Tuesday, July 13, 2010

M.I.A., "/\/\/\Y/\"

(N.E.E.T./Interscope) It’s impossible to talk about M.I.A.’s music without discussing her drama; she’s made sure of that. But Maya Arulpragasam has always swaggered around the music world like the most braggadocios of rappers. Where she once applied an artistic stroke to her propaganda-laden dance-pop, M.I.A.’s latest finds her crudely flying two middle fingers in the face of the same fashionable media that made her a culture star. Less songs and more dense blasts of digital noise designed for maximum impact, /\/\/\Y/\ is beyond reactionary. Like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music,” /\/\/\Y/\ challenges you to like it. Couching what few melodies she grudgingly tosses out in swaths of effects and bass, M.I.A. makes it clear that she’s not here for your love or your money (“Cuz I got it,” she brags on “XXXO”). Given the corrosive crunch of tracks like “Meds and Feds” down to the eye-taxing cover art and stylized album title, it seems like she’d rather annoy you anyway. Even the lovers’ rock of “It Takes A Muscle” and 22nd century girl-group pop of “Tell Me Why” are pointy enough to go down hard. /\/\/\Y/\ is also among the most genuinely entertaining major label releases of 2010. Go figure. (Originally published on Shockhound.com)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Kelis, "Flesh Tone" (A&M)

What a long, strange trip it’s been for Kelis. She broke onto the music scene like a black Alanis Morissette with 1999 single “Caught Out There,” armed with an endless supply of Neptunes beats. After finally breaking through with 2003 smash hit “Milkshake,” Kelis’s profile became more about her tabloid-baiting personal life than musical impact. Possibly realizing just how little fan base she had left in the States, her complete reinvention into modern dance diva is a savvy if cynical move. Working with DJ mega-stars like Benny Benassi and Dave Guetta alongside electro heroes Boys Noize, Kelis has crafted a quick-fix soundtrack for her shiny new persona. Clocking in at under 38 minutes, “Flesh Tone” explodes with bombastic club beats and hands-in-the-air euphoria designed for maximum summer impact. Tracks like“4th of July/Fireworks” exude an Ibiza-at-4AM energy ideal for any dance floor—but little else. Which in this case, is pretty much the point. Much like the sonic equivalent of a perfectly trashy summer beach novel, “Flesh Tone,” is just for fun.

(Originally published on Shockhound.com)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kylie Minogue, Aphrodite (Parlaphone)

Aspiring divas, take note: THIS is how an icon gets made. Kylie Minogue has been running game on the music industry since the tender age of 19 with her 1987 debut single, “Locomotion.” Often saddled with the tag of “the Madonna of Europe,” Ms. Minogue could actually teach Ms. Ciccone quite a bit about maintaining credibility and sales numbers over a long musical career. Never afraid to tackle new sounds, Kylie’s secret weapon is that she’s never compromised good songs for a fleeting trend. Like contemporaries the Pet Shop Boys, quality songs have always kept her lifted above the fray of your garden-variety dance act. With Stuart Price as her executive producer, Kylie Minogue has crafted one of the finest full-lengths of her illustrious career, if not her magnum opus. Fully stocked with an arsenal of top-flight dance-pop anthems, APHRODITE doesn’t flag for a moment. From the emo-disco one-two punch of “All The Lovers” and “Get Outta My Way” through the Daft Punk-like power of “Can’t Beat the Feeling,” APHRODITE is the party-positive summer dance album that will stay hot well into the winter months and beyond.

(Originally published on Shockhound.com)