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song reviews

Tom Waits

"Bad As Me"

8

What's that racket? A wounded beast bellowing over the primeval swamp? A circus band tumbling off a cliff? Oh, right – it's the new Tom Waits song. The kickoff to Waits' forthcoming 17th studio album is a gloriously ramshackle thing, with pop's greatest living vaudevillian pushing his drunkard's bleat over a honking baritone sax and a clattering oompah beat. The lyrics are total nonsense, and pure genius: "I'm the one with the gun/Most likely to run/I'... | More »

August 31, 2011

Kelly Clarkson

"Mr. Know It All"

6

For her latest earworm, Clarkson narrows her octave range – no American Idol glory notes here – and sasses a controlling man with double-entendres ("Baby, I ain't goin' down") that up her R&B appeal. The only problem? Bruno Mars wants his "Just the Way You Are" hook back. Listen to "Mr. Know It All": Related• Video: Kelly Clarkson Plays a Rocking Hits Medley on 'Ellen' | More »

James Blake and Bon Iver

"Fall Creek Boys Choir"

8

It's a match made in hipster heaven: The acclaimed electronica auteur teams up with the demigod of the beardy set. The result is gorgeous. On their first collaboration, James Blake and Bon Iver dip a stately gospel-soul ballad in Auto-Tune and that analog-tape-running-backward sucking sound. (And that barking noise is actually a Cuíca drum.) You can't make heads or tails of Justin Vernon's lyrics, which may be a good thing given his usual poetastery. But meaning doesn�... | More »

August 29, 2011

Florence and the Machine

"What the Water Gave Me

7

There are megawatts of raw power contained within Florence Welch's larynx, and she wrings out every last one on the first tune from her forthcoming second album. She takes her sweet time getting there, though. The track opens softly, with Welch cooing slightly spooky pastoral poetry ("Time, it took us to where the water was"). But soon enough, she's out-and-out howling about learning to let go after a failed relationship, ancient Greek giants and possibly drowning herself. Her veile... | More »

August 26, 2011

Yelawolf feat. Lil Jon

"Hard White (Up in the Club)"

7

The New Wave-haired Alabama rapper brings geeked-up fire to his first single on Eminem's label. Lil Jon "yeah"'s it up as Yela stalks the club, proudly spouting "hick" pride and making out like a thin white duke anyway. Listen to "Hard White (Up in the Club)": Related• Yelawolf is About to Get 'Radioactive'• Artist of the Week: Yelawolf | More »

August 24, 2011

Miranda Lambert

"Baggage Claim"

7

The country fire-starter who brought you "Gunpowder & Lead" gets back to what she does best: torching shit. Here, it's her needy man's baggage; putting it on the curb won't do. "Come and pick it up before I blow it up in flames," she belts. The emotional-baggage metaphor gets tortured, but the track is a funky country blues with a Zeppelin musk. Lambert simmers – a good-natured gal spitting hickory-smoked venom. Listen to "Baggage Claim": Related• Video: Miran... | More »

August 22, 2011

Das Racist

"Michael Jackson"

7

"I'm fucking great at rapping!" roars Himanshu Suri on the hip-hop provocateurs' new one. It's true – he and partner Victor Vazquez have only gotten cleverer since last year's name-making mixtapes. They go extra hard here, referencing Ritchie Valens and Oompa-Loompas over a tweaked-out beat. Listen to "Michael Jackson": Related• Video: Trickster Rappers Das Racist Joke Around Backstage at SXSW | More »

August 19, 2011

Coldplay

"Us Against The World"

7

These new songs – all debuted live in recent months but not yet released in studio versions – suggest Coldplay's forthcoming album may be more gritty, fun, strange and (yes) danceable than any so far: a Zooropa to the Unforgettable Fire of 2008's Viva la Vida. "Hurts Like Heaven" opened their Lollapalooza set with a word rush that occasionally recalled LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," plus some outstanding guitar asides. Broadcast on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, "Charlie ... | More »

Coldplay

"Charlie Brown"

5

These new songs – all debuted live in recent months but not yet released in studio versions – suggest Coldplay's forthcoming album may be more gritty, fun, strange and (yes) danceable than any so far: a Zooropa to the Unforgettable Fire of 2008's Viva la Vida. "Hurts Like Heaven" opened their Lollapalooza set with a word rush that occasionally recalled LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," plus some outstanding guitar asides. Broadcast on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, "Charlie ... | More »

Coldplay

"Princess of China"

6

These new songs – all debuted live in recent months but not yet released in studio versions – suggest Coldplay's forthcoming album may be more gritty, fun, strange and (yes) danceable than any so far: a Zooropa to the Unforgettable Fire of 2008's Viva la Vida. "Hurts Like Heaven" opened their Lollapalooza set with a word rush that occasionally recalled LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," plus some outstanding guitar asides. Broadcast on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, "Charlie ... | 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 »
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