MTMTMK, the odd couple sweetens an electronic concoction with lush African refrains while maintaining a clear mastery of turntable mixology, making the multifarious twosome worthy of their first-class moniker.

The Very Best began when Etienne Tron, the French half of production duo Radioclit, purchased a bicycle from the secondhand store run by Malawi singer Esau Mwamwaya. From that weighty acquisition, the group proceeded to release 2008’s most compelling mixtape, Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit Are the Very Best, and a bliss-inducing 2009 debut album, Warm Heart of Africa. Tron’s departure followed, leaving Mwamwaya and Johan Karlberg, the Swedish half of Radioclit, to continue fine-tuning their synthesis of Afro-Western beats.

With Tron out of the equation, the group’s sound is notably altered. Swapping out sunshine pop for Auto-Tunage, the new album is no less Afro-heavy, just more neon-flooded-dance-club friendly. Karlberg fuses South African kwela, reggaeton and commercial Europop, partnering Mwamwaya’s buoyant, chantworthy vocals in English and Chichewa. For MTMTMK, the duo enlists African star K’naan and pop sensation Bruno Mars to aid in the round-the-world fun, transcending the constraints of electropop and authentic African rhythms alike.—Maya Friedman

Follow Maya Friedman on Twitter: @mcfried7

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