By Chuck Arnold RANDY VEST
September 10, 2007 12:00 PM


Kala |



“I said M.I.A. is coming back with power power!” So declares this Sri Lankan-British rapper-singer on “Bamboo Banga,” the hypnotic, chant-like opener of her new CD. And there is no denying the propulsive—and progressive—force of this exhilarating follow-up to 2005’s critically acclaimed Arular. You won’t find a more sonically stimulating disc around in 2007. “BirdFlu” merges squawking sounds with tribal drums; “Paper Planes” juxtaposes gunshots with the “ca-ching” of a cash register; “Boyz” makes you feel as if you’re trapped inside of a pinball machine with a marching band. M.I.A., whose lyrics address Third World issues, employs Nigerian rapper Afrikan Boy on “Hussel” and incorporates Indian influences elsewhere. But the most thrilling track of all is “XR2,” with its dizzying rush of electronica beats.

Joe Nichols

Real Things |



Joe Nichols has the kind of classic country voice—we’re talking Haggard, Jennings and Jones here—that most of today’s Nashville crop can only dream about. And on his latest release, the producers have wisely kept Nichols’s rich barroom baritone front and center. Uncluttered arrangements (often including a weeping steel guitar) never get in the way on the set’s 13 tunes. Besides his impressive pipes, Nichols has a keen knack for interpreting a song, approaching each phrase with care instead of relying on vocal gymnastics. Among the standouts is the title track, an appreciation of the simpler joys in life: rainy days, Grandma’s kitchen, fireflies.

DOWNLOAD THIS:”My Whiskey Years,” a spare ballad soaked in sorrow

Jonas Brothers

Jonas Brothers |


The brothers Jonas—Nick, 14, Joe, 18, and Kevin, 19—out-Hanson Hanson on their second album, which finds them joining the Disney empire on Hollywood Records. But you don’t have to be part of the High School Musical crowd to enjoy these yummy pop-rock confections. Playing instruments and mostly writing their own songs, they roll from punchy, lightly crunchy fare like “Still in Love with You” and the punk-spiked “Inseparable” to a Backstreet-esque ballad such as “When You Look Me in the Eyes.”

DOWNLOAD THIS: “S.O.S.,” the guitar-hooky first single

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