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album reviews

Sage the Gemini

Remember Me Republic
6

Bay Area rapper-producer Sage the Gemini is one of the most instantly rewarding beatmakers in recent memory. His rubbery tracks are a mix of Casio bloops, scribbly synth lines and little else. Appropriately, three-quarters of Remember Me, which is mainly produced by Gemini or his like-minded associate P-Lo, sounds great on iPhone speakers. But the rest of the album is too slow and soggy – a guy who mainly raps about shaking butts trying to show a musical range he doesn't have. Repl... | More »

Kylie Minogue

Kiss Me Once Warner Bros./Parlophone
6

The Australian dance-pop diva recently signed a management deal with Jay Z's Roc Nation, and she's been working with crossover-friendly writers Pharrell and Sia. But if her 12th album sounds a lot like contemporary pop, that's probably just because a lot of contemporary pop bears resemblance to the effervescent club music that Minogue's been making since the Eighties. A cheesy jam called "Sexercize" and an Enrique Iglesias duet aside, most of the production has a resp... | More »

Golden Retriever

Seer Thrill Jockey
7

On their fifth release, this Portland, Oregon, drone duo finally find the perfect balance between Matt Carlson's twinkling, modular synths and the bluesy cry of Jonathan Sielaff's bass clarinet. The album shortens their chain of effects pedals so the clarinet can sound like a woodwind instead of cosmic mush, making Seer more like an ambient-jazz record by Brian Eno pal Jon Hassell than an experimental electro-acoustic composition. Full of church bells, chirping birds, poked pia... | More »

March 20, 2014

The War On Drugs

Lost in the Dream Secretly Canadian
6

The War on Drugs make archetypal road-trip music: shimmering, steady, gritty as pavement and open as the sky. Longer on instrumental texture than songwriting, their third album recasts the blue-collar fantasias of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen as earthy ambient music, better to soak in than to scrutinize. As usual with T.W.O.D., these songs are only as good as their grooves: Seven-minutes-plus songs like "In Reverse" and "An Ocean in Between the Waves" have enough locomotion to go twice as ... | More »

Various Artists

Young Money: Rise of an Empire Young Money/Cash Money
5

The first compilation from this hip-hop powerhouse – 2009's We Are Young Money – featured rising stars Drake and Nicki Minaj. This time out, we're introduced to a charming talkrapper named Euro and not much else beyond some diverse but mundane urban contemporary music dominated by familiar players. Contractually, Drake and Minaj are here; artistically, they've moved on. And the label's flagship genius, Lil Wayne, is ostentatiously bored: "Have my cake and ... | More »

Various Artists

From Another World Buda
6

This compilation of Dylan songs recorded by international acts in a wild array of music styles may put some of his fans off: The singing is mostly non-English, and the original melodies, variously transposed, can be hard to recognize. But Dylan himself loves obscuring words and tunes. The Musicians of the Nile version of "Tangled Up in Blue" that appears here, chanted over Arabic rababah fiddle, even showed up in his 2003 film Masked and Anonymous. Listen closely, and you'll hear a fasci... | More »

March 18, 2014

The Pretty Reckless

Going to Hell Razor & Tie
6

This New York band's brash second album rages with the upbeat, beat-wise humor that hard rock has suppressed ever since grunge. "Heaven Knows" and "Why'd You Bring a Shotgun to the Party" are full-on glam stomps about troubled teens; other tracks steal back what Carrie Underwood country and Marilyn Manson industrial took from hair metal. Titillation's part of the game, for sure, but singer Taylor Momsen – best known for her acting on Gossip Girl – also belts out rea... | More »

YG

My Krazy Life Def Jam
7

A 46-minute tale of celebrations and regrets, the debut album from West Coast hot property YG is the most ambitious hip-hop concept LP in a minute: a 24-hour ride where he gives detailed instruction on how to rob a home – then gives even more details about the consequences. Though he doesn't quite have the narrative zeal of Kendrick Lamar or Ice Cube, YG rides beats with a singsong flow that's instantly winning. And when those beats are the sproinging trampoline bounce of... | More »

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

More Song Stories entries »
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