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album reviews

Bassnectar

Noise vs. Beauty Amorphous
6

Low-end theorist Bassnectar's tenth LP is his most mature. Known mostly for extremes of sternum-caving bass, the festival star balances out his sound here with ominous strings ("F U N"), an Edge-y guitar line ("You & Me") and a trap-inspired banger that sounds like Dr. Dre's G-funk played on a crystal flute ("Don't Hate the 808"). Bassheads should celebrate too: The drops still sound like robot Pantera. | More »

How to Dress Well

What Is This Heart? Weird World
6

Tom Krell, the velvet voice of How to Dress Well, is at his best when he's most vulnerable. His early recordings were grief-stricken and raw; subsequent releases have expanded and refined his sound without ever quite reaching the same heights. Krell's third LP continues to elevate his R&B-inflected music into sonic clarity, though his emotions remain muddled as ever. The spare, lovely intro "2 Years On (Shame Dream)" puts his multitracked falsetto over minimal instrumentation; o... | More »

Circulatory System

Mosaics Within Mosaics Cloud
7

For two decades, W. Cullen Hart of Athens, Georgia, has been one of indie rock's great psychedelic visionaries – recording two cult-classic LPs with the Olivia Tremor Control in the Nineties, then plunging even deeper into the dream with this band starting in 2001. Circulatory System's third proper album, their best since their debut, is a leisurely suite where kaleidoscopically sweet vocal melodies and folky instrumentation drift in and out of focus, occasionally resolving in... | More »

June 23, 2014

Ed Sheeran

X Atlantic
6

On his second album, X, Ed Sheeran supersizes his romantic affliction: Each new day is a fresh chance for this guy to hit the bar, fall in love, get his heart stomped like a bug – and then dissect the gory remains over a pretty acoustic melody. A pop-wise folkie who's equally comfortable in coffee shops and the Top 40, Sheeran, 23, has written with Taylor Swift and for One Direction, among many others. He went multiplatinum with 2012's +, and it seems like the experience might... | More »

June 20, 2014
June 17, 2014

Deadmau5

While(1<2) Mau5trap/Astralwerks
4

For his seventh album, Deadmau5 has turned from an electro-house polymath into the world's most unnecessary Nine Inch Nails tribute act. With a running time longer than the new X-Men movie, the two-disc While(1<2) gives Mau5 plenty of room to spiral downward into many of Trent Reznor's favorite tricks – the moody minor-key melodies, the Erik Satie-derived piano miniatures, the flickering static and machine fuzz, the bent and tortured notes, the plodding chug on acoustic gui... | More »

Tiesto

A Town Called Paradise Casablanca/Republic
5

EDM has changed pop, and now pop is changing veteran DJ Tiësto. He's moved from the abrasively chilly trance of 2009's Kaleidoscope to embrace pianos and guitars, a warm sound like the 4 a.m. version of Taylor Swift or Coldplay. He's a consummate crowd-pleaser, but he's best when he gets weird: The warped grind of "Echoes" is a standout; "Wasted" might be one of 2014's best country songs. | More »

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 »

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »
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