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album reviews

The Antlers

Familiars ANTI-
7

Over the past eight years, the Antlers have excelled at combining moody, dramatic rock with dark, personal storytelling. On their fifth album, the Brooklyn three-piece opt for something a bit unfamiliar: The nine tracks are grounded in jazzier, spacier arrangements, filled out with trumpets, trombones, cellos and upright bass. It's a perfect fit for singer-guitarist Peter Silberman, who spins haunting tales of delusion, paranoia and self-loathing on eerie songs like "Doppelganger," "Hote... | More »

David Gray

Mutineers Kobalt
6

On the surface, this collaboration with Andy Barlow (of underrated Nineties trip-hop duo Lamb) isn't a huge leap for David Gray, a folk-rock vet obsessed with electronics at least since 2000's sleeper hit White Ladder. But Barlow, a DJ-minded producer obsessed with acoustic instruments, is a perfect match. Where Gray generally plants his Van Morrison-ish bray like a flag in a song's center, Barlow blurs the field with swarming arrangements and vocals smeared by effects and mult... | More »

The Felice Brothers

Favorite Waitress Dualtone
6

Perennial festival presence the Felice Brothers have always seemed most at home bringing their rollicking folk rock to a live crowd. Their last studio LP, 2011's Celebration, Florida, layered synthetic and industrial flourishes to the point of distraction, as though trying to distance themselves from that year's mainstream folk revival. The follow-up strips down, keeping a tight leash on the band's quirks: "Constituents" simmers without boiling, and "Saturday Night" has so... | More »

Austra

Habitat Domino
6

Austra's new EP is the sound of an act that's defined by its singer being left to its own devices. The single "Habitat" is up there with the Canadian electronic trio's catchiest tunes to date, as Katie Stelmanis' voice takes on a more soulful tone than usual on a cascade of sticky hooks. The rest of the EP is mostly instrumental, freeing the band from pop limitations. Highlight "Bass Drum Dance" mixes sounds that evoke a fog-shrouded dance floor – perhaps influe... | More »

Linkin Park

The Hunting Party Machine Shop/Warner Bros.
5

More than a decade ago, Linkin Park sold a couple zillion records by making better-than-Bizkit rap metal and collaborating with Jay Z. They've since wandered the emo wilderness, and singer Chester Bennington is now also fronting Stone Temple Pilots. But on Album Six they're back with a retro-neo-aggro sound that would've been too intense for modern-rock radio in 1999. Tom Morello guests on guitar; the mook-punk yowler "Guilty All the Same" features oldschool rap god R... | More »

Jennifer Lopez

A.K.A Capitol
4

At her best, J. Lo combines and energizes familiar dance-pop sounds to make music worth getting lost in (in 1999, "Waiting for Tonight"; in 2011, "On the Floor"). On her eighth album, however, she just sounds lost. Beyond summer-anthem contender "I Luh Ya Papi," Lopez supplements flat production from names like RoccStar with forgettable verses from rappers like T.I., claims street cred but offers nothing to show for it and awkwardly seeks cool in third-rate Diplo beats and New York's und... | More »

Willie Nelson

Band of Brothers Sony Legacy
7

A minute into Willie Nelson's new set of songs – largely self-penned for a change – it's clear the man who wrote Patsy Cline's "Crazy" 50-some years ago has lost neither verve nor cojones. Co-writing with producer Buddy Cannon, Nelson sticks to his wheelhouse: love, heartache, rambling and music-making itself. The vocals remain indelibly creaky against stony acoustic guitar, bright steel whines and dusty harmonica whinnies. "We're a band of brothers and sisters... | More »

Miniature Tigers

Cruel Runnings Yebo
6

These Brooklyn guys spent their first three records finding out how many pop subgenres they could fit into a single album. (The answer: a ton.) On their fourth effort, the Mini T's skip the wild swerving for a surprisingly cohesive set of sun-drenched, self-aware, often silly synthpop grooves. Lead single "Used to Be the Shit" is the kind of kiss-off that Vampire Weekend would have written if they'd skipped class to smoke weed on the couch more often; the cutesiness of album hi... | More »

Alex G

DSU Orchid Tapes
7

Poll a dozen young indie-rock heads about their favorite Internet-only cult acts, and there's a decent chance at least one will mention Philadelphia's Alex G. A 21-year-old college kid with an uncanny ear for sad, pretty melodies and trebly riffs, he's been uploading his DIY dorm-room jams to increasing online acclaim since 2010. With any luck, this accomplished full-length debut will be his ticket to a wider audience. It's easy to hear echoes of heroes from Elliott Smith ... | More »

Big Freedia

Just Be Free Queen Diva
7

Over 23 years, the hyperkinetic, unapologetically horny sound of New Orleans bounce has changed the world – perhaps you've heard of the word "twerk"? – and now the genre's loudest ambassador has finally made a proper debut. Though Just Be Free is a lot more polished than sample-happy Freedia singles like "Azz Everywhere!," it hits just as hard. She embraces the textures of contemporary EDM – wet snares, buzz-saw synths, the occasional triumphant trance melody ... | More »

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Song Stories

“I Was Made to Love Her”

Stevie Wonder | 1967

Stevie Wonder discovered true love while still a teenager, writing this ode to young love when he was only 17. The song, Wonder explained, "kind of speaks of my first love, to a girl named Angie, who was a very beautiful woman. She's married now. Actually, she was my third girlfriend but my first love. I used to call Angie up and we would talk and say, 'I love you, I love you,' and we'd talk and we'd both go to sleep on the phone.” The Beach Boys, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men have all recorded versions of "I Was Made to Love Her."

More Song Stories entries »
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