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song reviews

The Hold Steady

"I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"

7

On this Springsteen-y cut from his band's first LP in four years, Craig Finn revisits the Cityscape Skins, a gang of Minnesota dirtbags awaiting the apocalypse. Electric guitars brawl and soar, so you don't need a lyrics sheet to geek out. But it helps. | More »

Jennifer Lopez

"Girls"

5

The chorus of this semichill, ratchet club jam ("At the end of the night/Girls just wanna have fun") raises two important questions. One: Is J. Lo using the first half of the line the way others might use "at the end of the day," or is it literally only at evening's end that girls realize fun was the goal? Two: Has anyone in history sounded less like they are having fun than Lopez does here? | More »

Future

"Drunk in Love"

6

On his cover of Beyoncé's recent insta-classic, the Atlanta star trades in steamy vocals for lightning-fast raps. His Auto-Tuned flow blows Jay Z's god-awful verse on the original out of the water. And if Future's pained wails can't come close to Queen Bey, he gets points for originality. | More »

Curren$y and Action Bronson

"Godfather Four"

6

Diabolically stoned NOLA rapper Curren$y and Ghostface Killah-steeped nutjob Action Bronson toast their own hustle over this dreamily plush track. Bronson raps, "Billy Crystal kissed my cheek before the Oscars/He said, 'It was my pleasure,' I said, 'Don't touch my leather.'" Now that's living. | More »

Metronomy

"Love Letters"

7

Hearing this indie-pop mash note to classic AM gold, it's tough to remember that these Brits started out as electronica wiseacres. Over earnest organ pump and trumpet, singer Joe Mount blends Abba voices and Dexy's hooks till the Seventies bleed into the Eighties. "Yeah, I'll keep on writing," he shouts, bouncing like Macca at a Wings show. | More »

January 10, 2014

St. Vincent

"Digital Witness"

7

On the second single from her upcoming album, rising cult star (and David Byrne protégée) Annie Clark gets as close to full-on pop as she ever has. Bouncy robo-horns and shaky-on-purpose vocals slide into a retro-futurist chorus that hits like classic Madonna. It's the sound of an art-pop weirdo throwing a curveball by playing it delightfully straight. | More »

Vampire Weekend feat. Danny Brown, Despot and Heems

"Step (Remix)"

8

A rewind of the harpsichord-centric Modern Vampires of the City highlight ditches Ezra Koenig's verses to let three MCs riff. In the song's spirit, Heems flashes back to Wesleyan days, Despot quotes Robert Frost, and Danny Brown hazily imagines a bridal bouquet. For a jam inspired by both Bread and Souls of Mischief, it's perfect. | More »

Run the Jewels feat. DJ Qbert

"Pew Pew Pew”

7

Conjuring both Run-DMC and Company Flow, this turned up as a bonus cut on the U.K. version of El-P and Killer Mike's double-team debut from 2013, with a menacing El-P beat and battle-grade scratching from DJ Qbert. "Tag team of the goddamn century," spits El on verse five, by which point it's tough to refute him. | More »

Sbtrkt feat. Jessie Ware, Sampha and Tic

"Runaway"

6

Mysterious U.K. dance producer Sbtrkt floats the voices of singers Ware and Sampha over a twitchy beat and warm, ghostly synths for a 75-second wisp of a snippet of a track. It's the spirit of Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?" haunting the club as a benevolent EDM apparition. | More »

Silversun Pickups

"Cannibal"

6

These alt-rockers have never been shy about admitting they watched a lot of 120 Minutes back in the day, and on this new track they continue to fine-tune their mix of fuzzy guitar chug and glassy beats. It sounds like the techno side project Billy Corgan never got around to foisting on us circa 1999. | More »

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
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