21 November 2013

M.I.A. - Matangi

This is not a review I thought I would ever be writing if the truth be told.  However after a conversation with friend who recommend I check out the latest release by English-Sri Lankan artist M.I.A. One of the main reasons I had not really looked into her stuff before is that I've never really been over impressed with her stuff to warrant more than a glance in the direction of her music.  I understand that she was a YouTube sensation, and has had countless hits around the world.  I was also aware she gave the world the middle finger in the Super Bowl XLVI half time show; truth be told here, I have not seen it as I'm not a big NFL fan, but I'm on her side here. After the event the NFL are suing her for $1.5 million for destroying their image of wholesomeness. - sorry but everything I have seen of NFL is so far removed from wholesome, that someone sticking up their finger is the least of their problems.  Anyway, that is my 9 pence to that situation.... this album is the fourth release from M.I.A. and has been deemed a little bit of a failure as it did not reach the same levels that her other releases have done; but that is not the sign of success for me, let’s see what the album is all about.

Taking the name from the Hindu goddess Matangi, the album starts with the slow and pulsating call to pray that is "Karmageddon" this album, the album then goes into the world list explosion with "Matangi".  It is a call to the world to start dancing and listening to this I'm finding it hard to figure out how M.I.A. was having problems recording this album, but she changed her direction slightly with a reduction of the political rhetoric here.  This song is an angry beast which wants nothing more than to move the bodies on the dance floor and with a healthy mix of world music and electronic noises which makes this one of the strongest beginning to an album I have heard in a long time.  Then we come to "Only 1 U" (Prince is trying to figure out how let that title past him), as song about being true to yourself and getting out there.  Musically it is a bit more basic, but there is still enough here to keep the interest going.

"Warriors" starts with an Om and then drops into the one of M.I.A. more usual rap moments full of dark pop edges as well.  But unlike usual when I seem to lose interest with her stuff, something just fits here, the stars have aligned and the album is more focused.  Take the next song "Come Walk With Me" which should be annoying me, but the simple rhythm and joyful lyrics work; there is no depth on this song, but it does not need it be, it is just right.  Because next you have "aTENTion" which was written with input from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. It is one of the more political songs on this album and it comes at the right time again.  The sequencing of this album so far is spot on, the mood changes at the right time and for this type of album that is an amazing feat (at least for a listener like me).

"Exodus" is one of two tracks created with The Weeknd (a Canadian producer) who seems to bring the sexy on this track, there is a flavour of classic era Madonna and the strings with the break beats are amazing.  There is an epic feel to this track which could have easily been a step too much for some people, but M.I.A. with her other album's behind her is not that sort of artist at this point; the further into this album, the more I am falling under its spell.  "Bad Girls" is next up with the naughty girl image (it was also the first song which was released over a year before the album was unleashed - it wasn't even a single, but still charted around the world), it just has that dance floor filler feel about it and is one of the stand out tracks of the album.  After the short and sweet "Boom Skit" which is her view about what happened at the Super bowl (really funny song actually) you have "Double Bubble Trouble" which has a reggae vibe and the Bhangra ending which saves the song for me, I love the way M.I.A. is mixing everything up, 10 songs and all really good so far.

"Y.A.L.A" is next and this song really does not work for me, it is just does not have the focus that the previous songs had to be honest, but after ten tracks to have one that does not work as well is not a bad return for me at this point. The album comes back with "Bring The Noize" (no, it is not a cover of the classic Public Enemy and Anthrax) but a brilliant statement about the world as it is at the moment and my deity does it just clear the air and trumps anything that has gone before - this is the top track of the album, hands down.  "Lights" with its slow and spars and drifts by like a summer’s eve and you can imagine the good times passing.  It is a brilliant number and again shows how good sequencing can make or break an album.  "Know It's Ain't Right" is almost rocking for this album (as in rock music, not jumping around); and again I know I keep harping on about this, but it is perfect for this point of the album.  Final track and the second which is with The Weeknd "Sexodus" and brings the album to a dignified ending with a beautiful moment which shows another side to this artist which I had no idea existed.

So how is this album for me at the end of the day?  Well, this is a stunning moment in the history of this blog and an album which is an instant hit.  One of the main reasons it is a stunning moment is that I think it is the first album which we have reviewed on here which has multiple producers and does not sound like a bag of spanners being thrown down the stairs and smashed into place.  It is focused and I have a feeling that is due to M.I.A. herself making sure that everything falls into place.  The detail in the songs is amazing, the feel of the music is beyond any sort of simile that I can think of; this is straight into the mix for my personal album of the year due to the fact as well as being a bolt from out of nowhere, it is mind blowing and above all -magnificent.

9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the M.I.A. website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is the video for "Bring The Noize"


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