It’s funny that M.I.A.’s Wiki lists her occupation as ‘rapper’. Her music is so far outside all the usual definitions of genre, she’s basically her own genre. Also, she has an MBE. Also, I guess she’s in “retirement” now. Hopefully, it won’t stick, because I need to hear whatever she has to say about the world right now. Anyhow, even if she never makes another record, I think that we can all agree that M.I.A. is one of the most important artists of the past decade, and the one before that too. She cooked up a whole new pan-global pop music model. It’s music that could only have happened in an internet-powered diaspora where everyone is always crossing borders, carrying a clashing, joyful, angry, constantly changing cultural legacy.

Soul Singer in a Session Band

Cassadaga might objectively be the best Bright Eyes record, especially for anyone who didn’t come of age an emo kid. It marks, I think, Conor Oberst’s full arrival as a mature songwriter, as opposed to a navel-gazey sadboi with a knack for words. Some of that perceived maturity may come from having a bigger production budget than before, Bright Eyes having only fairly recently become well known. Moving away from shoegaze to bigger themes, attracting high-profile collaborators, recording in a real studio, etc. are all marks of artistic growth, made easier by success.

The Sorrowful Wife

Nick Cave really makes marriage sound like a life sentence with no chance of parole, although, by all accounts, he has a lovely one himself. Well, for many people, that’s exactly what it is. For anyone who looks at ideal models of romance and sees a life-sucking bottomless void, Nick Cave is your man, your guy, your guru, your creep at the door. He’s your ringmaster of why everything is bad and wrong. And that, perversely, makes the dark nights a little more comfortable, if not brighter.

Soren Grey

Today’s mood is the hypnotic electronic goth music of ThouShaltNot. It’s more nighttime or rainy day music, but I find it quite relaxing without being overly gloomy. My inner goth kid, meanwhile, wants to be entertained by something besides the same five dead bands from the 80’s, so if anyone wants to play “you wouldn’t have heard of them”…

Sons & Daughters

No other contemporary band has been as intellectually satisfying as the Decemberists, and so consistently over so many years. The satisfaction, of course, stems from the feeling so rare of being exactly the target audience. Nothing wrong with being a lowest-common-denominator pop fan, but have you ever experienced a mind-meld of esoteric interest with a complete stranger? Colin Meloy writes for people who want listening to a record to feel similar to submerging into a good book. The Crane Wife, out of all of the albums (Decemberists or otherwise) really provides the satisfaction of a series of well-told stories.