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album reviews

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 »

George Michael

Symphonica Island
6

George Michael crooning "Wild Is the Wind"? With a full orchestra? Now there's a concept. For his first album in 10 years, produced by the late Phil Ramone, the man who invented stubble teams up with an orchestra full of sexy people for a swank live set of classic makeout ballads. Some are vintage – the jazz standard "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" – and some come from his own songbook. Mr. Explore Monogamy lounges it up on "One More Try" an... | More »

Kevin Drew

Darlings Arts & Crafts
6

Kevin Drew's second solo album opens with a geyser of warm noise that seems sure to turn into one of the expansive indie-rock bliss-outs he's been sculpting for more than a decade as the leader of Toronto's Broken Social Scene. Instead, it breaks off to reveal a soft, swaying folkie invitation to "party all alone." Drew's songs still zone out, but the focus here is on a stripped-down luster somewhere between occasional bandmate Feist and the National. It's a good fit ... | More »

Perfect Pussy

Say Yes to Love Captured Tracks
8

"Since when do we say yes to love?" Meredith Graves yells halfway through her band's savagely awesome debut LP. These art-punk kids hail from Syracuse, New York, previously renowned for great bands like, well, none ever. But they rage with an emotional urgency that recalls Hüsker Dü or early Sleater-Kinney. Say Yes to Love is a heart-punch of an album – eight songs, 23 minutes – where the words are mostly buried under guitar feedback and synth squeals. Yet the raw p... | More »

Ana Tijoux

Vengo Nacional
7

Ana Tijoux's 2010 breakout single "1977" didn't need English lyrics to land a prominent placement on Breaking Bad and a shout-out on Radiohead's website. On the title track of her third solo set, which translates as "I Come," the Chilean-French rapper-singer amps up her crisp, exactingly jazzy flow over brassy New York street beats wrapped in Andean flutes. The attack this time is harder, but no less thoughtful or poetic. "Vengo a construir un sueño," Tijoux declare... | More »

Black Lips

Underneath the Rainbow Vice
7

These Georgia garage guys are a dozen years into their recording career – a neat trick, given that their biggest role models are slop-bucket Sixties greaser-punk obscurities who tended to disappear after a regional 45 or two. By now the Lips have made peace with modern-day production techniques, but the 12 licketysplit songs on their seventh studio album still feel righteously ragged, if not downright drunk. They're pretty cheerful, too – even when cops in "Smiling" or t... | More »

March 13, 2014

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Piñata Madlib Invazion
7

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib make an unlikely duo: Gibbs is a brusque street-rap purist with "an icemaker for a heart," Madlib a crate-digging cult hero with a taste for deep psychedelia and free jazz. But the MC and the producer click in surprisingly satisfying ways on their first full-length album together, as Madlib's beats add a druggy, unpredictable edge to Gibbs' hard-boiled grudges and regrets. At its best, Piñata recalls the dark-alley vibes of Raekwon's classic, RZA... | More »

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
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