Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender
Joanna Newsom begins her shows by approching the front of the stage, gazing out to the back of the crowd and then clapping in rhythm until the audience joins her. Next, she unleashes her baby-Bjork of a wail, shocking even those who have heard it before. When she finishes her a cappella opener, she sits down -- dwarfed by her harp -- and starts elegantly picking and strumming. The result is something strange, beckoning and ultimately familiar. Maybe you were a 17th century Irish elf in a former life, or maybe this is what music is supposed to sound like today.
Read anything about Victor Jara and you'll know that he was kidnapped for being a Communist not too many days after the U.S.-assisted coup d'etat in Chile. Read more and you'll know he was tortured and starved and then brought into the national stadium to be executed as an example to the nation. Maybe you will even start to understand his pain as he stood in the stadium, being slowly killed while singing his folk tunes in front of his country. Then, listen to one of his songs, and you'll understand why music used to mean something.
When Arular is unleashed to the world February 22, M.I.A. will officially become the new hotness. The Sri Lanka-cum-London hip hop prodigy's debut has started a firestorm among nerds, like myself, who have chanced to come across the leaked album on the internet. With crisp production, a smooth flow and political consciousness, Arular is one of London's strongest statements since Dizzee Rascal and the Streets opened our eyes to the possibilities of British hip hop. Doesn't it suck how they always have to one-up us?