M.I.A.
Kala


4.0
excellent

Review

by The Katz brothers USER (183 Reviews)
August 17th, 2007 | 122 replies | 27,036 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Lack of a Visa hardly hinders M.I.A on her sophomore release.

Sri Lanka is a pear shaped island off the south east coast of India. A quick Wikipedia search by a certain lazy Sputnikmusic.com staff writer reveals the country is renowned for its beautiful rain forests and is home to a number of violent militant groups. Of these facts, the former is used as a fairly insignificant description of the country itself, while the latter actually ties in quite nicely to this review (keep reading, you’ll see.) Of these Sri Lankan militant groups, the one that ties in best is EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students.) It was started by a number of people, all with equally hard-to-pronounce names, one of whom, known as Arul Pragasm, would go on to birth the woman known to the world as M.I.A.. M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam) would in turn go on to become a citizen of the United Kingdom and release a revolutionary pop album called Arular (named after her father, who but?).

See how that worked out?

Now, M.I.A’s brand of dank, minimalist electronic hip-hop (closely related to that which is commonly referred to as Grime, I suppose) does not automatically scream “I’M FROM SOUTH CENTRAL ASIA”, but what popular music does these days? Though M.I.A’s sound certainly takes many an influence from the world music one would associate with the area, as well as from Dancehall and a bunch of other Jamaican associated sub genres that a suburban whitey like myself would never listen to. Her second album, Kala, was (or will be) released in the summer of 2007, and it definitely sets itself apart from Arular within the first track. This time the album title is named for Maya’s mother, and early on she declared it to be considerably less “masculine” than her first release. I’m not sure about femininity, but when compared to Arualar, Kala is certainly a darker affair, less grimy, and certainly less urban. Effects are a big part of the album’s sound, but just as much a part of the opus is organic, world music instruments, including a healthy smattering of Bongos and Tablas to oppose the usual hefty synthesizer sound M.I.A. employs. Parts of the album are entirely foreign, and those are the parts that keep the album new and exciting. The other parts manifest themselves into a kind of bizarre Hip-Hop, and those are the parts that keep the album fun and relatable. The combination of brassy synthesizers and organic, Indian percussion in the Pixies n’ New Order-biting 20 Dollar is a perfect example of this effect. Cool to say the least. Maya has hit some sort of trip-hop goldmine with this album, and it’s clear that she has just decided to pack up and run with it.

Coming from her background it wouldn’t take a psychic to predict a healthy amount of political presence in M.I.A.’s lyrics. The first single, Boyz, lulls one into a false sense of security with its cutely misspelled title and danceable beat, before assaulting the listener with its devoutly feminist anti-war statements. “How many no money boys are crazy?/how many boys are raw?/how many no money boys are rowdy?/how many start a war?” she asks over a sugar n’ spikes beat and between choruses of na-na’s. Not exactly the kind of song you’d expect from the daughter of a prominent militant. The song’s squelchy synths and sped up samples are a perfect example of the album’s more hip-hop oriented side, while blasts of tabla and a couple of perfectly positioned sea lion barks instantly clear up the notion that this is your ordinary hip-hop track. But Maya’s political leanings hardly come more clearly into focus during the jarring chorus of Clash-sampling Paper Planes, where she and a few more young children sing an angry ode to the US government. “All I wanna do is *GUN SHOTS*/And *SOUND OF CASH REGISTER OPENING*/And take your money” before announcing “M.I.A./Third world democracy/Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B./So, uh, no funny business.”

Vocally Maya will also erase near all pre-Kala notions about her slightly limited singing abilities. Her voice is a ghostly coo on The Turn, which, in turn, is also the least Grime based track on the disc. She employs the help of a couple young kids to back her up with some verses over the eerily ghost-like bass beats of Mango Pickle Down River. Second single, Jimmy, is another song to reverse your preconceptions. It’s instantly recognizable cinematic hook and 1970’s-style dance drumming twist together into some sort of bastardized half-disco, half-Bollywood Movie Soundtrack song, with Maya’s longingly breathy calls highly reminiscent of another Asian indie princess, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino. Needless to say, it’s one of the coolest singles of the year, and an instant album highlight. Bird Flu, the Timbaland produced Come Around, and album opener, Bamboo Banga (the latter of which oozes with Panda Bear influence) would also fit into that category, along with a couple of those aforementioned ones of course. Kala is definitely a song-based album, but, that being said, the songs fit together perfectly, and even more surprisingly, they’re all good. M.I.A. stands on the edge of all the sophomore slump (you don’t even know how much I did not want to use this term) pitfalls and instead of falling in, makes an album worthy of applause.

- Joe.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Aficionado
August 17th 2007



1027 Comments


MIA sucks, but good review otherwise.

blackmilk
August 17th 2007



584 Comments


Yeah this is waaay better than Arular.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 17th 2007



3995 Comments


MIA IS FORM SRI LANKA I NEVER KNEW THAT

MeowMeow
August 17th 2007



662 Comments


I listened to the first half of Arular and shut it off in disgust.

I'll check this one out though, it sounds much better.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2007



15690 Comments


I'd go so far as to say that Galang was the best pop song of 2006, and this looks promising.

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

JumpTheF**kUp
August 17th 2007



2708 Comments


I'm Sri Lankan. I never knew that she was too.
I have to listen to this now.
Great review as always.

blackmilk
August 17th 2007



584 Comments


I'd go so far as to say that Galang was the best pop song of 2006, and this looks promising.
The irony bus left awhile ago.

astrel
August 17th 2007



2613 Comments


I am so getting this.

Tyler
Emeritus
August 17th 2007



7924 Comments


I’M FROM SOUTH EAST ASIA
this broad annoys me

blackmilk
August 18th 2007



584 Comments


No it's not really like that. She didn't come out like "I'M FROM SRI LINKA PAY ATTENTION TO ME," it's mostly critics who can't seem to latch onto something else other then where she's from and her father's involvement in resistence groups.

They also take her music way too seriously and somehow don't seem like they had any fun listening to the album.

Tyler
Emeritus
August 18th 2007



7924 Comments


The "IM FROM SOUTH EAST ASIA" thing was because he put it in the review. I personally don't care where she's from, she just kind of annoys me.

sgrevs
August 18th 2007



698 Comments


Sri Lanka isn't in South East Asia :/

Nice review though, I will check this out soon. I've only heard 'Boyz' and it was pretty good. Arular is pretty good too.

blackmilk
August 18th 2007



584 Comments


South Asia.

The Jungler
August 18th 2007



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I changed to south central, thanks for the help guys.

The Jungler
August 18th 2007



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

she wasn't good live at all (or at Lolla anyway)
but seriously, I recommend this. It's a lot better than Arular, the music is a lot more enjoyable and diverse. I don't know though, I liked Arular, so maybe it's just you like her or you don't. I'm too tired for grammar tonight, but I'll re look that sentence. Thanks.

Daedelus
August 19th 2007



162 Comments


i always liked piracy funds terrorism more than arular.

i have this but i havent really listened yet. i guess i should.

Capricious
August 19th 2007



58 Comments


This album is has high quality musical production holding it down, The way shes uses her voice and the repetitiveness of what sounds like single lyrics over and over will take the listener some time before their ear weans onto it; some tracks its not as bad as others but theres a strong urge to press skip forward or just trying to bear through it.

burton.and.gas
August 19th 2007



641 Comments


I really want to hear this ablum, sounds a bit interesting!

Kaleid
August 20th 2007



709 Comments


Superb review man

Sounds rather cool, I'll check it out. I wanna hear those squelchy synths

Iai
Emeritus
August 21st 2007



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

About 4 tracks into this now, and yeah, this is a definite improvement for her.



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