The first of the final three posts.
Sri Lankan-born world citizen M.I.A. mashes up Western pop (Modern Lovers, Pixies, Duran Duran) with Third World rhythms on this follow-up to her ecstatic debut Arular. Where the earlier record was an intensely pleasurable, beatwise brass-ring grab, Kala is a more rattled, woozy sonic miasma. Fantasizing about a Third World stick-up of First World wealth as she demands (or does she?) that soulja boys the world over toss away their guns; losing her mind in the midst of putting "people on the map who never seen a map"; falling in love on a Darfur tour, rapping joyfully with Aborigine kids: No album this year took in more of the world or did so with such a playful, disorienting rush of ideas.
Song Sample: "World Town"
Single: "Crazy" — Gnarls Barkley (2006)
One of the five most universal singles of the decade.
In 2002, the era's greatest rock-and-roll band released the best record of their lives, and far too few took proper notice. But that's okay, because One Beat is also the record on which Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss stopped worrying about their place in the pop-culture landscape and instead took on topics both bigger and smaller than all the metarock that had come before. In between the meditation on the mysteries of change that opens this album and the frightened prayer for a newborn son that closes it are songs about love energizing ("Oh!," which earns its exclamation point) and enervating, a hymn to their hometown, and uplifting anthems of dissent. And yet, they could be singing in Swahili and this would still be my favorite record of the year, because the greatest thrill of all is the way these three women dramatize community and interdependence, the way Tucker and Brownstein's voices and guitars come together and fall apart, and the way Weiss' drums push everything skyward.
Song Sample: "Step Aside"
Single: "Sunshowers" — M.I.A. (2005)
Hooking a choice Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band sample to a compelling, conflicted family story that rings the zeitgeist bell. Official video:
Song Sample: "Who Knew"
Single: "Umbrella" — Rihanna (2007)
Probably the most universal single of the decade.