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song reviews

Rusko feat. Amber Coffman

"Hold On"

7

Christopher Mercer is a Leeds producer convinced dubstep can be ecstatic as well as stoned-somber. "Woo Boost" was one hot example. This joint with Dirty Projectors main diva Amber Coffman — a pro-forma r&b come-on set to an awesome, gut-rumbling bass pulse — is another. And here's betting his work on M.I.A.'s new set will keep the beat engorged. | More »

Miley Cyrus

"Can't Be Tamed"

6

Miley Cyrus: America's teen sweetheart, or God's gift to vice-squad sting operations? The Hannah Montana gal goes for a grown-up club sound, with Rihanna-style robot-disco thump and boy-crazy AutoTune vocals about how hot she is. She boasts, "I always get a 10, 'cause I'm built like that." If she gets a 10, what does he get — 15 to 20? It's no "Party in the USA" or "See You Again," but the chorus packs plenty of electro-fizz pizzazz. | More »

April 17, 2010

The Rolling Stones

"Plundered My Soul"

8

The whole idea of an unreleased tune from the Exile on Main Street sessions is like hearing somebody dug up video footage of Jesus skateboarding. The Stones have always been circumspect to a fault when it comes to digging around in their vaults — even their Rarities 1971-2003 compilation offered barely a scrap that fans didn't already own. But "Plundered My Soul" is an intact song, a relatively together Exile outtake that chugs along in the torn-and-frayed R&B mode of "Tumbling Dic... | More »

April 8, 2010

The Black Keys

"Tighten Up"

8

The Black Keys re-teamed with Danger Mouse to cut the first single off their new record — and they've never sounded tighter or funkier. Drummer Patrick Carney pounds the skins like a drugged-up Keith Moon, and Dan Auerbach cranks out a spiky riff that's laced with Hendrix-style guitar effects. 'Tighten Up' is definitely psychedelic, but these guys still have a thing for the blues: Auerbach yelps, 'Sick for days . . . I'm aching now,' with the raw inten... | More »

April 5, 2010

"...And the World Laughs With You"

7

A couple of years back, L.A. hip-hop surrealist Flying Lotus remixed Radiohead's "Reckoner" into an alluring funereal ooze. On the marquee track from his forthcoming Cosmo­gramma, he has Thom Yorke's distracted falsetto sounding even more resplendently ghostly. Gnashing dub-step grind gives way to a soft, pensive throb as Yorke pines, "I need to know you're out there," like he's languidly floating SOS signals from an emotional ice station | More »

April 1, 2010

LCD Soundsystem

"Drunk Girls"

8

LCD Soundsystem's cranky mastermind, James Murphy, is known for skewering his own hipster demographic — see 2002's music-snob-lampooning single, "Losing My Edge." But the dance-rock hero has never done it with the fierceness and catchiness he brings to "Drunk Girls," the first single from LCD's new album. It's Murphy's tightest, most accessible track yet — a four-minute disco party that brings together chugging guitar riffs, hand claps and shrieks, plus a rocket-p... | More »

Courtney Love

"Skinny Little Bitch"

6

The Nineties are so hot right now, it's no surprise that Courtney Love is staggering back to the spotlight with a 'Get off my lawn' rant aimed at younger rock chicks. 'Skinny Little Bitch' is so 1996 it hurts — Courtney tries to replicate Garbage circa 'Stupid Girl,' with the rhythm section lurching like Nirvana's 'Dive' and a melody nicked from Sonny and Cher's 'The Beat Goes On.' Her voice is wobbly, but she holds it togethe... | More »

March 29, 2010

Ludacris

"Sexting"

5

On this Tiger Woods-skewering track, Ludacris plays a helpless, frantic sex addict, rhyming about "sitting in this rehab class / trying to get myself unhooked on ass" over simple, percolating drums. It's the rap equivalent of a late-night monologue joke: good for a laugh, but nothing you‚ll keep coming back to. | More »

March 18, 2010

Timbaland feat. Justin Timberlake

"Carry Out"

4

"Carry Out" was forgivable as filler on Timbaland's Shock Value II, but as a single, it's an unwelcome sign of how Timbo and Justin Timberlake aren't the future-pop duo they once were. The quasi-Eastern trills sound familiar, and the weak sex-as-fast-food metaphors don't get any traction: Timbaland wants you "open all night like you're IHOP," and Justin wonders, "Is it full of myself to want you full o' me?" This spot needs new management. | More »

February 18, 2010

Radiohead

"Lotus Flower"

7

Thom Yorke has unfurled this haunted Buddhist-tinged ballad at solo gigs lately, but the version from Radiohead's Haiti benefit show at the Fonda in Los Angeles on January 24th may be the best yet. It's simply a Gibson hollow-body guitar, Yorke's quivering falsetto and an oblique theme of addiction to something (drugs? sex?) he doesn't sound like he wants to give up. "While the cat is away/Do what we want," he suggests to a co-conspirator. "Dance around a pit/The darkness ... | 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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