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song reviews

Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

"Fancy"

6

Sicker than your average supermodel, Azalea has a licorice-sweet flow on the latest leak from her forever-delayed debut, The New Classic. The Aussie gal deftly handles the ratchet beat while Charli XCX's earworm hook holds it all down. Does it bring '88 back? Well, no. But they can swing on chandeliers with the best of them. | More »

February 7, 2014

Miranda Lambert

"Automatic"

7

Add Nashville's toughest mega-diva to the list of iPhone-hating celebrities that already includes Arcade Fire and Louis C.K. "C'mon, let's take a picture/The kind you gotta shake," she sings on this slow-build remembrance of simpler times. She evokes snail mail and cassettes with the same heart-hitting wistfulness her country elders devoted to farming, and it kills. | More »

The Hold Steady

"I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"

7

On this Springsteen-y cut from his band's first LP in four years, Craig Finn revisits the Cityscape Skins, a gang of Minnesota dirtbags awaiting the apocalypse. Electric guitars brawl and soar, so you don't need a lyrics sheet to geek out. But it helps. | More »

Jennifer Lopez

"Girls"

5

The chorus of this semichill, ratchet club jam ("At the end of the night/Girls just wanna have fun") raises two important questions. One: Is J. Lo using the first half of the line the way others might use "at the end of the day," or is it literally only at evening's end that girls realize fun was the goal? Two: Has anyone in history sounded less like they are having fun than Lopez does here? | More »

Future

"Drunk in Love"

6

On his cover of Beyoncé's recent insta-classic, the Atlanta star trades in steamy vocals for lightning-fast raps. His Auto-Tuned flow blows Jay Z's god-awful verse on the original out of the water. And if Future's pained wails can't come close to Queen Bey, he gets points for originality. | More »

Curren$y and Action Bronson

"Godfather Four"

6

Diabolically stoned NOLA rapper Curren$y and Ghostface Killah-steeped nutjob Action Bronson toast their own hustle over this dreamily plush track. Bronson raps, "Billy Crystal kissed my cheek before the Oscars/He said, 'It was my pleasure,' I said, 'Don't touch my leather.'" Now that's living. | More »

Metronomy

"Love Letters"

7

Hearing this indie-pop mash note to classic AM gold, it's tough to remember that these Brits started out as electronica wiseacres. Over earnest organ pump and trumpet, singer Joe Mount blends Abba voices and Dexy's hooks till the Seventies bleed into the Eighties. "Yeah, I'll keep on writing," he shouts, bouncing like Macca at a Wings show. | More »

January 10, 2014

St. Vincent

"Digital Witness"

7

On the second single from her upcoming album, rising cult star (and David Byrne protégée) Annie Clark gets as close to full-on pop as she ever has. Bouncy robo-horns and shaky-on-purpose vocals slide into a retro-futurist chorus that hits like classic Madonna. It's the sound of an art-pop weirdo throwing a curveball by playing it delightfully straight. | More »

Vampire Weekend feat. Danny Brown, Despot and Heems

"Step (Remix)"

8

A rewind of the harpsichord-centric Modern Vampires of the City highlight ditches Ezra Koenig's verses to let three MCs riff. In the song's spirit, Heems flashes back to Wesleyan days, Despot quotes Robert Frost, and Danny Brown hazily imagines a bridal bouquet. For a jam inspired by both Bread and Souls of Mischief, it's perfect. | More »

Run the Jewels feat. DJ Qbert

"Pew Pew Pew”

7

Conjuring both Run-DMC and Company Flow, this turned up as a bonus cut on the U.K. version of El-P and Killer Mike's double-team debut from 2013, with a menacing El-P beat and battle-grade scratching from DJ Qbert. "Tag team of the goddamn century," spits El on verse five, by which point it's tough to refute him. | More »

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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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