song reviews

July 24, 2014

Austin Mahone

"Say My Name"


The teen-smoothie sensation might purr, "Baby girl, I know you got your needs," but this slow jam proves he also knows what her mom wants. "Say My Name" is an impressively precise replica of circa-1989 cheese-guitar prom juice, á la Richard Marx or Tommy Page, with a soupçon of Speedwagon and a nod to a certain Destiny's Child oldie. | More »

Death From Above 1979

"Trainwreck 1979"


The Toronto dance-punk duo's comeback single opens with a riff so bracing you'll wonder how we made it through 10 years without a new LP from them. Nearly four minutes later, the song hasn't gone anywhere – and you remember that Sleigh Bells have been doing this better for at least the past five. | More »

Speedy Ortiz

"Bigger Party"


"I'm sorry for the time I made out with all your friends/I'm really a shithead," Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis says on this top-drawer Nineties indie slogger. The apology comes with the sincerity of someone calling in sick to a temp job so she can stay home and get high, the guitars fumble and yawn along perfectly. | More »

Perfume Genius



On his first two albums, Mike Hadreas (a.k.a. Perfume Genius) has explored vulnerable romantic identity using quivery vocals and stark piano for maximum sadness. This song from his upcoming Too Bright has a surprising swagger: Fuzzed-out reverb and crashing drums prove confidence looks just as good on Hadreas as confusion – maybe even better. | More »


"Diamond Light Pt. 1"


Psychedelic guitars knot with jittery percussion, then untangle over the course of this trippy six-minute track from Jeff Tweedy's new semi-solo project with his son, Spencer. Clearly, the apple doesn't fall far from the freaky, beautiful tree. | More »

Nicki Minaj

"No Flex Zone" Remix


Woe betide thee who dares enter the No Flex Zone! "Running this game for five years, guess that's why my feet hurt/Wonder when they bite me, do these bitches' teeth hurt?" Minaj raps with zany singsong glee over Mike Will Made It's spine-tingling track (nicked from rising duo Rae Sremmurd). It's the craziness that makes the queenliness so great. | More »

June 16, 2014

Maroon 5



Adam Levine covering the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' greatest song could have been pretty cool. Instead, we get a moody summer jam, reminiscent of Maroon 5's hit "Payphone," only rougher around the edges: Levine plays the forlorn love slave tracking his gone girl over a disco beat that turns into a stomping funk-soul-gospel breakdown. | More »

Justin Bieber feat. Migos

"Looking for You"


By day, Bieber issues controversial apologies; by the sound of his new track, he still spends his nights trying to pick up girls. But his lines are unforgivably corny ("I might be the guy that'll make you wanna fall in love"), and Atlanta trio Migos' Mr. Treferencing guest raps are just plain goofy. | More »


"0 to 100/The Catch Up"


Drake's hallmark sentimentality takes a back seat on this single – a powerful bragfest that he opens by proclaiming, "Fuck being on some chill shit!" A gentle, James Blake-sampling outro softens the bravado, but only a little. | More »

The Rentals

"Thought of Sound"


Ex-Weezer bassist Matt Sharp's band hasn't released an album since 1999, but the wait has only made him more exuberant. This song's driving guitars, sunny harmonies and "you are free" refrain – plus Black Key Patrick Carney on drums – make for a tasty slice of indie pop that's not too sweet. | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »