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Secrets of '007

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Andy Freivogel hails those who screwed with cultural stereotypes in 2007.

Secrets of '007

I spent a good amount of time this year reading an installment of Young James Bond to my son… I didn't want to at first because it seemed like it was going to be cheap genre youthsploitation. What I found, however, was lots of cool details, danger, surprise, and largess beyond simple genre.

There is a new kind of music that really hit its stride in 2007, and it's all of the same genre, if only because I just invented this genre in the last couple of weeks. I think it's called multi-culturistic. I stole the "istic" from futuristic. It's not predicting what's going to happen, but in many ways it's consistent with what has proven to happen time and time again. Things mix and form new things. Some guy figures out that banjo passages from a Bill Monroe song fit perfectly over the boom-bip-bip of a Luny Tunes joint. It's a much better, and more realistic, version of how the world works…there are very few seamless fusions, and a bottle of salad dressing held up to the light reveals that the oil and the vinegar may still be largely separated, but it still works and the salad is still good.

A few of this year's multi-culturistix:

Calle 13 - Residente O Visitante (Sony International)

They are so freaking good at what they do that some of Puerto Rico's other name musicians (and not coincidentally those who will never be considered for accolades outside of the reggaeton classification) have started to line up as detractors. On this tidy epic, rapper/provocateur Residente tackles everything from immigration to love to women with five breasts, all on top of some of the most musically adventurous tracks to fog a cultural mirror. Forms like tango, funk, cumbia, rap, and a handful of variations of robot-at-the-controls synth pop permeate, each being handled with the utmost of respect and authenticity.

Tego Calderon - El Abayarde Contra-Ataca (Warner Music Latina)

The "Fire Ant" returned, knocked out a movie, got enlightened in Sierra Leone, and was best man at Residente's fake wedding video. His album, El Abayarde…, found him paired with largely unknown producers in order to get it done quickly and keep it fresh, and what sounds like a pretty dodgy business plan yielded consistently cool results. Like compatriots Calle 13, Tego mines the worlds of cumbia and other afro-latin folk styles for added street cred (wisely avoiding, say, Fergie, which megatrillion seller Daddy Yankee was unable to do), but if there is a single standout from Tego's latest, it's also perhaps the standout of all pop and dance music this year, the track "Ni Fu Ni Fa." An international gumbo of Guinean children's voices and drums, subsonic voodoo, and a fiery shot of rumba Columbia (a speedy afro-cuban folkloric style that is avoided by all but the most advanced singers, drummers and dancers), it's the most far out jam you will hear for many years into the future. And yes, "Ni Fu Ni Fa" managed to score a paragraph in the Times a few weeks back, but you heard it here first.

M.I.A. - Kala (Interscope)

More global, third-millenium-struggle-hop from the Sri Lankan beatmaker/rhymeslayer. I think people blew their collective wad too early when they wrote this off, thinking they weren't hearing enough Diplo or Roland 606 when they first threw this on. Trust me, just drive around with two kids in the car and listen to this album three times in a row, and you'll realize that she has been here before – in 1977, in 1984, in 1996 – and she will return at random intervals when music needs her.

Meshell Ndegeocello - This World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams (Decca)

A rockist perspective on musical bionics, this is jammed full of cosmic soul ,drum n' bass, funk, r'n'b, and surprising doses of humor and fear. It's a warning, for sure, but who knows? It might only be a warning of it's own arrival. M.N.'s (don't make me type it again) bass does a lot of the talking, with intricate and highly technical passages that hit their mark at moments where there's no safety net, and the addition of Oliver Lake's sax helps to remind the listener that this isn't all machines. A complex, sonic encyclopedia of Earth, written from a few atmospheres away.

The Good, The Bad, and The Queen - The Good, The Bad, and The Queen (Virgin)

50 listens into this album and it's still giving. There are layers upon layers of melody, something largely missing from just about everything else I've heard this year. I presume that's the dude from Blur coming up with all that. More importantly, perhaps, is the pairing of Paul Simonon and Tony Allen. Sure, Simonon provides about three and a half minutes of playing throughout the entire record, and Allen doesn't clock in much more than that, but in the rare intersections of the two, this should be as important to fans of rhythm as Lincoln v. Douglas was to fans of debate. That and Damon Albarn's sad, lyrical love note to London represent another multi-culturistic landmark on the distant sonic horizon. Supposedly they're doing it again, and only then will we know how far ahead they were the first time out.

By Andy Freivogel

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