I'm always on the prowl for new music and while I find a plethora of albums that are worthy of reviewing, time is finite and I prefer to discuss those that reach me on a deeper level. For my thoughts on the albums that didn’t quite qualify for a long-form review, check out the Subjective Sounds Micro Reviews on Instagram.
AIM is the fifth studio release from MIA (the stage name for Mathangi Arulpragasam) and to be completely frank, I had never heard of her before listening to this album. I dare say without the ability to stream music, I would have remained naïve of her musical prowess.
The album cover is largely nondescript and prior to listening to the album, I didn't even know it was a Hip-Hop record. Personally, I like not knowing when I'm in discovery mode as I prefer the music to speak for itself. Yes, Hip-Hop is often reliant on sampling other great tracks, but that is part of the appeal of the genre. How the music is sampled and how is it integrated and developed into a song and album experience. It is a layering technique that I find fascinating and musically pleasing.
The introduction to Borders is superb as the song slowly builds. The vocal delivery and distortion levels are perfect, as is the oriental feel that traverses the song and much of the album. It is a sound signature that is unique and thoroughly addictive. You will want to turn up the volume and move your body to the beat. It is this subconscious response to the music that draws me in and captivates my soul.
Go Off continues the oriental sound signature with an interesting vocal layering technique that creates the core of the song. While the lyrical aspects of this song are mostly non-English, like good Opera, a beautiful vocal delivery is sometimes all that is needed.
Bird Song (Blaqstarr Remix) is exceptional! The sampling of llaiyaraaja's “Oru Kili Uruguthu” is done with respect and is simply gorgeous.
Jump In is a vocal interlude that isn't the greatest. Personally, I would have left it off the album as it doesn't add substantially to the musicality of the album.
Freedun (featuring Zayn) is a solid track but I feel it is a B-side, despite being issued as a single.
Foreign Friend (featuring Dexter Daps) is an incredible mellow song. I love it! Dexter Daps certainly adds value and the song wouldn't be the same without the inclusion of his smooth, yet gritty, vocal presentation.
Finally isn't a bad song but it is let down by too much vocal and bass distortion.
A.M.P (All My People) re-introduces the oriental sounds, but I don't like the song as I feel it is overproduced.
Ali r u ok? is sonically pleasing, although I find the soundstage to be a little too compressed.
Visa isn't the strongest song on the album. Although, I thoroughly enjoy it as it reminds me of the musicality Grace Jones is known for.
Fly Pirate is sonically disturbing. Seriously, listen on headphones and you have moments where the music doesn't only create a widening soundstage, but you feel as though the music is moving through your skull. It is an interesting technique and I like it.
Survivor is a lovely song, but there is a little too much distortion and reliance on Autotune.
Bird Song (Diplo Remix) doesn't compare to the brilliance heard on the Blaqstarr Remix.
The New International Sound Pt. 2 (featuring GENER8I0N) is sonically incredible! This song has a massive soundstage and while it still overuses Autotune, it suits the song perfectly.
Swords has some incredible musical elements, but I am not sure it works as a song. Then again, the more I listen, the more I feel it works. It is one of those songs that will likely grow on you.
Talk is brilliant. I love it!
Platforms is musically beautiful and the perfect song to end the album with as it makes me want to listen again or continue to explore MIA's catalogue.
While AIM may not appeal to everyone, I find that I am drawn to the album as it is musically unique and offers something off the beaten path of both the Hip-Hop and Rap scenes. For me, this style of music is much like my appreciation of classical music. I know I like it, yet I find it difficult to describe the how and why. Of course, it is plausible to like music for no quantifiable reason.
For this review, I listened to the 16/44.1kHz FLAC and 24/88.2kHz MQA edition, both via TIDAL Hi-Fi. Both editions are beautifully mastered, but the MQA edition sounds more refined and accurate, resulting in a slightly larger soundstage and better bass presentation with less distortion. While I preferred the MQA edition, I certainly wouldn't be disappointed with the 16/44.1kHz CD-quality FLAC edition.