I'd never listened to a record, hated it and then been uncontrollably drawn to listening to it. That is, until I heard Arular. I deemed it "crap" but found M.I.A.'s beats, tribal lyrics and completely jarring vocal patterns stalking around in my head afterward. It's music that I love to hate, but I think I love it.
The absolute last place you'd think Arular would originate from would be the mind of a female, Sri Lankan refugee who happened to end up in London. M.I.A songs sort of go like this: M.I.A. sings and chants lyrics in a sort of Nelly Furtado meets Toni Basil way, followed by some thick, bass-heavy beat reminiscent of early East Coast hip-hop and some elementary scratching and drum machines. But just when it seems like this is merely juvenile hip-hop with a cheerleader singer, M.I.A. adds bongos, hand drums and the chirps and twitters of the jungle. Then the whole thing drops acid.
It's the mind-altering your stagnant musical minds need. And I'm first in line for a tab. -- Leah Sottile
Let It Die FOUR STARS
It's hard to believe these breezy, heartfelt, cinematic little pop constructions come from a woman who once sang backup for the infamous Peaches, going by the name Bitch Lap-Lap and rapping bad Spanish with a sock puppet. Having opened for the Ramones and the Tragically Hip, the Canadian singer/songwriter now pens the kind of meditative, catchy tunes you might find on a Wes Anderson soundtrack.
Her sound is engagingly anachronistic. "Leisure Suite" is one step away from "Midnight at the Oasis," and "Inside and Out" kept bugging me with its familiar - yet unfamiliar - refrain until I realized it was originally written and recorded by the Brothers Gibb. Other songs, "Let It Die" and "Lonely, Lonely" in particular, sparkle with loss. This stuff is infectious. In a private workplace experiment, I watched as one visitor to my office broke into full-fledged Saturday Night Fever, two paused mid-conversation to ask, "Who is this?" and even my boss paused to fiddle with stuff on my desk. Such is the power of Feist. -- Sheri Boggs