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album reviews

White Lung

Deep Fantasy Domino
7

Vancouver's White Lung barreled into punk fans' hearts with 2010's It's the Evil, followed by 2012's venomous Sorry. They're as furiously formidable as ever on their third LP. Mish Way's damning yowls offer profound ruminations on sex and body image, while guitarist Kenneth William's swift, discordant lashes resurrect the finer aspects of 2000s-era post-hardcore; drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou holds down a steady velocity, pelting listeners... | More »

First Aid Kit

Stay Gold Columbia
7

Seven years ago, when Swedish sister duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg appeared on YouTube singing a Fleet Foxes song in a forest, they seemed like an adorable one-view wonder. Instead, they've blossomed into an excellent indie-country act, like the Carter Family if they'd grown up on Lee Hazlewood's Cowboy in Sweden and Emmylou Harris. Like 2012's The Lion's Roar, Stay Gold was recorded in Omaha with Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis, whose Big Sky echo and orc... | More »

Chrissie Hynde

Stockholm Will Travel/Caroline
7

Thirty-plus years into her career and finally dispensing with the Pretenders name, Chrissie Hynde still finds herself warning haters not to "fuck with this heart of mine" in that elastic voice. On her delicate and sexy solo debut – actually a joint effort with new writing partner Björn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, plus guests including Neil Young and, oddly, tennis great John McEnroe – she does decompress: "In a Miracle" sounds like Aimee Mann after a warm bath. But ... | More »

The Fresh and Onlys

House of Spirits Mexican Summer
6

San Francisco's Fresh and Onlys have been pumping out melancholy garage rock since 2008. On their fifth LP, they explore noisier tendencies: "Bells of Paonia," a wistful highlight, is laden with shoegaze-y distortion. Lead singer Tim Cohen's voice has a tunelessness that can distract from the band's music at times, but when it works, it's just right. "Ballerina" drifts in languid sentiment like a twinkling boat through a summer night, with Cohen's elegant lyrics on fu... | More »

Passenger

Whispers Nettwerk
5

Last year, after a decade in the game, gentle U.K. folk-pop depressive Mike Rosenberg (a.k.a. Passenger) had a global smash with his feather-soft breakup tune "Let Her Go." Perhaps unsurprisingly, his first album since finding success is somewhat more upbeat. With a gravelly but delicate voice and melodies that can evoke Ed Sheeran, who's a friend, or Cat Stevens, he takes on his indecisive twenties on "Rolling Stone" and "27," attempts a road epic on "Riding to New York," and, on "... | More »

June 3, 2014

Parquet Courts

Sunbathing Animal What's Your Rupture?/Mom + Pop
8

Parquet Courts perfected their guitar clang on 2013's Light Up Gold – if all they wanted to do was make the exact same album again, most of us would have been delighted. But these Brooklyn dudes go even deeper on Sunbathing Animal. They've outgrown the Pavement comparisons – these songs make you wonder if you're hearing early Wire jam with Creedence while Thurston Moore brews the tea. Austin Brown and Andrew Savage trade off deadpan vocals, mostly about arty girls, ... | More »

Priests

Bodies and Control and Money and Power Don Giovanni/Sister Polygon
7

They're young, they're rude, they're mad and they mean it. The Washington, D.C., kids in Priests might be your punk-rock dream come true if you're in the market for emotionally urgent, politically pissed-off, wildly funny rants in the style of Bikini Kill or Delta 5. After scattered singles and cassettes, Priests take the plunge with an 18-minute EP that kicks in and sticks. Lead Priest Katie Alice Greer is not a fan of "Doctors" ("You put your fingers in other people'... | More »

Echo & The Bunnymen

Meteorites 429
6

In the Eighties, Echo and the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch battled the Cure's Robert Smith for goth-doll dominance. But nobody could touch the Buns for glowering guitar grandeur. On their 12th LP, trademark psychedelic swirls and red-sunset strings sound like they're soundtracking a Western about a gunslinger in a Joy Division T-shirt, as McCulloch moans about doomed romance, decadence ("Grapes Upon the Vine") and emotional dissolution (the Phil Spector-steeped "Is This a Breakdown... | More »

Bob Mould

Beauty & Ruin Merge
7

Though he claims that he's "out of inspiration" on the searing "Fix It," Bob Mould is anything but on his 11th solo album. The former Sugar and Hüsker Dü frontman sounds fully invigorated here, perhaps fueled by the weighty subject matter: the death of his father – whose alcoholism and violence Mould chronicles in his 2011 memoir – and his own grappling with mortality. Backed by bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, Mould rips through 1... | More »

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
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