Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The first decade of the 21st century is nearly up so it's time to start looking back at the albums that shaped our thinking. It's a lot of recollection but here are my picks at the best 100 CDs in no particular order.
Kala (M.I.A) (2007):
If her grimy debut (Arular) helped launch Maya Arulpragasam into public consciousness, then her sophomore cemented her spot as the one to watch. By the one of course I mean that tag of the pre-eminent pop visionary of the day… that label we lovingly bestowed upon another cool, non-American with a weird name, Bjork Gudmundsdottir. The two women are inextricably linked by this record, both pre and post-release. Bjork saw the firepower long before we did and embraced it even as Kala was the closest sonic document to her own masterpiece ten years before, Homogenic. Both albums work within a known pop frame to bring forth results that resemble everything around yet itself not being imitable. M.I.A brings an evolutionary process to this though, a kind of battle-weary toughness that finally had won its way to the spotlight. Whereas Arular was a rallying cry that critics embraced but wondered if it was a bluff, Kala rode into town, positively glowing with confidence and Maya’s own special brand of experimentation. Armed with producers such as Timbaland, Switch, Blaqstarr and Diplo, she drove head-first into the varied sounds with her pastiche method. Steel-pans queue up on the soca-driven Bird Flu. Grime and umree roll out on Hussel and Boyz respectively. Even Bollywood isn’t spared as both Jimmy and the brilliant opener Bamboo Banga are soaked through with Hindi references. Elsewhere, it is her use of sampling and sharp jabs at the many assertions of her character that lifts tracks like $20 and Paper Planes into the stuff that will be ripped off for decades to come.