Arcade Fire and MIA broke at a very similar time. Both were or are P’Fork beloveds and helped by the indie/outsider mags early endorsement… that and being extremely genius and talented helped too.
One of them won a Grammy.
The other offends many a granny (and takes advantage of the politics of sensationalism).
But on record four, M.I.A. is getting back to the roots that made her the crush of many nerdy, book-worm indie rock boy and girls. She keeps pushing you on the dance floor and bringing more eastern loops into her music. Every once in a while she’ll shift tempo’s up like on “Come Walk With Me”, where she samples UK Brit Pop sensation Blur’s “Charmless Man” taking a lackadaisical rhythm and infusing it with romantic tension. When M.I.A. isn’t busy antagonizing, she creates a raucous cosmopolitan dance party. And, if you’ve ever seen her live, like I did this summer at P’Fork Music Festival, the bass drops and intensity consumes the crowd and it is jaw-droppingly fun. Get ready for an office dance party with M.I.A.’s Matangi.
In contrast, on Reflektor, Arcade Fire seem to be taking the path of greater resistance. Originally, I wrote that they’ve “lost their way”, but really they are diverting into the field of art rock that many a successful and talented artist has gone in the past (e.g., Bowie, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, etc.). To my ear, the record is self-indulgent, distant, and directionless. Sure there are some stunning and beautiful moments. But there is no break, no release, no pop catharsis. And at 85 minutes, sometimes you wonder whether you are listening to an accidentally leaked extended cut. Perhaps, this is a bit of transformation and exploration. I can respect artists going in new directions, but for now it isn’t resonating.
Annie Clark is a lot nicer: http://thetalkhouse.com/reviews/view/annie-clark-arcade-fire
Listen for yourself and decide.