Oct 192018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Funny things, songs. Some don’t even get heard, never leaving their creators’ rooms (or their heads); others seem to spread like a special kind of virus, played at parties and bedrooms and bus stops and supermarkets everywhere until they’re inescapable, a global pandemic without cure. (Yes, “Despacito,” I’m talkin’ to you.)

Regardless of their popularity or lack thereof, all songs are an attempt to crystallize a feeling and then share it with the world. And every once in a while, having completed a sort of emotional circuit, a song returns to its owner, carrying back far more than it left with.

Here’s the story of one which did just that.
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Oct 182018
 
john prine stevie wonder

Stevie Wonder’s 1984 Oscar-winning megahit “I Just Called to Say I Love You” has earned much derision over the years due to its unapologetic cheesiness. The most famous critique came from Barry Judd, Jack Black’s record store clerk character in High Fidelity, who called it “sentimental tacky crap.” Still, the tune has endured. It is currently listed as Wonder’s fifth most popular song on Spotify. The refrain is darn catchy after all. Continue reading »

Oct 182018
 

It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard a blues song that the narrator of “Baby, Scratch My Back” isn’t really talking about itchy shoulder blades. And if the metaphor is still too subtle, Whitehorse’s slinky, sultry new cover will get the message across.

The Canadian husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland are preparing to release The Northern South Vol. 2, their latest blues-covers LP, in January (we spoke to them about their own favorite cover songs last month). Their cover of “Baby, Scratch My Back” is a highlight, slower and groovier than some of the more upbeat jams. McClelland’s trademark telephone-mic brings an era-appropriate distortion as Doucet’s fiery guitar leads channel vintage Chess Records. They use pots for percussion, which sounds like something an old bluesman might do, and blow some melodica, which doesn’t. Continue reading »

Oct 172018
 
the values this must be the place

Hot off the heels of our The Best Talking Heads Covers Ever countdown a few months ago, there’s already another contender: The Values’ new version of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” premiering here. On their upcoming EP Imposter, the Brooklyn duo of Mason Taub and Evan Zwisler give the song a modern electropop sheen, without losing some of the Afrobeat touches of the original. Continue reading »

Oct 152018
 

Folk FeverWhat is the difference between pastiche and parody, I wonder? The dictionary tells us the first becomes the second when comic intent is sought. That said, pastiche all too often implies a knowing degree of tongue in cheek, and, however lovingly performed, I fear this is where the outcome lies on the Band of Love’s album Folk Fever.

Certainly nobody designed Folk Fever to make you laugh. Indeed, the standard of playing and singing, by a selection of the UK folk scene’s finest established and upcoming names, is exemplary, the love evident in the performances. The key players are probably unknown outside purist circles – they would be Jim Causley, Greg Russell, Alice James and the duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, all of whom have made respectable names for themselves on the folk circuit in Britain. Older timers like Steve Knightley and Phil Beer, aka Show of Hands, perhaps known to these pages for this, and Mike McGoldrick, a flute and pipes whiz currently earning a crust with Mark Knopfler, are along to add gravitas, instrumentally and vocally.
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Oct 122018
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

alanis morissette

“You Oughta Know” represented a handful of firsts for Alanis Morissette. It was the first single off her 1995 Jagged Little Pill album and the first release based on her collaboration with Glen Ballard, who shares writing credit and produced the song. While it’s also technically her first public break from the pop-leaning sound she’d previously engaged, that Alanis – like Robin Scherbatsky’s “Robin Sparkles” days, for How I Met Your Mother fans – was really known only to her native Canada.

For most American listeners, “You Oughta Know” was the first time they’d heard Alanis Morissette, period – and a demure introduction it was not. The song also marked, for more than a few JNCO-clad girls in their teens and twenties, the first time that 1990s alternative rock seemed not just open to frustrated female energy but perfectly suited to it. Its combination of smartly conceived jabs and soaring emotion ensured the song would stay lodged in musical memory for a long time to come – and that many other artists would want to give it a try.
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