M.I.A. – Kala

30 08 2010

Listened: Monday August 9

Unlike Arular, I really got it the first time I heard Kala. There’s a much more revolutionary cheerleader vibe to it that immediately hooks you. I love the depth of samples and participants she brings to this album too: Timbaland, Bollywood, little kids, etc. I hadn’t really heard Timbaland much before and he’s brilliant on Come Around.

When I heard Paper Planes I knew it would be a big hit – a dramatic sound, the aforementioned revolutionary cheerleading, the gun sound effect – it’s a winning formula. Also interesting that she half-covers the Pixies on $20. That’s not what I expected for a cover from her at all. Though certainly the song (Where is My Mind?) fits her aesthetic well.

It seems like the M.I.A. backlash started with the album, now that it’s a hit. Some say her image is all a pose and they bag on her marrying the son of a millionaire, as a supposedly third world revolutionary speaking out again “the man”. Frankly, everyone’s image is all a pose; she is just unapologetic about it. And it seems like an artist, male or female, should strive to marry a millionaire – she says herself that “I hate money cuz it makes me numb”. As a poor artist, you have to constantly micromanage money to survive. If you’re married to someone with tons of money, you don’t ever have to even think about making money, just art. Problem solved. Anyway, I am sure she isn’t hurting for money herself anyway so bitching about her marrying a millionaire doesn’t really make sense. She’s marrying on her level at this point, and she has the option to tell the music work to go away and still maintain her comfortable lifestyle. Power to her.


Stereophonics – Just Enough Education To Perform

27 08 2010

Listened: Monday August 9

I have fond memories of listening to Just Enough Education To Perform, Primal Scream’s Xtrmntr, and Sigur Ros’s Von Brigði (Recycle Bin) as I was cleaning my college apartment in Berkeley after graduation, preparing to move back to my parents’ house. I was the only one left in the apartment at that point, so I could crank the music as I cleaned. Consequently, this album has a lot of nostalgic value to me.

For some reason the songs remind me of Rod Stewart a bit. Maybe it’s the gravelly working class voice, I’m not sure. It also reminds me of the retro sounds of Ocean Colour Scene, who were active at the same time.

U2 – The Joshua Tree

27 08 2010

Listened: Monday August 9

Writing an entry on The Joshua Tree intimidates me a bit. What more can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? Every song is brilliant. I particularly love how When the Streets Have No Name builds up so gradually; it’s like the sun rising in the desert. With or Without You is one of my favorite love songs of all time, and the imagery in In God’s Country is a favorite: “Sad eyes, crooked crosses, in God’s country.” How did an Irish band construct such a great American time capsule?

Recently I read an in-depth narrative of someone visiting the cover photo location (it’s in Death Valley, not Joshua Tree National Park) and describing what’s there now (the tree fell down a couple of years ago, sadly, but its “corpse” is still there). I’d love to visit it someday.

For a long time, no one besides the band and the photographer (Anton Corbijn) knew exactly where it was, but since Google Maps and Google Earth came out, people were able to narrow it down more, given the landscape clues in the photos. I wonder what U2 think of it becoming  a place of pilgrimage?

Belle & Sebastian – Jonathan David

27 08 2010

Listened: Monday August 9

I’m a bit ashamed as an English major that I didn’t get the biblical reference of Jonathan and David on this Belle and Sebastian single until this review. It works really well with Belle and Sebastian’s normal subject matter, as it seems to suggest a homoerotic love triangle. I love it when music helps me learn something!

The violins and Stuart’s voice on Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove it are achingly beautiful too.

John Lee Hooker – John Lee Hooker

27 08 2010

Listened: Monday August 9

I think I checked out John Lee Hooker because someone recommended that I’d like his music. And I do! His accent reminds me of my Southern relatives, so I’m automatically drawn to it.

I can see how his style of blues singing influenced rap. He is basically rapping in a lot of the songs. It’s also still somehow modern; it’s hard to believe some of the songs are more than 60 years old.

Then there’s the elephant in the room – the sexual nature of the lyrics and how much they influenced rock and rap. It may not have been as clear to the average person back then, but in our less innocent times, many of the songs obviously have a sexual component.

“”‘John Lee, I need lovin’ and I just can’t help myself. Love me, love me, love me daddy, love me all night long'”

“Cause you got the best darn stinger any queen bee I ever seen”

“I’m a lonely boy, baby, looking for someone to love. Please come have a drink with me”

“I’ve been drinkin, you’ve been drinkin too. I know you’re ready baby, cause I’m ready for you… ready as a man can be”

Despite it being “blues”, John Lee’s music makes me really happy. Obviously, he’s a charming man in many ways!

JJ72 – JJ72

26 08 2010

Listened: Monday August 9

I never listened to JJ72 much after I bought it. I can’t even remember why I did; the CD might have been really cheap somewhere.

JJ72’s music is very soaring and dramatic, and now that I think of it, it has a little bit of a grungy edge to it. The singer can sing very sweetly, but when he wants to, he can have a very noticeable gravelly edge to his voice. It’s an unusual combination.

I ended up deciding their music is a little too angsty for me. It’s pretty clear how young they were when they made this. It’s music for young people.

Jimmy Cliff – Jimmy Cliff

26 08 2010

Listened: Friday August 6

Finding Jimmy Cliff was one of those random happenstances that makes life worth living. This album was on sale at Tower Records about 5 years ago for cheap and so I thought I’d check it out.

From the opening strains of “Time Will Tell” I absolutely loved it. The music has great rhythm, Jimmy’s voice is beautiful, the backing vocals are tight, and his songs are more literate and erudite than your average reggae songs.

Jimmy’s music and its positive messages have gotten me through many roadblocks in my life. I would describe him as being the polar opposite of Bob Marley. Rather than the Marley political struggle and love songs, Jimmy sings about very personal struggles, self-reliance, and responsibility.

I still haven’t seen The Harder They Come (Jimmy stars in it); I clearly need to bump that up the old Netflix queue.