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album reviews

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 »

Riff Raff

Neon Icon Mad Decent
2

Houston meme machine Riff Raff is a free-associative goof-ball who raps in a put-on deep-Southern drawl – call it swagger or minstrelsy, your choice. The lyrics on his latest album are nonsense masquerading as new-age ("I can throw a BB through a Frosted Cheerio") or dumb masquerading as self-aware ("You should practice martial arts/The way you karate-chop my heart"). There are punk, country and EDM experiments that sound like Nineties novelty act the Bloodhound Gang without the... | More »

Kitten

Kitten Elektra
5

This L.A. act's debut LP sounds great when 19-year-old singer Chloe Chaidez is delivering huge, dramatic hooks over New Wave-styled jams like the breathless opener, "Like a Stranger." It falters when the band indulges in out-of-nowhere rap verses or misplaced filtered vocals. When they get it right, it's not hard to imagine Kitten playing to a screaming arena, as with the fuzzed-out highlight "Kill the Light" – but way too many of these songs try way too hard to be notice... | More »

Body Count

Manslaughter Sumerian
6

The fifth record from Ice T's metal group is easily its best since its 1992 debut. There’s nothing as incendiary here as that year’s "Cop Killer," but Manslaughter does feature the band’s smartest musical leap in decades: evolving from its original sloppy mix of thrash and punk to lean, contemporary extreme metal. Over precise doublekicks and lurching metalcore riffs, Ice sounds like he’s having more fun than he’s had in years – ragin... | More »

Robin Thicke

Paula Star Trak/Interscope
5

If Robin Thicke needed a lesson in the consequences of disrespecting a woman’s boundaries after his controversial 2013 hit "Blurred Lines," here it is. The blue-eyed-soul singer named his new LP after his estranged wife, Paula Patton, and he spends much of it croon- ing about lost love in a weepy timbre or making bluesman appeals on hyperliteral tracks like "Get Her Back." His soft falsetto is sumptuous, but too many tracks veer into uncomfortable parod... | More »

July 8, 2014

Sia

1000 Forms of Fear RCA/Monkey Puzzle
8

In the four years since Australian powerhouse Sia's last LP, her sound has become ubiquitous, even if her face hasn't. She's written hits for Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Rihanna – the vocal dips and midtempo melancholy of "Diamonds" are Sia's signatures – and this album will likely be just as ubiquitous. Her knack for heart-swelling choruses shines through on a set of tracks you might play while winning a marathon: There's triumph in her tiniest ti... | More »

La Roux

Trouble in Paradise Cherrytree/Interscope
7

Elly Jackson is the best kind of cyberdiva – brassy, hooky, nearly invulnerable. On La Roux's second LP, her vintage synth-pop magnificence (see 2009's hit "Bulletproof") has warmed into the sort of electro-disco drama you imagine the Daft Punk robots blasting as they cruise down Highway 1. "Paradise Is You" is a Phil Spector-ish evocation of Sixties girl-group ache; "Sexotheque" rides wiry Nile Rodgers-style funk guitar. The track that most recalls Jackson's debut w... | More »

July 1, 2014

Old Crow Medicine Show

Remedy ATO
6

On their eighth album, this roots-music party band still acts as if electricity was never invented: In "Doc's Day," street musicians toss their amps and drums after being scolded by an old hillbilly. But every time the group appears to be degenerating into cliché, singer-songwriter Ketch Secor throws a curveball – about the sad state of modern political discourse or the funeral of a soldier friend – and drags Appalachia into the present. And as they did with "Wagon Whe... | More »

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Song Stories

“Party Rock Anthem”

LMFAO | 2011

This electro-pop uncle-nephew duo burst onto the scene with 2009’s "Shots," a song about getting totally obliterated. Two years afterward, they were still shamelessly getting wild but now insisting that everyone else join them in the fun. "I wanted a song for when we walked into a party, so I thought, 'Party rock in the house tonight/Everybody just have a good time,'" Redfoo (a.k.a. Stefan Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry Gordy) told Rolling Stone about the lyrics to "Party Rock Anthem." "The 'just' was key. I made it a command to focus people on what to do now that we’re here together."

More Song Stories entries »
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