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Jody Rosen’s Songs of the Week: Haim, Danny Brown, and Lindi Ortega

 Alana Haim, Dash Hutton, Danielle Haim and Este Haim of the band Haim perform on stage at Rough Trade East on October 1, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images)

Haim, “My Song 5
After months of relentless hype, Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim released their debut album, Days Are Gone, this week—and the hype-fest turned into a coronation. Critics are itching to play the spoiler, but any contrarian impulse I had dissolved when confronted with Days Are Gone, which seems to have swallowed much of what pop culture tossed up in the last, oh, 40 years — everything from the Doobie Brothers to Janet Jackson to third-wave feminism — and spat it back out in the form of ideally catchy four-minute-long songs. There are so many things to like about Haim, but most impressive for me is how, without breaking a sweat, their songs bridge the gulf between rock and hip-hop. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to the Haim sisters (ages 27, 24, and 21) that such a gulf exists. So we have songs like “My Song 5,” which pairs “Bills, Bills, Bills”– and “Say My Name”–era Destiny’s Child harmony vocals (and self-assertiveness) with guitars and drums that sound like a pipsqueak garage band covering Led Zeppelin. It’s perfect.

Danny Brown, “Side B [Dope Song]
Danny Brown can rap his butt off. Whatever his other merits — including a gourmand’s taste for sex and drugs and a sneaky way of slipping pathos into standard-issue party songs — his greatest talent is simply, well, talent: the full-frontal assault of his rhyme flow, and the subtle beat-play beneath that flashy attack. You can hear it in his nattering, wheezing rapping on “Side B [Dope Song],” from his forthcoming album Old, which officially arrives next week. The song performs a nifty jujitsu: Brown complains about rappers boasting about their old drug-peddling days, while boasting about his own old drug-peddling days — and promising it’s the last time he’ll ever do so. “Take this as a dis, 'cause this is my last song / Not my last dope song / But my last dope song.”

Lindi Ortega, “Hard As This”
Tin Star, the new album by the best country singer from Toronto, Canada, is now streaming on Paste magazine’s site, and it sounds like a winner. Ortega sings concise, witty songs that look back to mid-century Nashville without a trace of alt-country stuffiness. My favorite on Tin Star is the album-opening breakup ballad “Hard As This,” which sounds like a theme for a lost spaghetti Western: full of sulfurous, heavily reverbed guitars and Ortega’s kiss-offs, as dry as the desert landscape the music evokes: “If you need to think / Go read a book.” 

Photo: Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images