Category Archives: M.I.A

Albums of 2010: 20 – 16

16. Treats – Sleigh Bells

Arriving like a fist to the face of pop music – huh? – Sleigh Bells, aka producer/guitarist Derek E. Miller and singer Alexis Krauss – make music that’s abrasive yet poppy, aggressive yet strangely sweet, noisy yet hummable. Treats followed an internet buzz so loud is threatened to drown out the actual songs, but there’s a lot to enjoy here. Opener ‘Tell ‘Em’ is essentially one long guitar riff and some cheap beats, ‘Kids’ is old school hip-hop meets Girls Aloud, whilst the brilliant ‘Rill Rill’ is the soundtrack to the best teen romcom you’ve ever seen. It may not stand the test of time – who cares right? – but for now Treats is a thrilling, fun, totally rad hardcore pop album. Man.

Best track: ‘Crown On The Ground’

17. Swanlights – Antony & The Johnsons

For their fourth album, Antony Hegarty and his Johnsons created a song suite focused on both the personal and the global. First single ‘Thank You For Your Love’ found Hegarty in joyful mood, whilst opener ‘Everything Is New’ imagined some kind of emotional cleansing and ‘I’m In Love’ was practically upbeat. Still, this is an Antony & The Johnsons record so introspection was just behind the corner, with the haunting ‘The Spirit Was Gone’ and the abstract title track creating that unsettling feeling only they seem to be able to muster. The highlight is the piano-lead duet, ‘Fletta’, in which Hegarty lets Bjork‘s crystalline vocals lead the way to devastating effect.

Best track: ‘Fletta’

18. Record Collection – Mark Ronson & The Business International

Out went the brass and the cover versions and in came stylish synthpop and renewed credibility on Mark Ronson’s follow-up to the zillion-selling Versions album. Lead single ‘Bang Bang Bang’ – featuring the brilliantly laconic Q-Tip and soon-to-be reasonably big, MNDR – was the perfect introduction to an album that features at least five stone-cold pop classics. Rose Elinor Dougall lends a sleek vulnerability to the excellent ‘You Gave Me Nothing’, whilst Boy George croons his way through the dramatic, lip-quiveringly sad, ‘Somebody To Love Me’. Elsewhere, Ronson roped in everyone from D’Angelo (the odd ‘Glass Mountain Trust’) to Duran Duran (the Wiley-assisted title track), creating a party mix to end all party mixes.

Best track: ‘Bang Bang Bang’

19. /\/\/\Y/\ – M.I.A

Critics darling, political activist, pop star. M.I.A was all of these things at the start of 2010 and yet around the release of her tetchy, hard-to-love third album things started to go slightly awry. Long pieces were written in important magazines about how much of hypocrite she was, how she loved expensive truffles and how she was the root cause of the economic meltdown (OK, maybe not the last one). The critics who adored her turned on her, her politics seemed like simple rhetoric and the album flopped. Still, dig beneath the shards of guitar feedback or the sound of drilling that peppers the album and there are some moments of perfection; the clattering, Britney-esque XXXO, the murky Teqkilla, the future-pop of Tell Me Why, to name just three.

Best track: ‘Tell Me Why’

20. One Life Stand – Hot Chip

Despite lacking an out and out chart smash like their previous two albums, One Life Stand was the moment pop nous and geeky musicianship coalesced into something wonderfully human. Opener ‘Thieves In The Night’ is six minutes of pure joy, Alexis Taylor’s little boy lost croon weaving in and out of galloping synths and spluttering effects. Elsewhere, I Feel Better is their attempt at modern-day R&B pop (complete with JLS-aping music video) whilst Slush is a big ballad coated in real tears.

Best track: ‘Thieves In The Night’

New Music, er, Tuesday

So, for the first time ever in Musick/3mins30secs history, we missed an edition of New Music Monday. Forgive us. What happened, yeah, was that we went to a festival, slept for about ten hours in total and then promptly fell asleep yesterday at 3pm and woke up at 8:30pm so hungry it hurt. Basically, we let you down. As did you though, let’s be honest. Janelle Monae was NOWHERE in the charts, which is basically a crime. So, you guys are now criminals, how do you feel about that? Elsewhere, M.I.A entered just outside the top 20, which, given the hype and all that press is mildly disappointing, whilst Mark Ronson crashed in at no. 6, which is actually pretty respectable. Well done Mark Ronson. Here are some more suggestions for you all to ignore.

BUY THIS

Crooks & Lovers by Mount Kimbie

We went to see The xx the other day and this faceless duo were supporting them. Now, we love a good chorus as much as the next blog, but sometimes there’s something about fractured, minimal dance music that makes us go a bit weak at the knees. Crooks & Lovers is chock full of tiny beats, crystalline synth lines and odd flutters. It’s basically the perfect starter for a main course of The xx is what we’re saying.

DO NOT BUY THIS

United Nations of Sound by RPA & The United Nations of Sound

Seriously, this is one of the worst albums of all time. It’s overblown, pretentious, cynical, cloying, trying, ridiculous and, worst of all, criminally dull. We reviewed it for The Guardian and gave it 1 star. This was the response from a fan, who, like Richard Ashcroft himself, has a strange ability to tread the line between serious and satire:

Thank God for Richard Ashcroft and his great musical gifts in this world –

at a time when we really do need to wake up from our old world-mind ways and start acknowledging a presence of truly gifted authenticity.

Some cliques just fit – ‘It takes one to know one’. How else can we begin to recognise anything?
Unfortunately, career media critics are never paid to be perceptually accurate (even if they were willing and/or able).

Mr. Ashcroft’s global chart topping talent and longevity is what REALLY speaks the TRUTH here – he’s an awakening, clearly conscious human being and enlightening musical artist of immense creativity, heart and integrity.

And no, an enlightened state of being is not meaning delusions of messianic ego.
I’m not referring to old religious dogmas or any other matrix induced and conditioned habitual unconscious misperceptions, limiting beliefs, philosophies or psychologies ~:)

But hey, ponder a moment how christed conscious awareness in general gets historically perceived by the deluded masses around here.
If only mass ‘balance’ of perception wasn’t so, well, ‘off’ as a baseline reality…

Old classic story really – the unenlightened judging those wayshowers clearly leading their time – ho hum. Can’t we all get tired of that already and move on?

RPA is always relevant and talented beyond any common belief – his
newest music endeavour w UNofS is creatively fresh and alive in melody and momentum – apparently to a fault, if you read the stock level reviews on his newest RPA & UNoS album.

I invite you all to begin clearing out the old and welcome anew – stepping out of the cookie-cutter matrix has always been the hallmark of creative perceptivity and courage. Take a chance. Quit your day job – it sounds awful anyway.

Try the rarified air of a more universally perceptive truth – it’s clearly revitalising.
And you just might enjoy the new view (and be able to write a new true review).

Doesn’t that music sound great to your ears?

DOWNLOAD THIS

‘Tomboy’ by Panda Bear

We saw Animal Collective‘s Panda Bear a few months ago and he may well have played this song, but to be honest it was all such a bore blur, that we can’t remember. Anyways, this studio recording of the first single from his forthcoming second album is very lovely indeed, all distorted guitar riffs, spacey vocals and, whisper it, a melody! We certainly didn’t hear one of those a few months back.

“What the fuck was that?”

Serial controversy magnet, M.I.A, performed on Letterman last night and, as you can see below, it was a jarring, brilliantly odd performance featuring a host of lookalikes, a drummer with a hat that lights up and an old bloke in a sleeveless top hating on his keyboard. As is her want, M.I.A promoted the performance on her twitter by saying something like, “I’ll be whoring myself on Letterman tonight”, which is just the kind of stroppy, almost juvenile outburst that we’ve come to expect (and secretly love, natch). She loves the big stages; you can see it on her face at the end when a guy drawls, “what the fuck was that?” (4mins16secs). There’s a small pause, you can sense the eyes are narrowed behind the glasses, and then a smirk, like, “job done”.

/\/\/\Y/\ is out right now.

New Music Monday

People, people, PEOPLE! Is it something we’ve done? Do we just put you off things? Like, “oh, well, if 3mins30secs are saying it’s good then maybe we should show them by not buying it. Yeah, fuck them! We’ll bring them down”, etc, etc. We only ask because the new Mystery Jets album entered at no. 42, whilst that Kelis single entered one place higher than the new Lee Ryan single (!) at no. 32. To recap, a hugely underrated band who can seemingly knock a hit single out in their sleep miss the bit of the chart anyone cares about, whilst a bonafide club banger enters one place higher than a man who claimed whales being hunted was somehow more of a pressing urgency than global terrorism. If we were school teachers we’d be calling you all in for a detention, making you write lines and filling your heads with religious doctrines. Yeah, it’s that bad! By the way, Big Boi missed out too but, frankly, we’re passed caring now. Roll out this week’s victims…

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The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe

We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. Ladies and gentleman, members of the jury, please welcome the future…Janelle Monáe! We did a bit of writing on this album, emailed it to The Guardian and they only went and put it in their printed pages thingy and on the interweb super highway. This is a link. It’s as if it says everything we wanted to say about the album in a neatly packaged 150 word review. Needless to say, The ArchAndroid is aceness.

BUY THIS TOO (FOR THE PEOPLE, YEAH)

/\/\/\Y/\ by M.I.A

OK, so she’s not everyone’s cup of tea and a lot of the time her political polemic seems to stem from a desire to cause controversy as opposed to a genuine desire to spread a specific message, but as an artist she’s never less than really very interesting. The difficult to spell /\/\/\Y/\ is her third album and first since she got properly famous (Grammy awards, Oscar nominations, etc), so what does she do? She makes an album based mainly on the sound of drills, weird internet connection noises and Suicide samples. Thankfully, amongst all that racket, there are some genuinely excellent songs, including the lovely ‘Tell Me Why’ (produced by Diplo), the dreamy ‘Space’ and the frazzled, ‘Teqkilla’. Well worth a listen, as ever.

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‘Bang Bang Bang’ by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl feat. Q-Tip and MNDR

Well, who’d have thunk it? Mark Ronson has only gone and made a very very good pop single and there’s not a horn in sight. ‘Bang Bang Bang’ is a blast of synths, all tumbling about all over each other, whilst newcomer MNDR adds some sultry vocals and the permanently chillaxed Q-Tip adds some stylish rap-talk. Perfect.

New band alert: Sali

Sali are a British band with friends in high places. For their debut release, they’ve managed to coax the notoriously shy and retiring M.I.A. out from behind the sofa. ‘ToldYa’ is a clattering mix of Asian-influenced beats, cut-up vocal samples and Sali’s gurgled flow. Like his bezzie mate, Sali is a big fan of political rhetoric (or “politricks” as he calls it) but at the end of the day the beat is bangin’, the bass is phat and M.I.A. sounds fired up.

You can listen to it below and download it for free from here.

(The other songs on their website aren’t very good. Sorry)

Truffles, anyone?

Who doesn’t enjoy a good scrap? Well, there’s a bit of a humdinger taking place at the moment between the never-knowingly subtle M.I.A and New York Times journalist Lynn Hirschberg. Basically, the New York Times magazine ran a fairly scathing 8,000 word piece on M.I.A in which Hirschberg repeatedly framed the Sri Lankan-born rapper as some massive hypocrite. This reached it’s zenith with an extended paragraph in which M.I.A describes the injustice of the world whilst ordering some fancy Truffle-flavoured chips (Trufflegate as it has now become known online). M.I.A initially retaliated by posting the journalist’s phone number on Twitter, which she wasn’t too happy about, obviously.

Well, M.I.A has since posted recordings from the interview which show Hirschberg ordering the chips, not M.I.A (LIKE THAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HERE!). To be fair to the singer, she does acknowledge this fact and also posts other recordings and links to previous New York Times pieces. The best thing to come out of all this, however, is a brand new track that sees M.I.A spitting fire in Hirschberg’s direction. ‘I’m A Singer (Haters)’ is a brilliant drip-feed electro monster that rides a massive sample of Various Productions’ ‘Hater’. In the song, M.I.A mentions how journalists shouldn’t be thick as shit, goes on a bit about politics (“Lies equals power equals politics”) and also seems to refer to Hirschberg as “racist”. This could run and run.

First Listen: Treats by Sleigh Bells

Derek Miller (guitar/production) and Alexis Krauss (vocals) make up Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells. Not only do they make music your mum used to warn you about – “it’s just noise” is actually completely accurate – but they’re also signed to M.I.A‘s N.E.E.T label and Miller helped out on his bosses brand new album. Not bad for a band who only got together after Krauss – who had just left a crappy girl band – and Miller were forced into making music together by Krauss’ mother.

Their debut album, Treats, has just been released in America, so we flew out there to give it a listen (ahem).  Given the fact that the album is mainly a bit of a racket, we’ve decided to use tennis players to rate each track (tennis players use rackets, GEDDIT?). The ratings go something like this;

Roger Federer = AMAZING
Rafael Nadal = GREAT, BUT SUFFERS WITH DODGY KNEES
Andy Murray = GOOD, WITH FLASHES OF BRILLIANCE BUT A BIT SURLY
Andy Roddick = CONSTANTLY UNDERWHELMING

Let’s do this

1. ‘Tell ‘Em’ – Much of Treats is based around distorted beats and ridiculously loud two-note guitar riffs. ‘Tell ‘Em’ is one of the better examples of this, with Krauss adding a strangely catchy vocal hook over the top of the cacophony that threatens to swamp her at any given moment.
Rafael Nadal

2. ‘Kids’ – This one actually features some sleigh bells, which is nice. Then the ‘nice’ gets swallowed by those distorted guitars and popping beat, but once again Krauss manages to add a sweetly melodic hook that makes it seem unsettling. But, like, in a good way.
Rafael Nadal

3. ‘Riot Rhythm’ – The guitars that have plagued the first couple of tracks frankly get a bit annoying on this one. You can’t shake the feeling this would sound better without them, especially as the live (?) drums and processed handclaps carry the song well enough anyways.
Andy Roddick

4. ‘Infinity Guitars’ – An early demo version of this track got everyone very excited a few months ago and luckily they’ve not done too much to change it. It kind of reminds us of Bumblebeez in the way it sounds like a very catchy pop single recorded in a skip full of rusty old bikes.
Roger Federer

5. ‘Run The Heart’ – Ah, some relative calm here. There’s even some pretty synth moments and the whole thing has the whiff of Crystal Castles. Krauss’ vocals are minimal and barely audible for the most part, but the whole thing offers some light relief from all the speaker-busting beats and squiggles.
Rafael Nadal

6. ‘Rachel’ – Starts with some heavy breathing before a stuttering beat comes in and Krauss is off, sounding like a girl group member gone wrong. It’s pleasant enough, but doesn’t really go anywhere.
Andy Murray

7. ‘Rill Rill’ – This used to be called ‘Ring Ring’ and has been beefed up slightly, the extra production adding a bit more clarity to one of the best (and most musical) songs on the album. Over a lovely sample of an old Funkadelic track, Krauss’ vocals are crisp and clear and midway through there’s a lovely middle eight that makes you swoon.
Roger Federer

8. ‘Crown On The Ground’ – After the relative calm, the aural storm. This was the track that got the bloggers erect and it’s a brilliant, clattering monster of distorted guitar and thunderous beats that teeters on the edge of a breakdown but is deliriously catchy.
Roger Federer

9. ‘Straight A’s’ – We warn you against listening to this track on tinny laptop speakers because chances are you’ll think your head’s about to explode. At just ninety seconds long and as loud as a bomb, this is a fairly unwelcome interlude.
Andy Roddick

10. ‘A/B Machines’ – More punishing guitars and erupting beats but at least this time we have Krauss’ voice back to deliver a hushed chorus about machines on the table and in the draw. Lord only knows what it’s all about, but it sounds pretty bangin’.
Andy Murray

11. ‘Treats’ – This is a slightly disappointing end and proof that when the duo fail to find a melody their songs descend into an almighty mess.
Andy Roddick

VERDICT: We’re assuming that title is ironic because though the album has some brilliant moments, listening to it form start to finish isn’t what we would call a treat. There’s also the suspicion that much of it would get boring after a while, in the same way that listening to a distorted drill might get boring. But on tracks like ‘Crown On The Ground’, ‘Rill Rill’ and ‘Tell ‘Em’, they hit upon some weird formula where everything sounds just right.
Raphael Nadal

"U want me to be somebody who I’m really not"

This is the official first single from M.I.A‘s third album that we mentioned yesterday when we were going on about how she’ll probably never sell any records. Unfortunately for us, it’s a massive, full-on pop single, with a brilliantly chopped beat, three or four hooks and a chorus that is sung in a slightly emotionally detached fashion, a la Britney.

This is ‘XXXO’:

GOING TO BE HUGE.

New Musick Monday

Nothing, nudda, zip. Not one of the acts we gave our full backing to have made any kind of impression on the UK hit parade, not even M.I.A who has had acres of free publicity after that video. We have a theory that she’s forever destined to be one of those acts who are critically lauded and define a period of time, but actually sell a grand total of ten records. Obviously, ‘Paper Planes’ did pretty well but it was re-released more times than a Florence & The Machine single and even then the album (Kala) remained rooted to the lower reaches. We’re willing to be shown the error of our ways of course and rumours that the first “proper’ single is an electro-tinged club banger may mean Musick will eat it’s words. Let’s just get on with this, shall we?

BUY THIS (WE THINK)

Total Life Forever by Foals

We’re just not sure about this album. Some of it is great (‘Spanish Sahara’, ‘Blue Blood’), some of it is OK (‘This Orient’) and the rest of it is frustratingly, “meh”. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that the energy and passion that seemed to have made it through the protracted gestation of their debut has been sucked out and replaced with a sheen that can be impenetrable. BUT, massive caveat alert, we didn’t like their debut much at first either and now we’re eulogising about it, so the key here is approach anything we say with caution. POINTLESS!

GET THIS IF YOU CAN

Latin by Holy Fuck

Despite the aggressive moniker and the apocalyptic pretensions, there is much on this third album that’s melodic and almost hummable, with the band constantly trying to harness the sheer force of the music within the confines of a four minute song. If Sigur Ros were the perfect accompaniment to some  beautiful Icelandic vistas, than Holy Fuck could easily soundtrack the bubbling volcano that’s currently acting as a natural warning of imminent Armageddon. Most tracks sound like they’re being performed with some kind of drum orchestra and the sheer force and energy of the music is pretty breathtaking.

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‘One Touch’ by Mini Viva

The other day we got into a bit of a debate about pop music and whether a good pop songs is still a good pop song if it’s made by Girls Aloud, for example, or LCD Soundsystem, or Hot Chip, i.e. should you not like a song because of whose name is on it. We argued that some of the most amazing singles of recent years have come from pop bands who have some very talented producers behind the scenes and that when people say “I like real music, not this pop crap”, it makes us want to bludgeon them with a printer. Obviously some pop is crap – ladies and gentlemen, Westlife – but so is a lot of so-called “real music” (Mr Kelly Jones, we’re looking at you now). This Xenomania-produced slice of future-pop may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s got about three choruses, a spoken-word rap bit and some massive synths. Sometimes, that’s enough.

New Musick Monday

This weeks edition of everyone’s fourteenth favourite weekly internet-based music rundown, is brought to you on a brand new MacBook. “Holla”. So, expect a lot of techno snobbery, mildly patronising statements such as “Oh, does your PC not do that?”, and, most likely of all, some of our own ‘beats’ thanks to the wonder that is GarageBand. But enough of all this, how did we do this week? Erm, let’s just say all three of our acts failed to dent the charts, although Drake did manage to climb five whole places to no. 55. The power of Musick in full effect right there. Let’s leave the wilting flower of last week and embrace the bouquet that blossoms before us…

BUY THIS

Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus



Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, is widely being hailed as the future of music or the Jimi Hendrix of our generation or the bloke whose aunt was Alice Coltrane. We’re not sure about the Jimi Hendrix bit and the family connection is undeniable, but on the evidence of this stunning album, we’re pretty sure music would be in safe hands were it all left to him. Featuring a guest spot from super fan Thom Yorke on the typically dense and dark, ‘…And The World Laughs With You’, Cosmogramma is a tetchy, densely packed collection of minimal beats, jazzy horn blasts and, er, the sound of a table tennis ball.

AVERT YOUR EYES FROM THE ARTWORK

Grey Oceans by CocoRosie



It’s impossible not to see this album cover – DON’T LOOK AT IT – without wanting to hurt sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady. It screams “We’re so kooky and ethereal! You wouldn’t understand how zany we are because you haven’t lived the free wheelin’ spiritual lives we have”. But, if you can get past all that, Grey Oceans features a number of beautiful gems amongst the hotchpotch of disperate instruments that include harps, kids toys, cheap beats and the sister’s sickly sweet vocals. At times it’s pretentious and precious, but tracks like ‘Lemonade’, ‘Undertaker’ and the gorgeous title track make you remember why you bothered.

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‘Born Free’ by M.I.A



We’ve only just realised this track is already on iTunes and given all the ho-ha about the nine-minute long ‘ginger genocide’ video, we thought it might be best to direct your attention to it again. Over a riff taken from Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’, ‘Born Free’ was apparently written and recorded in a sudden burst of frustration and it shows, M.I.A venting at just about everything in her typically scattergun approach. The effects on her vocals are a bit disorientating at first, but the sheer force of the track soon shines through. Her as yet untitled third album should be quite something.