Interscope (2010)
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  July 7, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars


M.I.A. is predictably unpredictable — whether it's the Diplo-assisted baile funk of her debut, 2005's Arular, or the demented low-budget world beat of '07's Kala, her sonic plan has always been to hit it and quit it. She flirted with pop fame/infamy with the left-field success of Kala's "Paper Planes." But anyone digging into Maya (or /\/\ /\ Y /\, as it's being promoted) expecting club-banging pop hits will be . . . not disappointed, but definitely confused. Yes, there are buoyant moments of transcendence, like the effervescent "XXXO" and the reggae-tinged "Tell Me Why," with its yearning lilt. But twixt those two tent poles, there's a whole lot of weirdness, and pop fans will likely be left scratching their heads through confusing tweakfests like "Teqkilla" and the metal-tinged "Meds and Feds." Of course, if you come to M.I.A.'s third album expecting light sing-songy jams, then you get what you deserve. She's always known her way around a pop hook — but she also lives to confront, whether in her public image or in the grooves of her records. In Maya's case, that means slick dance productions rubbing shoulders with brittle lo-fi distorto jams. "You want me to be somebody who I'm really not" goes the chorus of "XXXO" — and on much of the rest of the album, Ms. Arulpragasam is intent on testing that identity crisis. Meaning that you have songs built on smooth psychedelia (like the closing "Space"), but you also have jams built on the rhythmic pulse of a hand drill ("Steppin' Up") or the mean drum sound of the dude from Sepultura (the Lightning Bolt–ish "Born Free"). It's pulverizing, it's hip-swaying, it's disorienting, and it's atmospheric — in short, it's primo culture jamming from a restless musical force of nature.

Related: Transcript: The Phoenix interviews M.I.A., The Big Hurt: Red scare, M.I.A.: Fixing the glitch, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Diplo, M.I.A., M.I.A.,  More more >
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