By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
SAMARA LUBELSKI "Snowy Meadows II"
It's a mystery to me how this winsome, enchanting folk ditty comes off so light and airy despite everything going on in the pretty-as-a-postcard mix: I've caught snatches of lyre, xylophone, a sitar, perhaps a Fender Rhodes. Maybe Lubelski's wispy vocals just make for an ideal breadcrumb trail to follow?
New Order members paste bionic keybs and deadened drums over Trent Reznor's original. Why? The song was dance-y and vaguely DFA enough to begin with; this iteration just adds needless clutter and doesn't go anywhere worth thinking about.
PROJECT PAT "Hate My Swag"
Standard-issue banger about how an at-times versatile Southern rapper (Memphis, represent!) is loathed by those who envy his wealth, possessions, status, etc. But then at the end, producers Three Six Mafia start chopping the repeated refrain of "Hate my swag" so that it seems to become "Ate my swag," which presents some odd mental images and forces us to re-examine the definitions of "swag." Are we really to believe that haters have actually eaten Pat's iced-out chains and cars and such, which are physical—or that haters have somehow consumed that intangible quality rappers must have or pretend to have, his very swagger?
THE RAVEONETTES "The Beat Dies"
Sad-time fuzzy-fizzy pop, sleepily strung-sung and pleasantly candied. Ever notice how the cultural hype machine latches onto bands as Next Big Things for a couple of months before losing interest altogether? Some acts deserve that fickle fate, but this exciting, multifaceted Danish duo—who supposedly blew their 15 minutes back in 2003—aren't among them.
LOU REED "Safety Zone"
Ol' Lou's pulling a Jay-Z/Eddie Vedder/fill-in-the-blank here, writing music for a soundtrack to forthcoming war flick Nanking. It's been some time since the man's work has felt remotely transgressive or exciting, and nothing about the staid "Safety Zone" changes that. But the central, titular idea is a fertile conceit separate from the subject matter or even today's political unrest, and I wish he'd dropped the explicit references to Japan and WWII so we could appreciate it outside of its core context. (Someone will cover this and add new lyrics about NFL defensive tactics; just you wait.)