Charles Aaron



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    The 20 Best Songs of 2010

    LES SAVY FAV, "LET'S GET OUT OF HERE" Flashback to the early-'90s' cash-grab half-light when flannelphobiclosers were desperate for a hang-out-the-car-window rock refrain not burdened with a singer who sounded like he was taking the piss or threatening suicide.

  • Kid Cudi, 'Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager' (G.O.O.D./Universal Motown)

    Kid Cudi, 'Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager' (G.O.O.D./Universal Motown)

    Kid Cudi is one fucked-up dude. This is not Web-lurking speculation. It's been the rapper's ongoing, on-the-record confession since he proclaimed, almost jauntily, "I'm looking for a substance to drown in," on the first song, "Down & Out," on his first mixtape, 2008's stoner picaresque A Kid Named Cudi. Last year's ambitious, if unfocused, official debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, reeled with references to "night terrors," compulsive drug use, and his deceased father. "A happy ending would be slitting my throat," he mused. Yet Cudi expresses this heavy-hearted disarray with a brashly naive yearning. It's as if admitting his flaws is his creative passkey, like horny solipsism is for, say, John Updike or Snoop Dogg.

  • Smith Westerns, 'Smith Westerns' (Fat Possum)

    Smith Westerns, 'Smith Westerns' (Fat Possum)

    This waifish Chicago foursome's lo-fi garage-glam debut literally sounds like a band steaming up your basement -- tinny, muffled, exuberant, with songs so undeniable (nasally punk entreaty "Dreams"; stormy ballad "Be My Girl") that even the crabbiest dad would amble downstairs to kibitz. Smith Westerns obviously looks back to T. Rex, David Bowie, and the Nuggets comp, but like kindred spirits Girls and Black Lips, the band is so immersed in wide-eyed pure discovery that even their most derivative throwaways ("Bang a Gong" cop "Girl in Love") feel like childhood epiphanies.

  • Lil B, 'Rain in England' (Weird Forest)

    Lil B, 'Rain in England' (Weird Forest)

    After hitting pop gold with 2006 novelty blip "Vans" as a member of the Pack, enigmatic Bay Area social networker Lil B has, by his own account, released more than 1,500 songs and 180 videos. And his first physical CD -- Rain in England, a therapy-session testimony that sounds like Soulja Boy having a Damascus moment in the champagne room over a beatless synth tide -- is his least accessible. Of course, recent mixtape Blue Flame features droning, cracked emanations like "I'm Paris Hilton," so such distinctions are moot. If you think Kanye's self-reflexive swirl is stupefying, peep this.

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    Jay-Z and Eminem in NYC: "Illest" Show Ever

    New York and Detroit aren't exactly sister cities. And that fact was brought into stark relief at Monday's Yankee Stadium opener of Jay-Z and Eminem's "Home and Home" concert series -- a triumphal spectacle in front of 50,000-plus headlined by Hova with a cortege of guests, answering September 2's Comerica Park date with Em topping the bill. In the 30-plus years since hip-hop's birth in the Bronx (not far from the abovementioned Luxury Recreational Facility That Derek Jeter Built, which now looms over the previous park's ruins), Detroit has gone from decline to desolation, while New York has left blighted neglect for gentrified empowerment.

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    SPIN's 20 Best Songs of Summer

    When defining the "Song of the Summer," people often refer to the so-called "undeniable" track that at first seems utterly loathsome, but after it's been blasted into the cosmos 10,000 times, we're all supposed to happily recline on our metaphorical beach blankets and submit to being ravaged, again and again and again.

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    Spiritualized Play Classic Album Live at SPIN25!

    When Spiritualized closed their set Friday night at Radio City Music Hall with an orchestral-rock encore of gospel standard "Oh Happy Day," the venerable Art Deco landmark's roof was there for the raisin'. It was the last song of the last show of the week-long ZYNC from American Express concert series celebrating SPIN's 25th Anniversary, and the 30-plus musicians who filled Radio City's expansive stage -- string and horn sections, choir, plus bandleader Jason "Spaceman" Pierce and sidemen -- could've imbued the song, and the moment, with unequivocal, chest-swelling jubilation. But that's not the denomination of spirituality that Pierce practices.

  • M.I.A., 'MAYA' (N.E.E.T./XL/Interscope)

    M.I.A., 'MAYA' (N.E.E.T./XL/Interscope)

    The most combustive song on M.I.A.'s third album isn't loud or chaotic. Built on a mildly ominous, off-kilter beat -- plus an incessant shoosh like a bag of coins being shaken -- it bloops along with the grace of a janky PopCap game. But the sneakily titled "Lovealot" is perhaps the riskiest gambit yet from the 32-year-old artist born Maya Arulpragasam. "Lovealot" alludes in part to the iconic, viral photo of a pistol-wielding Russian/Islamic couple -- the husband, a terrorist leader killed last year by police, and the wife, a teenager who tried to avenge his death by suicide-bombing the Moscow subway (at one point the song was titled "A/bdurakh/man/ova," after the girl's surname). Merely 20 seconds in, M.I.A.

  • The Roots, 'How I Got Over' (Def Jam)

    When Jim James addresses a higher power on Monsters of Folk's "Dear God"-gently entreating, "Why do we suffer?"-he sounds like an uneasy supplicant. But on the Roots' "Dear God 2.0" (also featuring James), frontman Black Thought goes B-boy Book of Job, decrying technology, acid rain, tsunamis, stock-market collapse, wars, atrocities. Then he spits bluntly: "Why is the world so ugly when you made it in your image?" Sheeeeit. A battle rhyme, if there ever was one. You'd have to rewind early-'90s Scarface or Wu-Tang for such convincingly cold-eyed hip-hop existentialism. The title of the Roots' ninth studio full-length suggests a more fulfilled mood (Obama victory, gig as America's favorite late-night house band), at least compared to the screw-faced abyss of their last two records.

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    Jamey Johnson Takes Country to New Heights

    The That tent was the unofficial home of country music on Sunday, with Jamey Johnson, Kris Kristofferson, and Miranda Lambert going back-to-back-to-back, but Johnson's band was the one of the three that revealed an edge, like they had something to prove. Hitting the stage looking like nervous-energy extras from an episode of Intervention's Meth Mountain, they kept the large gathering spellbound over the next hour and 15 minutes with the sort of gut-punch storytelling, intuitive playing, and grand melodic sweep that country does better than any genre. Early on, Johnson cleared the air with "The High Cost of Living," a philosophical drug tale of a guy who threw his life away to smoke pot in a Southern Baptist church's parking lot (the coke and whores would soon follow).

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