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song reviews

Travie McCoy

"Dr. Feel Good"

7

A sticky-sweet summer confection if ever there was one, this highlight from Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy finds him teaming up with Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo Green and dishing out whipcrack, mile-a-minute raps between Lo's high-gliding, R&B vocal hook. "Dr. Feelgood" is a brisk, funky number, punctuated by tight guitar stabs and bright blasts of organ. Considering McCoy's addiction to painkillers, which he's since kicked, it's a bit odd to hear him rapping,... | More »

July 7, 2010

School of Seven Bells

"I L U"

6

The "L" stands for loved and this dollop of dream-pop from New York trio School of Seven Bells perfectly captures all the sadness and heartache that past-tense verb implies. Over a rippling layer of keyboards and a gentle, surging backbeat, singers Alejandra and Claudia Deheza apply their angelic voices to lyrics about lost love and blown opportunities. It's a rich, moody weeper — the ethereality of the Cocteau Twins fused with the steady, electronic pulse of M83. | More »

Wavves

"King of the Beach"

7

Wavves frontman Nathan Williams has only been making lo-fi bedroom punk for two years, but he's already generated a career's worth of hype and backlash, especially after his erratic meltdown on stage at the 2009 Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. Fortunately, the clanging title track proves he's pulled his act together: "King of the Beach" features a big, bratty melody, booming drums and a catchy, lo-fi guitar hook that scrapes like sandpaper. Williams has also retained a t... | More »

July 2, 2010

The Hives

"Civilization's Dying"

6

The monochromatically dressed Swedes return with this cover of a 1981 tune by the Indianapolis punk band Zero Boys. The Hives' version is more polished than the original, but it's still as blazing as a rant about the world going to hell in a handbasket ought to be. Howlin' Pelle Almqvist lives up to his nickname as he spits lyrics like "Civilization's crying/And I won't try to deny it/We got a problem, son/Something's gotta be done." Sounds like he's as angr... | More »

June 29, 2010

Maroon 5

"Misery"

7

Some people might have a hard time picking out "Misery" from a police line-up of Maroon 5 songs. Thankfully, Adam Levine helps us out by getting his ass kicked by a beautiful lady in the video. The song itself is classic M5: blindingly bright Jacksonian disco-pop masking brokenhearted lyrics that once again bridges the dance floor and the light rock station to turn your next elevator ride into a toe-tapping good time. | More »

Vampire Weekend

"Jonathan Low"

7

Finally, the marketing strategy behind Vampire Weekend's name becomes clear: A remarkably anthemic song for the soundtrack to Eclipse, this week's edition of the teen-baiting Twilight vampire saga. With 12-string acoustic guitar, swelling strings, and lyrics that seem to have something to do with "blood," indie rock's poppiest preppies sound startlingly like a junior varsity U2 — which is pretty damn impressive, actually. | More »

Jamey Johnson

"Macon"

7

Coinciding with a fierce set at this year's Bonnaroo, Jamey Johnson offers another peek into his sprawling, two-CD The Guitar Song, due in September. "Macon" gives voice to a wired, pedal-to-the-metal trucker achin' for his woman, joining a venerable country tradition (see "Six Days on the Road," "Willin'," etc.) over roadhouse piano, gospel backing singers and some hot-shit soloing. It feels like a Southern-rock classic straight out of the gate. | More »

The Shins

"Goodbye Girl"

8

The latest in a sweet freebie MP3 series via Levi's jeans (hail the new music industry!) gets James Mercer back with his pre-Broken Bells group for a perfect Squeeze cover, guitar jangle replacing new-wave keybs while the titular girl moves off to Seattle rather than Jersey. Mercer wishes he wrote it; here, it sounds like he did. | More »

Rich Boy feat. Polow Da Don

"She Luvs Me (She Luvs Mi Knot)"

5

Rich Boy struck gold with producer Polow Da Don on 2006's "Throw Some D's." The pair hasn't been able to repeat the feat on any of their three subsequent singles together, including 2007's cheery love jam "Good Things" and 2009's art-damaged Weezy-rip "Drop." "She Luvs Me (She Luvs Mi Knot)" switches his style up yet again for Polow's excellent approximation of a dancehall-infused Timbaland beat — and Rich Boy's unfortunate approximation of Timbaland'... | More »

Japandroids

"Younger Us"

7

Listening to a couple of young dudes wax nostalgic way too soon about their even-younger selves is usually obnoxious but this ferocious, garage rock duo out of Vancouver has so much fun reminiscing between fist-pumping drums and dirty guitar that they'll make you fondly remember all the way back to a couple of months ago too. | More »

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
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