I’ve said it before – a large part of the allure of M.I.A.‘s music for me lies in the physical realm. If she resembled a Sri Lankan Mugsy Bogues, I may not have become enamored with her back in the Arular days. But indeed she does not resemble Mugsy Bogues. She’s an exotic, caramel-skinned south Asian beauty with a fuck you attitude, who puts together some of the most unique beats and sounds around.
On Tuesday, she released Matangi, only her fourth studio release in the last 8 years. Her last album, Maya (2010) didn’t do too much for me, but after a couple of listens to Matangi, she’s got me back the same way Arular and Kala had me.
It’s the creativity I love – having no idea what she’s going to bring you from song to song. The layered tracks are exotic, odd, surprising, sexy, disturbing, and completely original. A couple of tunes from Matangi have already risen to the top (for now – that’s sure to change). “Y.A.L.A.”, and this one: “Lights”… The booming bass, the tribal percussion, and the way her vocals fluctuate throughout the song – high to low, raps morphing into melodies, all winding its way through the changing rhythms.
I know if I approached 10 of my friends with this album (or any M.I.A. album, for that matter), 9 and a half of them would turn and look me in the eyes with a confused look. That’s okay. I’m not seeking validation. I gravitate to some artists just for the odd, the creative, and the adventurous. M.I.A.’s got her own thing going, and I love it.
Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.
“Like a Virgin” by Madonna (from Celebration, 2009)
Goddamn it, Madge. I want to run that Seth Myers skit where he rattles off a rapid-fire salvo of insults followed by the quizzical “really?” So, tell me, Madonna: why do you find it necessary to include your name in your lyrics, is it because you are worried someone might mistake it for an Avril Lavigne or Gwen Stefani tune? Oh, and M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj? Really? REALLY?
“Picture in an Exhibition” by Death Cab for Cutie (from Something About Airplanes, 1998)
Is anyone else looking forward to the next Death Cab for Cutie record?
“Deep” by Pearl Jam (from Vault #1: 1992-01-17: Moore Theater, Seattle, WA, USA, 2011)
This is an amazing show. Well worth seeking out.
“1901 (Alan Wilkis remix)” by Phoenix (from 1901, 2009)
It’s been awhile since we’ve visited with Alan Wilkis! If you haven’t been keeping up, he is in the midst of a new project called PRINTS, where he shares his funk with the likes of Bay-area rapper, Lyrics Born. Hit the link and dig in!
“A Letter to Elise” by The Cure (from Wish, 1992)
“And every time I try / to pick it up like falling sand / as fast as I pick it up / it runs away through my clutching hands” No one, but no one, does resigned desperation like Robert Smith. i can’t quite say why, but I’ve always held this song as the example of why I love The Cure as much as I do. Along with the equally forlorn “Pictures of You,” it ranks among my favorite songs, period.
Hello Ickies! I know I’ve been absent from posting for far too long. I shall try harder in 2010 (though I think I said the same thing last year).
The first decade of the new millennium produced some great music, from established artists and from new folks. Keeping with the format set forth by Mark and Pete, I offer my top 10 of the decade. Narrowing it to ten was a near impossible task. I adopted Pete’s “one album per artist rule,” which helped. Also know that these are in no order whatsoever. I simply can’t rank them. We’ll go chronologically. That seems fair.
Still my favorite Outkast record. I am certainly not one to knock Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. But for me, Stankonia has held up better as the new decade dawns. That might just be a product of having played the hell out of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. But personally, I feel like when Outkast hit, they made us realize that hey, you can actually have really good hip hop in the top 40.
Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)
Speaking of albums that I overplayed in the earlier part of the decade, Daft Punk’s sophomore effort is certainly another example. There were so many big songs off this – whether their bigness was represented in college airplay or appropriation by television commercials. “One More Time,” “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” “Digital Love,” “Something About Us,” “Face to Face” … Lord. This was essential weekend grooving for a good 2 years of my college life.
Sigur Ros – ( )(2002)
This album blew me away. At the time, a friend described Sigur Ros as music to watch glaciers move by (or something along those lines). I was impressed first with the laboriously slow tempo of the tracks. More than that though, was the emotional depth in an album of songs who had no true lyrics to speak of. You may recall that the songs are sung in “Hopelandic,” wherein the idea was to go for the phonetic sounds that seemed most effective rather than a language proper (though structurally Hopelandic is based on the band’s native tongue of Icelandic).
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
This album cemented the Flaming Lips in music history. They’d had some success with “She Don’t Use Jelly” and more recently, The Soft Bulletin. But Yoshimi took them to the next level. Although their follow up (2006’s At War with the Mystics) was great and their current release (Embryonic) is also quite good, it all goes back to Yoshimi. It’s their masterpiece.
Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)
“S’ya boy!” Speaking of canonic, career-defining albums, there is little doubt in my mind that Jay-Z’s Black Album is his magnum opus. It almost makes me think that maybe he was serious about retiring, and put everything into what was to be his swan song. Of course that isn’t the way things panned out. Nonetheless, the album is a hip hop classic, track after track.
White Stripes-Get Behind Me Satan(2005)
I love the White Stripes. No, really. And I’ve gone on record as naming Jack White the artist of the decade. The Stripes have yet to disappoint me. Sure, 2007’s Icky Thump didn’t live up to its predecessors, but even their worst album is still pretty damn good. I didn’t think they could top Elephant, but 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan did just that. I love that they aren’t afraid to experiment – they relish the chance to step outside of their blues-rock/garage comfort zone. Satan was all over the place stylistically, and each fore was a success. The summer that this came out, I seriously listened to it at least twice a day for a month.
Pete might be onto something in saying that MIA is a love her or hate her type of artist. I love her, though I’ve played her for others that remain unimpressed. I was floored upon hearing Arular – it was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It sounds cliche to say, but MIA is truly a hybrid artist, meshing so many genres and cultural flavors into one. 2007’s Kala is also amazing, but not quite the sonic dance floor assault that Arular is. She’s allegedly at work on the third album, so here’s hoping.
Chromeo – Fancy Footwork (2007)
Quite possibly my pick for best party album of the decade. They’re cheeky, funky and they’ve mastered the Minneapolis sound. Fancy Footwork just makes me want to dance, from start to finish. There is not a bad track on the album. They’re also a good time live, and they’ve slated a new disc for a summer 2010 release. I can’t wait.
Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours(2008)
More dancing. Aussie electropop outfit Cut Copy harken back to the 1980s synth dance of groups like New Order, but manage to do so in a way that takes them beyond being a mere retro or ripoff act. In essence, Cut Copy effectively takes emotive 1980s dance music and updates it for the new millennium. (Can I still refer to this as the new millennium ten years on?)
Santogold – Santogold(2008)
A year ago, I claimed Santogold’s self-titled debut as my favorite disc from 2008, and my feelings have not changed. The Brooklynite alternately incorporates hip hop, new wave and ska influences among others, all adding up to one of the most refreshing albums of the decade. And she keeps good company – Diplo, Switch, Spank Rock, Amanda Blank…I very much look forward to what Santogold/Santigold offers up in the new decade.
Quick Note: I didn’t want to bombard my Top 10 with Springsteen and Prince albums, so I chose my favorites of theirs from the 00’s. Did I spend more time with M.I.A.’s Arular than with Bruce’s Magic or Prince’s Musicology? No way. Just so you know, I limited my picks to one album per artist.
And now, on to the completely subjective look at 10 of my favorite albums of the decade!
10. Prince – The Rainbow Children (2001)
Jazzy, funky, and dipping deeply into P’s then new-found life as a Jehovah’s Witness, this album connected with me more than any Prince album of the 00’s (and nope, no JW am I). As much as the 54 second “Wedding Feast” makes me cringe, the album makes up for it with great tracks like “Digital Garden”, “The Work, Pt. 1”, and “The Sensual Everafter”.
Favorite tune: “1+1+1 is 3” (mp3) – to me, easily the funkiest Prince song of the 00’s.
9.M.I.A. – Arular(2005)
I couldn’t leave the girls out! M.I.A. came out of nowhere halfway through the decade with her brand of world-influenced electronic hip-hop. I love her attitude, her style, her accent, and she ain’t so bad lookin’ either. I think this is one of those love it or hate it albums. My wife can’t stand it. But for me, songs like “Pull Up The People”, “Fire Fire”, and “Amazon” just, er, do it for me, okay?
Steve had a lot to say about the state of our country after 9/11 and the ensuing conflicts overseas. Of course he was his controversial self with “John Walker’s Blues”. He was fierce as hell on “Ashes to Ashes” and “Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)”. And he looked for a world of peace in the gentle album closer, “Jerusalem”. A great album top to bottom.
Favorite tune: “What’s a Simple Man To Do?” (mp3) – an organ-driven barnburner of a tune about a Mexican drug smuggler’s letter to his madre.
7. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
Sure, some people think this is the obligatory best of the decade album – even if they think it doesn’t merit it. But guess what, it’s completely subjective, and certain albums connect with certain people. YHF was on constant rotation early in the decade. Wilco’s creativity and originality were through the roof in the late 90’s to early 00’s. The changes in direction between Being There, Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and A Ghost is Born are startling.
Favorite tune: The “War on War” and “Jesus, Etc.” combo special.
6. Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump (2000)
The brainchild of Jason Lytle, this futuristic, tech-themed album – with its gorgeous, sweeping electronic-based melodies – blew me away. Who would’ve guess I’d have such strong feelings about songs like “”Broken Household Appliance National Forest” and “Miner at the Dial-a-View”?
Win Butler and his merry troupe of noisemakers got my attention with “Old Flame” from their self-titled EP. And when I heard this album, I was hooked.
Favorite tune: “Wake Up” (YouTube) – especially after seeing them live at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. A sea of people singing “Whoooa-ooooa Whoooa-oooo-oooo-ooo”.
4. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)
When Bruce takes a break from the E Street Band, you never know what you’re gonna get. And with the Sessions record, it was a return to the roots of American folk music, and he brought along about 15-20 of his friends for the ride. This album provided countless hours of joy around our house. And the tour stop through Phoenix was an absolute thrill for me and my wife. Hey Bruce, bring back the Sessions Band!!
Favorite tune: “Pay Me My Money Down”. A family favorite. The kids still sing it.
3. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2008)
2. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time (2006)
Thank God these guys came along. Led by the gentle voice of Ben Bridwell, the first two Band of Horses albums are folk/indie masterpieces. There isn’t a bit of filler in either of these, and I look forward to following these guys for the rest of my lifetime.
Favorite tune: “Monsters” [mp3] (from EATT) and “Windows Blues” [mp3] (from CTB) – surprise, the slower tunes.
1. Marah – Kids in Philly(2000)
In 2000, when I was going through some “woe is me” / “whaddya mean I can’t get this girl back”-type stuff, this album picked me up, punched me in the nuts, and knocked me back over. I was living down by the new Tempe Town Lake, and I’d run around it a few nights a week – I’d start running as the opening banjo riff of “Faraway You” ignited the album, and I wouldn’t stop ’til the closing street harmonies of “This Town”. The album was super cathartic, and every time I listen to it, I think of that summer of 2000. August 2000 also included one of the best rock ‘n roll shows I’ve ever seen: Marah at Tempe’s now defunct Long Wong’s – a small, sweat-soaked bar. I’ll never forget the energy of Dave, Serge and the boys that night. The album and band encapsulate what stripped down rock ‘n roll is all about.
Favorite Tune: “Round Eye Blues” (mp3) – capturing the spirit of Motown and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, this is a vivid and beautiful song, sung in the perspective of a young man in Vietnam:
Fables tell of men who fell
With swords dangling from their chest
The old guys down at the taproom swear
The Japs could kill you best
But late at night I could still hear the cries
Of three black guys I seen take it in the face
I think about them sweet Motown girls they left behind
And the assholes that took their place
Goosebumps every time.
When all is said and done, this is the album that affected me most personally, and therefore must be crowned: Pete’s Album of the 00’s!
Editor’s Note: Ah Sunday, it’s time to relax and you know what that means a glass of wine, your favorite easy chair and of course a few nudges in the right direction.
The All Points West Music & Arts Festival is taking place this weekend at New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. Jay-Z took up the Friday night headliner slot vacated by the Beastie Boys and paid tribute by opening with the classic “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”. (link)
ChordStrike has what could be the oddest “cover” that you’ll ever experience with an unlikely take on M.I.A.‘s “Paper Planes”. (link)
It looks as if Foreigner has gone the Journey route with a Wal-Mart exclusive triple-disc new + greatest hits package and Matt over at Addicted To Vinyl has the details. (link)
Jeff Vrabel introduces us to the ‘redonkulous’ trailer for Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock Holmes and proved that even hundred old characters have fanboys. (link)
Popdose chart master Jason Hare drops a Chart Attack from 1992 featuring En Vogue, Boyz II Men, Jon Secada and quite possibly one of the worst tunes ever. (link)
Here’s a brief recap of my first day at ACL: Friday, September 14th….
Jesse Malin – my bro and I walked in part way into Jesse’s set. Jesse gets instant cred in my book because he pulled the Boss in to his new album to sing “Broken Radio” with him. He’s got the east coast pure rock n’ roll vibe going, and he delivered with his set. One of those acts that I need to see in a small club. I’ll be catching him next time he hits Phoenix.
Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts – far be it from me to be a superficial, “typical male”, but the bass player for Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts enhanced the show for me. Her name is Sybil Buck, turns out she’s a model for Yves St. Laurent, and she shakes and shimmies like she stepped out of a Robert Palmer video. The Astronauts set was a favorite of both my brother and I. Buck and the other female in the group, killer lead guitarist Jen Turner, laid down some sweet harmonies – making some of the tunes sound very ethereal and even Pixies-like at times. A great set, and it made me re-listen to their latest release, Let’s Just Be, with a new appreciation. Hail hail Joseph & the Astronauts…
Will Hoge – the mid-afternoon, post fire set by Will Hoge at the Austin Venures stage was a nice well kept secret among the throngs at the festival. A relatively small crowd got treated to some down home rock n roll, often reminiscent of the Black Crowes (at least to these ears). Hoge even busted out some trademark Chris Robinson moves at times, complete with some handclaps and mic-stand staggers. Good set.
Blonde Redhead -We only caught a couple songs before getting positioned for Crowded House, but what I did hear sounded interesting. I’ll have to dig into some of their stuff.
Crowded House – my bro’s highlight of the weekend was seeing Crowded House, who he hadn’t seen since the early 90’s in Minneapolis. It was my first time seeing Neil Finn, Nick Seymour and the band. It was a solid, tight set that was the last of their six week North American tour. Hearing familiar tunes like “Weather With You” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” was mighty nice.
M.I.A. – We were stuck behind the soundboard for Maya’s packed set, so we cut it a bit short after a few songs. But I watched some video screen action of M.I.A. and her dance partner jump around to the likes of “Bucky Done Gun”, “Sunshowers”, “Boyz”, and “World Town”. I should’ve pre-positioned myself for this one, if you know what I mean (huh?)…
Spoon – okay we were about 2 football fields back and I laid down and closed my eyes for a while, then we were off to see the Kaiser Chiefs. But I did hear some cool tunes off the new album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, like “The Underdog”, “Don’t You Evah” and “The Ghost of You Lingers”.
Reverend Horton Heat – I’ve seen the Rev a multitude of times over the years, so it wasn’t a priority to catch the whole set. But we did manage to catch the last several tunes, which gave us “Psychobilly Freakout”, “Bales of Cocaine”, “It’s Martini Time”, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, “Greensleeves”, and “Folsom Prison Blues”. It’s always good to see the Rev and his Gretsch, Jimbo and his stand up bass, and their latest drummer.
I respectfully defer to Wayne when I say: “Schwingg!”
Her follow up to her very successful debut, Arular, was released a couple weeks ago. It’s called Kala, and I have to say, I’m enjoying it even more than her first. I love cool sounds. This album has ’em. She had originally planned to get in the studio with Timbaland for this album, but problems with her visa blocked her for a few months (he did end up producing one of the tracks: “Come Around”.
So, she took the label’s money and did some globe trotting to pull in some tasty sounds. One of my favorites is her collaboration with Australian aborigine hip-hop group Wilcannia Mob, who are barely in their teens (if even that). That one’s called “Mango Pickle Down River”, and features a wicked didgeridoo.
She’s also cool enough to incorporate the Clash into a song. “Straight to Hell” sets the tone on the Diplo-produced “Paper Planes”.
Here’s the album opener. “M.I.A.’s coming back with Power Power!” Crank it up and enjoy. Great album… tasty beats, bangs, and zooms. And she’s hot to boot.
I’ll freely admit that a large part of what draws me to M.I.A.’s music is her looks. Her exotic Sri Lankan roots, her sexy Brit-rap, and infectious beats like this (courtesy of Diplo), make for some damn fine listening. And like Borat would say, she make me think of sexytime. Very nice! High Five!
M.I.A.: XR2 Turbo (mp3) – this download and others available on her MySpace page.