song reviews

Timbaland and Missy Elliott

"Take Ur Clothes Off"


Click to listen to Timbaland and Missy Elliott's "Take Ur Clothes Off" How have we made it through so many years without a new Missy and Timbaland song? The first giveaway in the Timbaland Thursdays series (the producer's version of G.O.O.D. Fridays) is also the pair's first track together since 2008's "Shake Your Pom Pom." "Take Ur Clothes Off" sounds like classic Missy-Timbo: All buzzy propulsion (powered by heavy low-end and burbling percussion), bawdy exhortations ("... | More »

Wanda Jackson

"Thunder on the Mountain"


Click to hear Wanda Jackson's "Thunder On The Mountain" Bob Dylan himself suggested that the rockabilly queen record this blues shuffle from Modern Times. Jackson — who tackled "Thunder on the Mountain" for her upcoming, Jack White-produced album — sends the song back to 1958, sounding like she isn't a day over 21. With rollicking piano and White's squealing guitars, it's a sock-hop jam that name-drops Jerry Lee instead of Alicia Keys. Gallery: Random Notes,... | More »

January 12, 2011

Lykke Li

"Get Some (Remix by Beck)"


Beck hacks the groovy tribal single (by on-the-rise Swedish singer Lykke Li) into a spazzy collage with a shuffling beat, chunky power chords and vocals that head toward Bollywood. Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

January 11, 2011

Kanye West and Jay-Z



Click to listen to Kanye West and Jay-Z's "H.A.M." The first release from Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne starts out big — twitchy synths giving way to spooky opera ululating — and then gets humungous, with a choir booming over what sounds like a dozen symphony orchestras. You expect God, or Gandalf, to come striding out of the mist. Instead, we get two stars out to prove they're "hard as a motherfucker": 'Ye tells life itself to suck his dick, while Jay s... | More »

January 10, 2011

Britney Spears

"Hold it Against Me"


Click to listen to Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me" "Hold it Against Me" is prime Britney, packed with aggressive electro jitters, a Euro-cheese riff that's strangely close to AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," and a weird breakdown where Brit moans, blows kisses, and snaps her gum. The first single from her upcoming seventh album, the song (co-produced by Max Martin and Dr. Luke) recalls the synth-gloom ambience of Britney's 2007 gem, Blackout, possibly the most ... | More »

Drive-By Truckers

"Used to Be a Cop"


Over seven minutes of tensely coiled Southern rock, Patterson Hood plays an ex-cop whose "temper and the shakes" cost him his badge, his family and his mind. Maybe he'll shoot up a Cracker Barrel. Either way, his too-human desolation is why Hood thinks he deserves a song this powerful. Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

January 7, 2011

Discodeine ft. Jarvis Cocker



Jarvis goes disco! On the latest in a stellar year's worth of singles from DFA Records (LCD Soundsystem main man James Murphy's label), Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker teams up with French house luminary Pilooski's part-time duo Discodeine for a groove as suave as the vintage Chic records that clearly inspired it. Jarvis's foggy croon sounds perfect over cross-cutting strings and explosive drum fills. Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

January 5, 2011

Tapes 'n Tapes

"Freak Out"


Like a blog-buzz phoenix, Minneapolis' Tapes 'n Tapes tries rising again to the hype-making garage rock that first earned them Internet love five years ago. This galloping mix of distorted guitars and wild yelps is their strongest effort since. Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos | More »

January 3, 2011

The Decemberists

"Row Jimmy"


The bookish Portlanders cut a loose cover of the Grateful Dead's two-step, with Colin Meloy doing a spirited Jerry. It's like closing time at the library's special-collections room. Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos   | More »

December 29, 2010

Avril Lavigne

"What the Hell"


Avril Lavigne is pop's presiding mean girl, sneering and snarling like a punk kewpie doll with Tourette's over some of the most sticky-sweet melodies ever to hit the Billboard charts. "What the Hell" is Avril in a nutshell: Co-written by Max Martin, it's an anthem about a good girl who goes on a crazy-bender, staying out late, swapping boys and exacting psychological revenge. She starts out defiant ("All I want is to mess around") and quickly turns vicious: "I am messing with y... | 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 »