That’s the first question that comes to mind when listening to A Little Help From My Fwends, the Flaming Lips’ album that covers all of the Beatles’ seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This isn’t an inherently bad question to ask, though, especially with this band. From making a 4-disc album meant to be played simultaneously (or in any combination) to releasing a USB drive of love songs inside a chocolate, anatomically correct heart, the Lips have always had a degree of quirky, unbridled (and seemingly unchecked) compulsion guiding their career. This seeming inability to reign in their impulse to do whatever idea comes to mind has resulted in a ton of great music and a feverish cult following.
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With the possible exception of Martin Scorsese, no movie director has been more closely identified with his soundtracks than Wes Anderson. He has consistently selected songs by well-known artists that, through no fault of their own, have become three-quarters forgotten over the years, and reintroduced them to the world as the classics they had always been. If someone calls a song a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack (Guilty!), an instant and accurate picture is created. The soundtracks show a cohesion that’s rare in these days of we-want-a-hit soundtracks, where the earmarked smash doesn’t play until the final credits have started rolling, and they have become high points in the experience of watching Anderson’s movies. Now the American Laundromat Records label has collected covers of some of those high points on I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson, resulting in the best tribute album of the year.
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In a sense, this is only an Everly Brothers cover album because the Everlys got to the songs first. Released 55 years ago, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us was comprised of just that, Everly Brother renditions of classics and standards. Billie Joe Armstrong, having fond memories of said album, decided to pay tribute to it, and he invited Norah Jones to join him. “Of course; what an obvious pairing,” said nobody.
The resulting album, punningly titled Foreverly, is a song-by-song (in a slightly modified order) rerecording of the Everlys’ classic album, and a potential introduction of the Everly Brothers to a whole new audience. There’s also the possibility that it introduces a whole new audience to Norah Jones. Or Billie Joe Armstrong. Who knows, but there’s a good chance that the number of people who are big fans of all three are few and far between (and likely thrilled).
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When Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs recorded their first Under the Covers collaboration, they were surprised that it was released with the subtitle “Vol. 1.” Whatever genius at the Shout! Factory label chose to do that deserves a raise and a promotion, as it led Sweet and Hoffs to record two more volumes. Where Volume 1 consisted of songs based in the ’60s, and Volume 2 was made up of ’70s songs, Volume 3, released this week, is all about the ’80s, the decade when Hoffs came of age as a musician and Sweet wasn’t far behind.
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The music of Mark Kozelek, whether made with his former band Red House Painters, under his own name, or as Sun Kil Moon, has been described many ways: dreamy, melancholic, and wistful come to mind. With the release of his newest covers album, Like Rats, you can add creepy to the list. The songs he’s picked to cover have lyrics that are alternately menacing and depressing, either overtly or because they’ve been stripped of their accompanying upbeat music. Kozelek has never shied away from darker themes in his music: the yearning loss in RHP’s “Michael,” death and loneliness (and maybe serial killers?) in SKM’s “Glenn Tipton,” regret and self-pity in his cover of John Denver’s “I’m Sorry.” Kozelek’s voice often soars over the intricate guitars, though, and its sweetness lends the songs a faint glimmer of hope. But on “Like Rats,” he sings a register lower than usual (more on that decision later) and piles dark song upon dark song until the listener is off-balance from the assault of negativity. The album is barely 30 minutes in length, and anything more might be too much. Continue reading »
There are cynics in this world who might revise the old adage to read, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, do cover songs.” However, it’s a near-certainty that those cynics have never heard classic cover collections like Cat Power’s Covers Record, the Rolling Stones‘ Rolling Stones EP, or Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’s Raising Sand. Now the time has come for believers and nonbelievers alike to welcome another member to the cover pantheon: Macy Gray’s new take on Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, an ambitious, full-album undertaking Gray dives into with breathtaking zeal – and what stunning results she brings to the surface. Continue reading »
Who is Mike Doughty? The ex-frontman of Soul Coughing? An acoustic singer/songwriter? An acclaimed poet and writer? The latest offering from Mr. Doughty, whoever he may be, is The Flip Is Another Honey, a smattering of cover tunes ranging from John Denver to Cheap Trick to Guys and Dolls. And, as you may expect, Doughty will break some rules. Continue reading »
Singer-songwriter and musician Rickie Lee Jones has spent nearly 35 years carving a unique path that has blended rock, pop, blues, R&B, and jazz. From her early success with the hit 1979 song ”Chuck E’s in Love” to the 2000s where she experimented with beats, loops and spoken word, Jones is the embodiment of the evolving artist. Her latest effort, The Devil You Know is a collection of covers of classic rock tracks that read as a greatest hits list. Continue reading »