M.I.A. – Matangi

Image via Interscope
Image via Interscope

M.I.A. can easily be pointed at as a centerpiece to this whole EDM jump off in the U.S.  Whether you realize it or just want to scoff at the claim, she’s one of the first artists to really dive in and work with producers like Diplo and Switch.  She’s also collaborated with the likes of Timbaland, Rusko, KW Griff, Richard X, etc.  You should hopefully get the idea.  Even after a disjointed and rather unfocused last album, I couldn’t help but get excited about her new effort, Matangi.

It’s been documented that after the disappointing sales and mixed critical reviews of 2010′s MAYA, M.I.A. seriously contemplated potentially never making music again.  But the appearance of her Vicki Leekx in late 2010 quickly squashed that possible reality and Matangi was soon underway.  And in her typical fashion, via interviews, Twitter, etc., she was making claims of it sounding like “Paul Simon on acid” and threatening Interscope in just August of this year that she was going to release the album for free if they didn’t hustle and shake out a release date.  Basically, she knows how to poke the interwebz into a reaction and keeping interest high…even if those aren’t really her intentions.

Finally, on November 5 it landed.  After quickly perusing the credits, I couldn’t be more stoked to listen seeing that a majority of the album was her reuniting with Switch.  This point is particularly interesting since her public spat with Diplo after the release of MAYA and Switch leaving Major Lazer.  Drama aside, these two are an incredible musical combo that honestly flexes all over this album and it definitely helps one reminisce about the good old days when these two were industry darlings.  Right from the jump, though, you can feel the focus instantly from this album and M.I.A. sounding about as energized as she has in the last five years or so.

The title track starts percolating the speakers and it almost instantly sounds like “Bird Flu” part two.  Switch, of course, providing the soundtrack of Bollywood-gone-Afrobeat riddims and M.I.A. doing her familiar hypnotic chanting over the paranoid percussion.  The ante remains high on the follow up tune “Only 1 U,” which sees Switch collaborating with Surkin on an amazing midtempo banger with amazing percussion and meticulously chopped Baile Funk flavored samples. “Come Walk With Me” is another stellar cut, which feels about as close to her “Paul Simon on acid” claims were early in the process… even with Switch flipping the tempo on the second half of the tune.  Other highlights include the previously released collab with Danja on “Bad Girls,” the most recent single “Bring The Noize” and The Partysquad-produced tunes “Double Bubble Trouble” and the latest bit of her viral relevancy (and possibly Drake dissing?) “Y.A.L.A/”

As good and relatively cohesive as this album is, the real story here is M.I.A. and Switch coming back and rising to the occasion with a release chocked full of cuts that sound incredibly NOW.  I mean, there’s collabs with Hit-Boy and The Weeknd on here that I didn’t even mention.  But I’m sure a number of dance music fans, and music fans in general, left these two for dead.  Apparently, Switch can finish tunes.  Apparently M.I.A. does still care about music.  And in this reviewer’s opinion, this fades the latest Major Lazer album.  But not everyone likes to always push forward.  Thankfully these two still do.