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song reviews

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 »

Drake

"Trophies"

6

Drake winds up his massive year by giving himself the only award that matters: the gift of reminding himself that he's Drake. Over a Hit-Boy beat that sounds like the Rocky theme dipped in champagne, he informs us that "this shit is not a love song, this a fuck-a-stripper-on-a-mink-rug song." Hey, you can't do that with a Grammy. | More »

December 2, 2013

Bruce Springsteen

"High Hopes"

8

The theme of this spirited cover (from Springsteen's new LP, due January 14th) is bedrock Bruce – the struggle for love and prosperity in a nation where, as original songwriter Tim Scott McConnell put it, "you pay for everything." The revelatory beat merges Caribbean percussion, New Orleans swing and Bo Diddley stomp, topped with scorched-earth wah-wah guitar from Tom Morello. It's music that pushes past desperation into the rotten heart of Saturday night. | More »

U2

"Ordinary Love"

8

U2's return starts like funky church–synth-choir hosanna and the gentle hammering of electric piano – and rolls with steady, compelling restraint. Bono fires a few bolts of falsetto in the chorus, and the Edge's terse guitar break suggests the ring of a wounded church bell. But "Ordinary Love" is about the seeds of dreams, and U2 play it perfectly: down-to-earth, while looking up. | More »

Evian Christ

"Salt Carousel"

7

The young U.K. dark-groove producer who lent next-level flavor to Yeezus drops an awesome slice of bass grind. Proof that yesterday's avant-EDM producer can be today's mainstream hip-hop beat hero. | More »

Joanna Gruesome

"Tugboat"

7

The Welsh crew delivers a spot-on cover of Galaxie 500's signature tune. When Alanna McArdle lets out a bloodcurdling scream, she drags nostalgia into now and lays it at your feet, bloodied, beautiful, new again. | More »

Santana feat. Juanes

"La Flaca"

6

The 66-year-old ace teams up with Colombian star Juanes for a song that starts as sumptuous salsa blues before resolving into smoothly elevating crossover rock – with a hot solo, of course. | 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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