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song reviews

Evanescence

"What You Want"

6

On the lead single from Evanescence's third album (and first in five years), Amy Lee trades anguish for defiance, goosing her wail with welcome sass. Still, she's nearly overrun by the music, a collision of two-ton guitars, strings and piano. Listen to "What You Want": Related• Evanescence's Amy Lee Thrilled to Return After Five-Year Break• Photos: The Week's Hottest Live Shots | More »

August 8, 2011

Drake

"Headlines"

6

The voices in and outside of Drake's head tussle on his first official Take Care single. "I had someone tell me I fell off; ooh, I needed that," he reflects, snares clacking away at some of his deftest rhymes since the spotlight-thrusting So Far Gone mixtape. The spare beat never takes off, and the hook is a slight thing, almost an afterthought – or maybe the clearest sign that even with booze, cynics and fame buzzing about, hip-hop's great hope isn’t overeager to please... | More »

August 4, 2011

Mumford & Sons

"Untitled"

7

This still-nameless ballad (fans are calling it "Home") sounds like Arcade Fire reborn as a string band. Cut live in a radio station, it's a slow-builder that threatens to explode but never does. it may be a taste of Mums' upcoming LP; either way, its sad hunger feels universal. | More »

August 3, 2011

SuperHeavy

"Miracle Worker"

7

People don’t often use the term "world music" anymore, but the first offering from Superheavy — Mick Jagger's collaboration with Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Damian Marley and Indian theatrical composer A.R. Rahman — is some pretty worldly stuff. Jagger really goes for it, tasting every word he rolls out over the soul-splashed roots-reggae groove, which is cut with a gorgeous fiddle melody strung between Nashville and Istanbul. It's a summertime single built for every... | More »

Jane's Addiction

"Irresistible Force"

6

This single — from The Great Escape Artist, Jane's Addiction's first album in eight years, due September 27th — comes on like an art-metal freak show set on some distant planet. It opens with Perry Farrell sounding like Carl Sagan in an episode of Cosmos, musing ominously about the stars and some sort of big bang. The verses are built around droning funk, as the band backs Farrell's ponderings with a rubbery bass line and some clattering percussion. But then Farr... | More »

August 2, 2011

Bon Iver

"Come Talk To Me"

7

This B side revives a 1992 Peter Gabriel original with acoustic banjo plucks and Justin Vernon's layered cries. When Vernon sings, "The heart, it will not be denied/Till we're both on the same damn side," and summons the yearning chorus, it's damn near unearthly. Listen to "Come Talk To Me": Related• Bon Iver Kick Off Tour With Magnificent Milwaukee Show• Review: Bon Iver, Bon Iver• Why Bon Iver Had to Relearn Everything He Knows | More »

July 29, 2011

DJ Shadow feat. Afrikan Boy

"I'm Excited"

4

Shadow's music used to be touched by the uncanny; this may be the clunkiest thing he's done. Stray, seemingly found noises give the groove ridges, but it's so busy it never finds its footing. Listen to "I'm Excited": Related• Photos: The Week's Hottest Live Shots | More »

July 27, 2011

Common feat. Nas

"Ghetto Dreams"

7

Rap-ignorant pundits should defame Common more often, if it'll result in songs like this. The Chicago native's latest knocks harder than anything on his last album, thanks to leering No I.D. production that samples pre-funk George Clinton (the Parliaments' "Let's Make It Last"). The song's around-the-way woman-worship ("Baby in one arm; the other is a skillet") echoes that of "Fried Chicken" by Nas, who raps somewhat reluctantly about "dimes" while touting his n... | More »

July 26, 2011

Girls

"Vomit"

8

Don’t let the title turn you off: The first taste of the San Francisco band’s second LP (out September 13th) is a lovesick mini-epic that has nothing to do with retching. Frontman Christopher Owens moans softly to someone who’s forsaken him, sounding as lonesome as anyone since Neil Young made On the Beach. But then waves of fuzzed-out guitar and soothing harmonies lift him up to a state of gospel-tinged ecstasy. Listen to "Vomit": Related• Random Notes, Rock's H... | More »

July 25, 2011

Britney Spears feat. R. Kelly

"Till the World Ends [Remix]"

7

Kelly slithers in with no shame: Does he actually sing, "It's a party right here hosted by Mr. Sex Addiction"?! Not as fab as the Ke$ha/Nicki Minaj remix (best use of chicken clucks this year!), but not as scene-stealing, either. He's a gentleman. Listen to "Till The World Ends [Remix]": Related• Britney Spears: A Life in Photos | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
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