Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of. This week we look at Ibeyi's debut self-titled LP, which puts the talents of the French-Cuban twins, and pretty much only their talents, on display.
Week of 02/27/2015
Many cultures have some sort of concept that refers to the unusual relationship between sets of twins, an unexplainable ability to understand and sync. That notion is known as "ibeyi" in Cuba, and is where true twins Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz took their title as a musical duo. It seems sensible enough that if any set of twins were to have innate musical understandings—of each other and others—it would be the Diaz duo. Their father was famed percussionist and Buena Vista Social Club member Anga Diaz, to whom Ibeyi is dedicated.
Although the siblings take obvious influences from the danzón of their heritage, they sample from a more complex palette than many acknowledge. The pair, who spent a majority of their youth in France, sing primarily in English (with entrancing moments of Yoruba, the language from which they derive their title). Lisa contributes instrumentally primarily from the piano and other keyboards, while Naomi provides percussion on the cajón box-drum. Richard Russell, the head of XL, is the only other contributor featured.
Ancestry aside, the real beauty within Ibeyi, an album tinged with the flames of heartbreak on all tracks. Some songs are obvious tributes to the deceased ("Mama Says," and "Yanira" is a tribute to the pair's older sister). Others, such as "Behind The Curtain" and "River" feature the passion of a lover, but tone of a lover gone, the same mournful tone of "St. James Infirmary" blues.
Once again, XL has proven the most consistent label in print.