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song reviews

Dom feat. Gucci Mane

"Living in America (Remix)"

7

On this unlikely collaboration, indie-pop band Dom slow their patriotic original while Atlanta MC Gucci Mane drawls hypnotically and turns "Brett Favre!" into a club chant. Only in America. Listen to "Living in America (Remix)": Gallery: Keep up with rock's hottest photos in Random Notes | More »

January 19, 2011

R.E.M.

"Oh My Heart"

8

Even more than the brightly rocking "Discoverer," the newest glimpse at the upcoming Collapse Into Now finds R.E.M. in classic mode, employing a soft melody and a magnolia mandolin that cuts against an accordion. The lyrics suggest that the character from the 2008 Katrina lament "Houston" is coming back to New Orleans to start again — fitting, since "Oh My Heart" is about R.E.M. building something new from what they already know. "It's sweet and it's sad and it's true," S... | More »

January 18, 2011

Stevie Nicks

"Secret Love"

7

La Gold Dust Woman's first new music in a decade is a glimpse of In Your Dreams, a collaboration with Eurythmics' synth-pop scientist Dave Stewart. (It's due in May.) "Come on, it's time to go upstairs" she begins over clipped Eighties drum thwaps and a witchy shroud of electronics, which give way to backward beats and a glassy guitar line. Her voice is strong and the come-on is inviting — at least until it evolves into something far more complicated. Romance is like... | More »

January 14, 2011

Timbaland and Missy Elliott

"Take Ur Clothes Off"

8

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"

7

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)"

7

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

"H.A.M."

6

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"

8

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"

8

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

"Synchronize"

8

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 »

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
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