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song reviews

Kanye West

"Devil in a New Dress"

7

First he apologized to Taylor Swift. Now the contrite-Kanye trend continues on this bit of gorgeously swirling soul. Kanye confesses to being an asshole, then calls himself "the LeBron of rhyme." A year ago that would've been a boast, now it's an ironic wake-up call. Photos: Kanye West's Meltdowns | More »

September 7, 2010

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 »

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »
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