29 November 2016

M.I.A. - A.I.M.

Releasing five studio albums is a rare thing these days, sometimes bands only release two or three at most.  Writing music that is on the front of political and social change and keeping it on point is even harder in places as well, M.I.A. has been doing just that for the past four studio album and now we are listening to album number five!  Recorded around the world and being quoted as the final studio album to be released as M.I.A., this record has been getting mixed reviews around the world, is it as bad as all that?

01 – Borders

With a heavy bass and middle eastern synth sound, M.I.A. is back with a groove laden song that sound as if it was built (to quote Loki from the Avengers film) for a glorious purpose.  I love the sound of this song, it is a mixture of pop-culture and politics that has always been the sound of M.I.A. and that bass is harsh.  Allegedly wrote in two hours, it sounds like it took longer as it has a lot of class.

02 – Go Off

A song about how you need to stay focused, how you can never let your guard down and how you can go off on people if they try to take a lend.  With production help from Skillrex & Blaqstarr, this is another heavy bass song, ethnic fusion song that can really get in your mind and stay there for days on end.  This song for me represents M.I.A. at her strongest, showing her fierce and driven nature that make her a powerful artist.

03 – Bird Song (Blaqstarr Version)

‘Bird Song’ is a strange one, it is a minimal number that makes for a strange backing track and a heavy bass.  Normally you can see (or hear) what M.I.A. is talking about, but that is not the case for ‘Bird Song’.  Is it about love?  Is it about something political?  It really could be both or none, as it could be just a strange song about our feathered friends.  But I am not feeling it, it is a bit too strange for me and never really settles or makes sense.

04 – Jump In

A song that is a competition between the breaks in the beat and the vocals of a song is a not a rare occurrence to be honest, this new version of a track that appeared on Anoushka Shankar’s eighth studio album ‘Land Of Gold’ where it appeared under the title ‘Jump In (Cross The Line)’ shares a similar issue with ‘Bird Song’.  The idea is a good idea and it is one that I find interesting, if the gaps between the notes were allowed to grow for longer than a millisecond.  Because the actually tune itself is solid, but the gap (or lack of gap to a certain degree) makes it so hard to enjoy/get into.

05 – Freedun (With Zayn)

Performed with Zain Javadd Malik (aka Zayn previously of One Direction), this song is quite possibly the popiest song on offer and that is not said in a derogatory way – it is just stating a fact for me.  It is a loud and colourful number that has a big hook, some lyrics with political meanings and some which are about nothing at all.  I like this one, it is catchy and I would hope people give it a chance.

06 – Foreign Friend (With Dexta Daps)

Featuring vocals from Jamaican singer Dexta Daps, it is a song about having friends who are not friends at all, some who are worth the effort, some who have always been there and some who are there for the status.  It is a moody number, light on music and heavy on bass with some synth thrown on the top which I keep coming back to; I am not love it, but I am also not hating it – it is the grower track on this album, it keeps getting better each time I play it and will probably be my favourite song of the album shortly, just not quite there yet.

07 – Finally

I like this one, according to one report I read, it was the last song to be completed for the album and that is why it was called ‘Finally’.  It has a summer vibe to the music, a little piece of the party that is hitting the town as it is playing; whilst the lyrics are talking about focusing on personal goals and not letting anything get under your skin.  It is a really simple song that does not re-write the world, but it makes me smile and that is what you sometimes need (as well as the political stuff as well).

08 – A.M.P. (All My People)

A song that has been long hinted at since 2012, that was originally supposed to feature on ‘Matangi’ and has finally seen the light on this album.  Straightaway you can feel the difference in the writing on this song, it is focused and it has a huge sound to the music.  The vibe I get from this song is that it is about a strong woman who is not to be fucked with, there is a bit of bragging and a lot of bass for dancing to – what is there not to like on this song?

09 – Ali R U OK?

A song about a taxi driver who is working to the point of being unsafe, this tune also has a little tip to Michael Jackson in the title and a Bhangra style that under pins this song.  It is a statement on how people are being overworked for no real reason and how a life balance is required.  Another great tune, this time with a message that is important that I have missed on this album.

10 – Visa

More politics on this one, immigrants and borders are upfront and I bet this song has took further significance since the US Presidential election.  The message is one that should be heard, I am not feeling the music on this one.  It just has a hook in the chorus that I cannot place, it feels like an 80’s or 90’s sample and I know it was I was not keen on back in my youth.

11 – Fly Pirate

I want to like this song so much, it has such a good opening and then it does not really go anywhere.  It just has that similar beat and the siren, but it does not say anything more than that for me.  Such a shame as that opening sounded so promising.

12 – Survivor

A song about surviving in this world ends this album, the lyrics are based on M.I.A.’s experiences meeting refugees and a deliberate attempt to make a song that is not about fighting.  Now, the lyrics are well written as you would expect, but the synth is a little too light for me and it ends on a drifting track that does not really go anywhere, bit of a shame to be honest.

This album seems to lose its way a little bit for me, it is unusual to hear an album from M.I.A. that is not on point all the way through.  I can understand her desire to not have every song to sound as if there is a conflict raging in the room, it must sometimes be tiring to always be fighting from beginning to end.  But the thing that lets down these words is the music, it just fails to match what is going on in the vocals and it leave it a bit shallow in places.  I really wanted to love this, I really was hoping for more; sadly, it ends up being average and that is not something I have any joy in writing, I wish it was not ending this way.

6.5 out of ten – Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there

Top track – A.M.P. (All My People)

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