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song reviews

Arctic Monkeys

"Brick By Brick"

5

The first taste of the Brit band's fourth LP, this oddly meat-and-potatoes rocker finds Alex Turner rhyming "rock & roll" with "steal your soul" over simple riffs. His Jim Morrison impression later in the song is only a minor improvement. Listen to "Brick By Brick": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

March 25, 2011

Sky Ferreira

"Sex Rules"

7

Teen dream Ferreira isn't bugged by being "not a girl, not yet a woman." Her latest synth-pop confection bounces like a Stacey Q jam — and big-ups both nooky and the Almighty: "I pity the fools who realize too late/Love, sex and God are great." Listen to "Sex Rules": Gallery: The Week's Hottest Live Shots | More »

March 24, 2011

Ponytail

"Easy Peasy"

8

What are these Baltimore art-school punk kids on? A creative roll, for one thing. "Easy Peasy" is nearly six minutes of mayhem, mixing up King Crimson-style riffs, African soukous beats and New Wave synths, while Molly Siegel steals the show with her David Byrne-meets-Bikini Kill howl. Listen to "Easy Peasy": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

March 23, 2011

Death Cab For Cutie

"Codes and Keys"

6

This new ballad (heard here in a live, solo-piano version) proudly bites Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Ben Gibbard follows minor falls and major lifts to the cold and broken refrain, "We are a-live" — sounding both fragile and optimistic. Listen to "Codes and Keys": Gallery: The Week's Hottest Live Shots | More »

March 22, 2011

Wild Flag

"Glass Tambourine"

8

You might expect the first studio leak from this group of well-established indie rockers to be one part aggro-daydream (Helium frontwoman Mary Timony) to two parts rocket thrust (Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss) with a taste of garage-pop sugar (the Minders' keyboardist Rebecca Cole). Actually, "Glass Tambourine" — half of a seven-inch vinyl single due out on Record Store Day, April 16th — sounds like some wicked 1960s acid-rock yard-sale discovery, wi... | More »

March 21, 2011

The Cars

"Sad Song"

8

It's as if they never left. "Sad Song" — the lead single from Move Like This, the Cars' first studio album in 24 years — opens with a rolling-machine groove that sparkles like 1978's "My Best Friend's Girl" with a fresh coat of chrome. But the Cars — especially singer-guitarist Ric Ocasek — were a deceptively dark ride, with a bleak undertow in Ocasek's songwriting and the band's sleek, noirish minimalism. "Too many clowns saying everythin... | More »

March 15, 2011

Christina Perri

"Arms"

6

Matching the young-adult tumult of Kelly Clarkson with the wind-swept angst of Florence and the Machine, Perri's 2010 smash hit "Jar of Hearts" was bad-boyfriend-crushing piano pop — the kind of thing that you crank as you decide which local cliff to jump off when your high school love dumps you for a Cheerio. Her newest blast of feelings-napalm is a ballad that starts out placid and folky, then picks up intensity and volume, as grand melodic swooshes (and timpani!) imply romantic ... | More »

March 11, 2011

Tyler, the Creator

"Yonkers"

6

Who says the kids are all right? Over a dark, chorus-free drone, the 19-year-old Angeleno (who heads up blog-beloved rap crew Odd Future) shouts out his therapist and dreams of stabbing "Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus." It's gleeful psychodrama that makes Kanye seem well-adjusted. Listen to "Yonkers": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

March 9, 2011

Katy Perry

"E.T. (feat. Kanye West)"

4

The best thing about this version of Perry's leaden electro-pop jam is Yeezy flinging a pitch-shifted 16 before the song really begins — though rhyming "astronaut" with "get ass a lot," he sounds like he's checking his diamond-profile wristwatch. Listen to "E.T. (feat. Kanye West)": Gallery: Katy Perry's Best Looks | More »

March 7, 2011

The Decemberists

"Cuyahoga"

8

The Decemberists-R.E.M. lovefest continues with one of the latter's great sleepers (from Life's Rich Pageant), covered live for Morning Becomes Eclectic. Pretty faithful — except for Jenny Conlee's accordion, which adds a gentle brauhaus bounce. How about a dual tour? Please? Listen to "Cuyahoga": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »
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