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song reviews

T.I. feat. Keri Hilson

"Got Your Back"

5

If T.I. left prison and went straight to the 'musement park, got on a rollercoaster with Keri Hilson, and afterwards they ran into DJ Toomp at the caramel apple stand, and all went into the karaoke tent to commandeer the machine and record the spontaneous feeling of that moment, it'd sound like "Got Your Back." T.I. tells "shoady" how to act while her man's locked up, while Keri equates looking "good" with looking "hood" as she pledges her allegiance. Toomp's digitally-lit... | More »

July 26, 2010

Crocodilies

"Sleep Forever"

7

On the new single from these California fuzz-rockers, Crocodiles deliver another serving of bleary-eyed shoegaze, mixing ghostly harmonies that sound like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers singing from the bottom of a well with the pitch-black scuzz of The Jesus and Mary Chain. "I will love you till the sky above you shatters," croons Charles Rowell on the high-arcing chorus — just before a blast of distortion-drenched guitar that sounds like exactly that. | More »

The Ghost of a Saber-Tooth Tiger

"Jardin Du Luxembourg"

6

"People say your brain is like cream cheese/Takes the shape of anything you please," sing Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl on the debut single from their new band. It's a fitting line for a chirpy psych-rocker — one with a whiff of Papa Lennon's surrealist whimsy. | More »

July 23, 2010

Cee-Lo Green

"No One's Gonna Love You"

8

The Gnarls Barkley belter remains a master of the unexpected on this knockout reinvention of the Band of Horses ballad. Green meets the lyrics' heartbroken drama head-on, transforming country rock into electro R&B and revealing a buried soul classic. | More »

July 22, 2010

Liz Phair

"Bollywood"

2

Is Liz Phair serious? As tabla-laden electro tinkles behind her, Phair tells a tale of music-biz misadventure, "rapping" in a voice that sounds like a soccer mom impersonating Ke$ha. The results are an insult to rappers everywhere, even the terrible ones. | More »

July 21, 2010

Mavis Staples

"You Are Not Alone"

8

Jeff Tweedy produces an album by a gospel-soul legend at Wilco's Chicago headquarters and writes her a couple of songs to boot. An odd pairing? Perhaps. But this first taste, a simple soul-folk tune à la Bill Withers' "Lean on Me," driven by acoustic guitar, celesta and piano, is the sweetest Tweedy song in a while. And Staples — a civil-rights-era front-liner who dated Dylan — sounds, at 71, as inspiring as ever. "Isolated and afraid/Open up, this is a raid," she sings. ... | More »

Brandon Flowers

"Crossfire"

5

In the genius video for the first single from Flowers' solo debut, Charlize Theron rescues him from evil ninjas, showing off her throwingstar chops and flashing him a brilliant, you-are-so-high-maintenance glare before she cuts him free. Sadly, it's wasted on a song that sounds like a Killers B side — standard-issue Boss-meets-Bono dance rock, with Flowers serving up so much meteorological-metaphor fury, you'll want to call FEMA: "Dark clouds roll their way over town/Heartach... | More »

July 20, 2010

Interpol

"Barricade"

7

Funky in a pale, heart-wrenching sort of way, this new single mixes a propulsive backbeat with Paul Banks' drama-packed moans about the fate of "thieves and snakes." | More »

Gucci Mane feat. Trina

"Vampire"

6

The persistent current popularity of blood-sucking bucks (and the chicks who love them) heads to the 'hood. Bypassing Team Edward and Team Jacob completely, teeth-barred Trina is "not remorsey" as she hops on Team Gucci: "Throw me in a movie/when you see me you salute true blood/ ooh-wee!" In turn, Gucci raps over tolling bells and casket-rattling bass in an appropriately undead rasp: "I believe in vampires/ lil' shorty stay up all night/ trying to build an empire." On that note, ex... | More »

July 19, 2010

Prince

"Bonus Track #77"

6

Having declared the Internet "over," Prince is releasing his new disc by giving it away in copies of European newspapers and magazines, such as Rolling Stone's German edition and Belgium's enticingly named Het Nieuws­blad. Sadly, 20Ten is all blad and no nieuws, wanly recapitulating Purple Rain's funk-rock sound while replacing its great theme (fucking) with windy lyrics about universal wisdom. Fitting the offbeat marketing plan, the best song is a hidden track, "Laydown," ... | 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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