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song reviews

"...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 »

Taylor Swift

Today Was A Fairytale

7

Fairy tales, princes, damsels in distress — yep, it's a Taylor Swift song. Her costume-drama vision of romance may get old someday. But for now, her tunes are so shapely that you hardly notice. Her latest, from the Valentine's Day soundtrack, is more or less a song-length hook bolstered by muscular guitars and a big, arcing chorus. And Swift remains a great lyricist, filling the story with touching details, like when she sings, "You told me I was pretty when I looked like a me... | More »

February 4, 2010

Jimi Hendrix

"Valleys of Neptune"

8

"Lord, I feel the ocean swaying me/ Washing away all my pain," Jimi Hendrix sings at the start of this magnificent discovery. The title track of a new album of previously unreleased Hendrix studio recordings, "Valleys of Neptune" was important to the guitarist, a heavy-rock hymn to rebirth that he worked on at multiple sessions starting in February 1969, yet never finished, at least to his satisfaction, before his death. But this version is perfection, cut on May 15th, 1970, with drummer Mitc... | More »

January 21, 2010

Beck feat. Feist

"Weighted Down"

6

Beck's ever-changing covers band continues on its Skip Spence project with this slow-as-molasses song from the Moby Grape frontman's 1969 solo album, Oar. Beck adds light funk and makes the chorus a group singalong, but between the depressed lyrics and Feist's smoky murmur, Spence's pain shines through. | More »

December 10, 2009

Beck

"Little Hands"

7

Ten years ago, Beck paid his first respects to Oar – the 1969 solo album by Moby Grape singer-guitarist Alexander "Skip" Spence – by covering "Halo of Gold" on the tribute compilation, More Oar. This version of "Little Hands," Oar's opening happiness prayer, is the first installment of Beck's remake of the entire LP, with guests Wilco and Feist, for his online Record Club. Beck's vocal is an eerie double of Spence's jaunty-ghost delivery, and the arrangement st... | More »

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Song Stories

“Vans”

The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

More Song Stories entries »
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