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album reviews

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 »

Romeo Santos

Formula Vol. 2 Sony Music Latin
7

The former ringleader of bachata stars Aventura isn't known as the king of the romantic Dominican ballad for nothing: The deeper and more heartfelt the songs, the stronger and more expressive the Bronx-born singer's weepy voice grows. Although this is only his second solo set, guest spots from major names like Drake, Nicki Minaj and even Carlos Santana show how far Santos' reach already extends. He confidently flirts with other genres on the lite-dancehall groove "Animales" and... | More »

The Grateful Dead

Dave's Picks Volume 9 Grateful Dead/Rhino
8

In 1974, the Dead toured with the gargantuan "Wall of Sound" system designed by LSD chemist Owsley Stanley; partly due to the expense, they'd quit touring by year's end. But on this era-epitomizing set, recorded at the University of Montana, they're on point. Jerry Garcia's wah-wah and Keith Godchaux's Fender Rhodes pull jams into Miles Davis free-funk territory; vocalist Donna Godchaux adds signature off-notes; and the slow stuff shines brightest. See ... | More »

Doug Paisley

Strong Feelings No Quarter
7

Toronto's Doug Paisley makes deceptively gentle music, full of sweet country-rock melodies and dark poetry. "The future's burning brightly, but it won't last," he sings on "It's Not Too Late (To Say Goodbye)," echoing Harvest-era Neil Young. The Band's Garth Hudson – a key player on Paisley's last LP – returns, with organ clouds that conjure clapboard churches and circus tents. Ultimately, this is an album about music's mysterious power. On "Beca... | More »

March 5, 2014

Rick Ross

Mastermind Maybach/Def Jam
7

Miami boastmaster Rick Ross got to where he is by playing a hustler, a don, a master of outsize fantasies of golden-toilet luxury. But the seemingly untouchable king of self-invention – the man who once rapped, "The rumors turn me on, I'm masturbatin' at the top" – uses his sixth album to attempt the near-impossible: becoming a serious artist. All the cues that point to "important rap album" are here, from a famous visual artist doing the deluxe cover art (Banksy pal Mr.... | More »

March 4, 2014
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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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