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album reviews

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 »

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 »

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Song Stories

“Hungry Like the Wolf”

Duran Duran | 1982

This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

More Song Stories entries »
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