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song reviews

Kings Of Leon

"Radioactive"

7

Lesser men than the Kings of Leon might follow up an arena-rock blockbuster like 2008's Only by the Night with a scrappy bid for street cred — something akin to the horny garage rock of their early days, perhaps. But the Followill boys have as much reverence for street cred as they do for wheat beer and William Tecumseh Sherman. The first single from their forthcoming fifth album is a rough beast that loads up on atmospherics without scrimping on ass-shaking potential or big, soulf... | More »

August 23, 2010

Devendra Banhart feat. Beck

"Life During Wartime"

8

The unearthly theme song for Todd Solondz's latest film of the same name was crafted for its meek social worker protagonist to perform in the middle of the movie. But a better version plays as the credits roll: Banhart sings lead, his L.A. buddy Beck provides harmony, and their arrangement of layered acoustic guitars and shape-shifting electronics are a perfect contrast to Solondz's wry, cranky lyrics: "Why did I roam around on my own," the pair croak. "I should've stayed at ho... | More »

August 20, 2010

Teddybears feat. the Flaming Lips

"Crystal Meth Christian"

7

Swedish beatmasters (and Robyn producers) cook up warm, gurgling funk while the Lips' Wayne Coyne gets nasty, telling the titular Christian, "You take a diamond and make it sand." | More »

August 19, 2010

Antony and the Johnsons

"Imagine"

7

"Imagine there's no heaven/It was easy when I tried," sings Antony in his startling warble, reshaping John Lennon's melody amid spare guitars. Then he sends that falsetto "you" into the sky like a white dove. An unlikely, gorgeous reinvention. | More »

August 18, 2010

Ice Cube

"Drink the Kool-Aid"

6

In the video, Cube wears a T-shirt with a gangsta-fied Kool-Aid smiley face — a great metaphor for his journey from N.W.A to TBS. The gutbucket beat is crackin', but Cube wastes time dissing "young bucks" who might step up to him on the mic. That's beneath his stature. | More »

August 17, 2010

Jerry Lee Lewis

"Mean Old Man"

8

Kris Kristofferson sang the original version of this country stomper, but its hard-edged crankiness is pure Jerry Lee. "If I look like a voodoo doll . . . who'd rather bite you back than crawl, that's what I am," Lewis snarls on the single, the first from his upcoming album, Mean Old Man. Amid an intense beat and slide guitar from the Stones' Ronnie Wood, the 74-year-old's voice is in prime form — pitch-perfect and tough as nails. Never has "Get off my lawn!" sounded thi... | More »

August 16, 2010

Kanye West feat. Beyonce and Charlie Wilson

"See Me Now"

7

"I'm Socrates, but my skin more chocolaty," shouts Kanye, who goes on to detail several feats of attention-whore behavior — cruising in Ferraris, rocking fur coats, walking into high-end restaurants with no shoes on. But the sound is remarkably warm, a gospel-style mix of heartfelt crooning (from Beyoncé and ex-Gap Band singer Charlie Wilson) and plush accompaniment that's perfect for worshipping at the altar of Yeezy. | More »

August 12, 2010

Weezer

"Memories"

6

It's odd how Rivers Cuomo and Eminem always seem to drop new records at the same time. They both represent a lost golden era to their fanboy cult, and they get knee-jerk hostility from the same Stans who wildly overrated them 10 years ago. But the rest of the world still likes them as much as ever. "Memories," the first single from the forthcoming Hurley, is a clever goof that skewers the Weezer cult by making fun of Nineties nostalgia. Over a chugging groove built on synths and power ch... | More »

Soundgarden

"Black Rain"

8

Cut in 1991 but never released (it'll be on Soundgarden's forthcoming best-of), this grunge nugget finds Chris Cornell rocking like Sammy Hagar on a three-state killing spree. Obscure demo? No way — this burns as much flannel as anything in their canon. | More »

August 11, 2010

Taylor Swift

"Mine"

8

Yes, we know: It's tough watching the kids grow up. And here's Taylor Swift, once the voice of heartbroken fifteen year olds everywhere now singing about living in sin with a college dude, imagining "a drawer of my things" at his crib while her dude assures her "we'll never make my parents' mistakes." (Uh-huh.) Sure, it's formula: spare, acoustic guitar-driven opening; big fat chorus; lyrical perspective-shift, from hers to his, for the feel-good final verse. But it&#... | More »

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
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