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album reviews

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 »

March 11, 2014

Aloe Blacc

Lift Your Spirit XIX/Interscope
6

Southern California soulman Aloe Blacc, who sang lead on Avicii's 2013 smash "Wake Me Up," will probably be enjoying some nice royalty checks for years to come – but while every college student in the hemisphere surely recognizes his voice, not nearly as many fans know his name. Blacc's major-label debut tries to change that with a set of hooky soul-pop tunes layered with folk-tinged acoustic elements. Highlights like the boisterous "Can You Do This" and an EDM-free mix of "Wa... | More »

Various Artists

Divergent: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Interscope
4

Divergent, Hollywood's next big Hunger Games, is based on a bestselling trilogy of teen novels set in a dystopian future. The movie's soundtrack offers an image of the dystopian present, wanly blurring EDM, alt-rock and hip-hop into post-Yeezus multiplex schlock. The best songs pair an on-fire Kendrick Lamar with psychedelic tricksters Tame Impala and A$AP Rocky with droning French techno guy Gesaffelstein. Elsewhere, arty British electro-pop singer Ellie Goulding gets three tracks ... | More »

311

Stereolithic 311
5

On their first indie album in more than 20 years, funk metal's chillest bros are less concerned with elbowing for radio play – they've ditched producer Bob Rock after two albums – and are more content to settle into a heavier, self-sustaining life as a reggae version of alt-metal mainstays Helmet. Fighting the push-pull of negative-vibe merchants ("They wanna play my emotions/But I'm like the ocean"), the LP bursts with joyous choruses and taut grooves imported dire... | More »

Les Claypool's Duo De Twang

Four Foot Shack ATO
6

If you ever wanted to hear King Crimson tap out Mungo Jerry songs, then, boy, does Primus frontdude Les Claypool have a record for you. In Duo De Twang, the bassist pairs his familiar combat-boot Bootsy Collins moves with guitarist Brian Kehoe (an old thrash-metal pal from the Eighties). Their debut kicks a spittoon down the fine line between "weirdly hypnotic" and "profoundly irritating," with goofy covers of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box,"... | More »

Metronomy

Love Letters Because/Elektra
6

Metronomy sell mopey moods by the seashore: The British synth-poppers' last album was called The English Riviera, and now and then on their new one you even hear people splashing around. Love Letters opens with "The Upsetter," sounding like a message from some place stuck in 1992; the music starts out emaciated, but gets lusher as Joseph Mount reaches for his space-glitter falsetto. His zodiac kitsch in "I'm Aquarius" picks up steam too, and sweet Italodisco beach balls "Boy Racers"... | More »

Tensnake

Glow Astralwerks
6

Hamburg producer Tensnake is part of the same heavyhitting label roster as superstar DJs like Sebastian Ingrosso and Eric Prydz, but he's not really EDM. On his first full LP, he makes sharp-lined, songoriented house music that draws heavily from strutting early-Eighties electro-disco, like an all-synth version of Brooklyn's Escort. Nothing here bounds as joyously as Tensnake's club-ubiquitous 2010 single "Coma Cat," but "Feel of Love" (with Madonna producer Jacques Lu Con... | More »

March 7, 2014

Calle 13

MultiViral El Abismo
8

Calle 13 have come a long way since their 2005 debut, when they were a smartass pair of twentysomethings from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, riding the international reggaeton boom with a club-minded mix of sex talk and political invective. With their fifth disc, frontman Residente and his halfbrother Visitante have made as ambitious a hip-hop album – if that's not too narrow a term – as any in any language. Beginning with an incantatory intro delivered by Uruguayan author Eduar... | More »

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »
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