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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday M.I.A. Edition

Today, one of more talked about recording artists of recent times, M.I.A., turns 39 years old. Mathangi Arulpragasm was born in London of Sri Lankan decent. Her family moved to Sri Lanka where, according to M.I.A., her father was part of the rebel Tamil Tigers insurgency. Life in Sri Lanka with a rebel father was unusual, with constant threats, and eventually, her family, minus her father, came back to London. She first pursued visual arts, and only in 2001, with encouragement of Peaches, did M.I.A. start making music. Using basic drum machines, she cut her first demo, and eventually met up with Diplo and releasing the Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape, which introduced a larger audience to M.I.A.’s multi-cultural music with some hip-hop aspects and sloganeering lyrics. This was a precursor to the more polished debut album, Arular, named after her father. With songs like “Bucky Done Gun” and “Sunshowers”, she established herself as a major new artist. The follow up, Kala, founder her expanding her artistry further, but the divisive Maya album, with radically altered song structures, stalled her momentum, along with controversies surrounding her authenticity as a politically motivated artists and stupid Super Bowl hi-jinks. She regained some artistic footing with last year’s Matangi album, as she still stands as someone who is imitated. In honor of M.I.A., please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Todd Rundgren – Believe in Me (Runt): A short slice of piano based singer-songwriter stuff from Mr. Rundgren’s debut solo album. This is Todd at his most accessible and compares favorably to contemporaries like Carol King and Emitt Rhodes.
  2. Ned Doheny – When Love Hangs in the Balance (Separate Oceans): A track from what might be the best reissue of the year. Doheny was an L.A. born-and-bred yacht rocker who recorded for Asylum Records in the ‘70s. He played music in the vein of the aforementioned Rundgren, Hall & Oates, Boz Scaggs and Ambrosia, though he was a bit less soulful than any of those artists. But the songcraft is impeccable. And the disc includes some demos of unreleased material, such as this one. I get why Doheny wasn’t a big star, but even his outtakes sound like they could have cracked the Top 40.
  3. The Long Blondes – Separated By Motorways (Someone to Drive You Home): A band that didn’t stick around long enough, with sharp post-punk pop songs and smart lyrics. And the strong vocal personality of Kate Jackson helped. This stuff has held up well.
  4. Linton Kwesi Johnson – Dread Beat An’ Blood (Dread Beat An’ Blood): The title cut from the 1978 debut of the great London-based dub poet. The notion of recited poetry over music doesn’t sound compelling to me, but Johnson’s accented words blend so well with the reggae rhythms. This song also illustrates the tension between his angry articulate lyrics and the brightness of the music, which only got better with subsequent albums.
  5. Kevin Tihista’s Red Terror – Taking to the Streets (Again)(On This Dark Street): After a number of years away from the recording scene, this Chicago artist has put out two albums in the last few years. Tihista is like a modern update on Nilsson, but with a much more acidic edge to his lyrics. He oozes beautiful melodies and mordant wit, which this song has in spades.
  6. Todd Rundgren – Birthday Carol (Runt): A rare two songs off the same album occurrence in my shuffle. This is an epic track, clocking in at just over nine minutes. After solemn strings start the track, it moves into fiery rock territory, with Rundgren showing off his top notch guitar skills, before moving on to a ballad section, which eventually flows into a jazz rock bridge, which leads back to more explosive guitar, ending with the string coda. Impressive.
  7. Rod Stewart – Every Time We Say Goodbye (Handbags & Gladrags): This rendition of a Cole Porter track was originally part of a compilation of his early work on Mercury. He gives it a country-folk arrangement, with great phrasing. He apparently did another rendition of it on one of his Songbook albums.
  8. Royal Crescent Mob – Get on the Bus (Omerta): The Mob blended funk and rock in a unique way, which fit their skewed sensibility. To put it plainly, their lyrics did not tackle topics that others did, as in this song. This is one of their signature tracks, as it has a great mix of funk guitar and traditional riffing and nifty middle eight.
  9. Bob Dylan – Girl From the North Country (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan): One of many classics from this 1963 Bob Dylan LP. While the album is known for its political/protest content, this song was more personal, allegedly dealing with a girlfriend of his. It’s a folk song, but not typical of the time – it sounds ahead of its time in how plays and sings it, taking folk in a more progressive direction.
  10. Squeeze – In Quintessence (East Side Story): Squeeze kicks off their masterpiece with a song that borrows the bass line from a Booker T. and the MG’s song. It gives an extra kick to a concise pop gem.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, m.i.a., mp3

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