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song reviews

Foo Fighters

"Rope"

7

Click to listen to the Foo Fighters' "Rope" The Foos went for a stripped down, return-to-basics approach on their forthcoming seventh album, Wasting Light (recorded with Butch Vig in Dave Grohl's garage). The first single rides lower to the ground that the usual Foos anthem, especially during the gnarled-guitar fire-fight at the end, without undercutting the modern-rock heroism that's become one of the few reliable guitar-based brands on contemporary radio. Grohl's the la... | More »

February 22, 2011

Das Racist

"Swate"

6

Six heavy-lidded minutes of Bollywood-steeped wisecracking from Brooklyn's reigning rap ironists. They reference Marxist theorist Slavoj Žižek as casually as most rappers reference cheeba. They also reference cheeba. Listen to "Swate":   The 50 Best Songs of 2010: Das Racist, "hahahaha jk?" | More »

Erykah Badu

"Gone Baby, Don't Be Long"

7

Director Flying Lotus creates an alien landscape where Badu fits in just fine. Watching the soul queen's visage glide around a trippy animated spaceship is nearly as hypnotic as listening to the breezily funked-out music. Listen to "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

February 18, 2011

Paul Simon

"The Afterlife"

8

The narrative wit is sharp on the second track from Paul Simon's forthcoming So Beautiful or So What (due in April): Some dude gets to heaven, fills out forms, waits in line, and tries, unsuccessfully, to mack on some girl. And when it comes time to explain his mortal life to the Almighty, he can only splutter rock & roll gibberish. "Lord, is it 'be bop a lula'?" the unnamed sap implores. "Or 'ooo papa doo'?" Packed with internal rhymes, Simon's verses flow l... | More »

February 17, 2011

Ashlyne Huff

"White Flag"

6

Click to Listen to Ashlyne Huff's "White Flag" A young-love melodrama in three-and-a-half minutes, courtesy of Nashville-bred pop singer Ashlyne Huff: Boy meets girl; Girl isn't into boy; Boy stalks girl; Girl "throws her white flag in the air" and decides boy isn't so bad after all. The pounding synths sound suspiciously like "California Gurls," but with Huff tossing out hooks in her Miley-esque Tennessee drawl, it's no biggie. Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest... | More »

February 11, 2011

Lady Gaga

"Born This Way"

8

Click to listen to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" "Don't be a drag/Just be a queen," Lady Gaga chants in this instant-classic club anthem, over the Eurodisco beats of producers Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow. She shouts to the gays, lesbians, bis, disabled, and monsters of all races, with the hilariously dippy line: "You're black, white, beige, chola descent/You're Lebanese, you're Orient!" Gallery: Lady Gaga's Best Looks Despite the obvious tip of the cap ... | More »

February 9, 2011

Fleet Foxes

"Helplessness Blues"

8

The first fruit (and title track) from Helplessness Blues, the Seattle folk-rockers' upcoming second album, this begins with frontman Robin Pecknold sounding like a troubled Joni Mitchell and ends with him sounding like a utopian Graham Nash. Pecknold wrestles with life's meaning over vigorous acoustic strumming before excusing himself: "I'll get back to you someday soon," he keens, "you will see." Near the three-minute mark, those trademark harmonies explode amid electric guit... | More »

MNDR

"Cut Me Out"

8

New York electro-pop duo Amanda Warner and Peter Wade mix warm synth beats with a soaring chorus that sounds like what birds must be thinking. The fantastically bespectacled Warner manages the impossible: Gearheads and hipsters swoon. Listen to "Cut Me Out": Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

February 7, 2011

Panda Bear

"Atiba Song"

7

This droning cut by the Animal Collective singer sets multitracked voices over silvery guitar and galloping drums. The result? Hypnotic mood music that feels like it could go on forever. Listen to "Atiba Song":  Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

February 3, 2011

Nicki Minaj feat. Lil Wayne

"Roman's Revenge"

7

Weezy leaps on the craziest track from his protégé's Pink Friday LP, an alter-ego spaz-out set over little more than bowed bass and skeletal percussion. Supplanting Eminem's bilious verses on the original version, Wayne sounds breathless, cackling, drunk on his new freedom. He boasts cleverly ("Life is a puzzle/Jigsaw/All I do is win/My name should be Victor") and rhymes the chorus, "Rahr! Rahr!/Like a dungeon dragon!" with — what else? — "Foie gras!/I hear... | More »

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »
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