'Matangi'

M.I.A.

"There's a thousand ways to meet you now/ There's a thousand ways to track you down" sings M.I.A. on "Come Walk With Me," a pop cut that neatly marks the ambivalence of the social living era. Technology is inescapable, and the music of English-Sri Lankan firebrand Maya Arulpragasam likely wouldn't exist without it. Since her '05 debut "Arular," she has built an identity on the vanishing distances between urban centers, combining fractured shards of hip-hop, electro, R&B and club music into a chaotic, hemisphere-skipping whole. Her fourth album maintains her bold stance, but seems bleaker. Like snatches of conversation in a crowded airport, the influences on "Matangi" continually surface and bleed into one another within tracks, morphing from bhangra beats to a muezzin's call, to a rave in a laser-lit warehouse on the outskirts of everywhere. Arulpragasam's abrasive embrace of every inflection has always made for difficult listening, but an M.I.A. on easy wouldn't be M.I.A. at all.

'Loved Me Back to Life'

Celine Dion

For much of "Loved Me Back to Life," Celine Dion is virtually unrecognizable. Maybe it's her six years away from recording English-language albums. Maybe it's her cadre of young collaborators, from Sia and Ne-Yo, who duets on the sleek "Incredible." Whatever the case, Dion has stripped away her tendency to overwhelm songs with her powerful voice and opted to, well, play it cool. Her version of Daniel Merriweather's "Water and a Flame" is subtle, yet still stunning.