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album reviews

July 22, 2014

5 Seconds of Summer

5 Seconds of Summer Capitol
6

It's been 15 years since LFO sang "I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch" on a smash single called "Summer Girls." Michael Cliord, Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood and Ashton Irwin were toddlers back then, but whatever the decade, teens sure don't tire of cute boys singing about babes and clothes. These four Aussies with aw-shucks grins and low-slung guitars named themselves after the correct season (summer, duh) and name-checked the right store (American Apparel) for their internat... | More »

July 17, 2014

Die Antwoord

Donker Mag Zef
5

Four years ago, South African rap duo Watkin Tudor Jones and Anri Du Toit (a.k.a. Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er) announced their plan to record five albums before transforming into a new act. Their third LP, though, finds them plying similar ground to their first two: It's a punishing set of disjointed beats, crass profanities ("raging zef boner") and overstuffed artificial components. There's a stale whiff of déjà vu to their rap-rave dubstep smackdowns, fr... | More »

John Mellencamp

Performs Trouble No More At Town Hall UMe
7

The war in Iraq was just weeks old when John Mellencamp released 2003's Trouble No More, a collection of blues and folk covers that proved the protest song is just about as old as music itself. This excellent live album documents a show from that year at New York's Town Hall, featuring a complete performance of the album plus a few old favorites – like a radically slowed-down "Small Town," a barn-burning "Paper In Fire" and the inevitable finale of "Pink Houses." Just 11 ... | More »

July 15, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic

Mandatory Fun RCA
6

When we talk about timeless artists, the ones who truly cross generations, how come no one mentions Weird Al? Where his 1983 debut spoofed then hot singles like "Mickey," his 14th album turns Lorde’s "Royals" into "Foil" (as in aluminum) and Iggy Azalea’s "Fancy" into "Handy" ("I’ll fix your plumbing/When your toilets overflow"). The schoolhouse R&B of "Word Crimes" is clever enough to win over the harshest critics of Robin Thicke’s "Blurred Lines." Then th... | More »

Bleachers

Strange Desire RCA
6

As the guitarist for pop-rock stars fun., Jack Antonoff helped build a sound that brought Eltonian grandeur to the kind of open-wound introspection that's usually confined to the dark, comfy corners of emo records. With this one-man side project, he goes deeper into his Eighties synth-rock and Arcade Fire influences, piling snazzy hooks and knotty feelings into ravenously over-the-top therapy rock. The hit "I Wanna Get Better," which came with a video directed by his girlfriend... | More »

Puss n Boots

No Fools, No Fun Blue Note
6

This charming hang session with Norah Jones, jazzy singersongwriter Sasha Dobson and alt-rock session vet Catherine Popper began as three friends blowing off steam at a pool hall – think of it as a slacker version of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt's Trio project. Most bar bands don't manage trio harmonies near this gorgeous, but the song selection is uneven. A cover of Wilco's "Jesus, Etc." is a keeper; their take on Neil Young's "Down by the Ri... | More »

July 14, 2014

Alvvays

Alvvays Polyvinyl
8

It's a rare treat to discover a debut like Alvvays'. Each of the nine songs on the Toronto band's first LP is a sharply drawn indie-pop wonder, steeped in romance, wit and melody. The unsentimental proposal "Archie, Marry Me" is the kind of song some acts spend careers trying to write: "Forget the invitations, floral arrangements and breadmakers," singer Molly Rankin suggests over swoon worthy guitar jangle and a driving backbeat. The shy come-ons of "Party... | More »

July 9, 2014

Judas Priest

Redeemer of Souls Epic
7

Judas Priest have been looking for redemption since their 2008 concept album, Nostradamus, fell flat with fans. Their follow-up goes back to guitar-bludgeoning basics on songs that explore vengeance, virility and Valhalla – classic metal themes that might feel tired if it wasn't for the fact that Priest are one of the bands that helped pioneer the pummeling genre in the first place. Frontman Rob Halford's operatic howls soar on "Battle Cry," and the group's guitarists bri... | More »

Various Artists

Country Funk II 1967-1974 Light in the Attic
7

Country has always drawn from African-American music, but as part two of this Southern-fried funk compilation series shows, that cross-genre impulse got wildly amplified in the Sixties and Seventies. Dolly Parton sings “Gettin’ Happy” with a gospel choir, pedal steel and an amped-up, sample-ready drum beat; Kenny Rogers gets all funky outlaw on “Tulsa Turnaround” (“Oooh, Lord, I wish I had never been stoned. . . .”). Even Willie Nelson (&ldquo... | More »

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Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »
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