.

song reviews

April 17, 2014

Brad Paisley

"River Bank"

6

Paisley still has a bit of a scarlet "A" (as in "Accidental Racist") on his Stetson – but that ideological septic spill aside, he's always been one of Nashville's sharpest dudes. This laid-back ode to inner tubes and bikinis, from an album due later this year, comes with a bendy Stones-steeped riff and a clever chorus that's like ad copy for low-budget fun ("We're laughing our way to the river bank"). If there must be bro-country, let it be this genial. | More »

The Roots

"When the People Cheer"

7

The Roots' next LP is parodically titled And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, but its first single's trap-life satire is somber as well as pointed. Over an elegiac piano and muted Questlove boombap, they go inside a world where "nobody wins but nobody cares" and come out with an aggrieved shoulder shrug. | More »

Echo & The Bunnymen

"Lovers on the Run"

7

"There it goes, my history," Ian McCulloch observes on this offering from the first Bunnymen album in five years. Indeed, the New Wave titans proudly evoke their dolorous Eighties grace, luxuriating in a string-sloshed killing-moon ooze that could teach today's young folks a thing or two about how to spool out the decadent splendor. | More »

Tune-Yards

"Wait for a Minute"

8

We can always use another Annie Lennox, can't we? Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus is apparently well up to the task, finding formerly untapped wells of soul on this lovely R&B ziggurat. The production from Frank Ocean collaborator Malay is both supple (old-school drum crack) and spare (squiggly synths). "Just twiddling my thumbs and hoping for the words to rhyme," she sings, easy like Saturday night. | More »

Eno-Hyde

"Daddy's Car"

7

Someday World, due out on June 5th, is a collaborative LP from Brian Eno (one of music's great chameleons) and Underworld's Karl Hyde (whom most Americans remember only from the 1995 big-beat classic "Born Slippy"). The single features almost all of the Enos at once: from skittering, Talking Heads-style drums and syncopated synth riffs to disco horns and deepfocus ambient hum thanks to harmonized Hyde vocals. The overall effect is addictive. | More »

April 4, 2014

The Black Keys

"Fever"

7

It's sleek and sinewy like Little Willie John's foundational 1956 "Fever," and it's got a strutting four-on-the-floor like the Bee Gees' "Night Fever." But the first offering from the Black Keys' Turn Blue (due out May 13th) gives its vintage rock & roll theme a garage-psychedelic fine-tuning, collapsing decades of history into music that still feels forward-moving. | More »

Wu-Tang Clan

"Keep Watch"

6

The first single from Wu-Tang's maybe-it'll-ship-on-time 20th-anniversary album, A Better Tomorrow, probably would not have raised any eyebrows back in '97. But today's rap is so far removed from the dense, scuzzy, classic Wu-Tang sound that "Keep Watch" is refreshing like a cold Shaolin wind. All praise to the gods. | More »

Chrissie Hynde

"Dark Sunglasses"

7

After 35 years fronting the Pretenders, Hynde is releasing her first solo album, Stockholm, produced by Bjorn Yttling of Swedish outfit Peter, Bjorn and John. Its cutting, springy first single is about people trading it in for wealth and status – the opposite of Hynde, who's still a pure-of-heart rock & roll crank. | More »

Drake

"Draft Day"

7

Drake's latest statement-of-Drakeness casually big-ups his sports bros Johnny Manziel and Andrew Wiggins over a dreamy sample of Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)," then drops a little Jennifer Lawrence fan fic: "On some Hunger Games shit/I would die for my district." It's baller brio with a characteristic light touch. May the odds be ever in your favor, son! | More »

Sam Smith

"Stay With Me"

6

The British crooner du jour opens this slow-burn, piano-soul monster with "'Cause it's true, I'm not good at a one-night stand" like he knows the line is money in the bank (which, c'mon, it is). Then the gospel choir backs him up like it's Memphis '67. If ninth-graders still made mixtapes for their crushes, this would be on all of them. | More »

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

More Song Stories entries »
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