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album reviews

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 »

June 24, 2014

Mastodon

Once More ‘Round The Sun Warner Bros.
7

"This time, things will work out just fine," drummer Brann Dailor sings in a rare moment of sunshine during the charging second track on Mastodon's sixth headbanging LP. The mercurial metalheads have improved on the lean hard-rock pummel of 2011's The Hunter with lattices of ornate riffs and primal vocals, but those intricacies verge on being too much of a good thing over the course of the album's 11 tracks. The band sounds best when taking cheerful risks, as with the "hey... | 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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