Jun 242020
 
Emma Swift

Bob Dylan just released his 39th studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways and in case you haven’t heard, it is very, very good. “I Contain Multitudes” was the LP’s second single and remains one of its undeniable highlights. Upon first listen, the song feels very stream of consciousness, with Bob reeling off, well, absolutely everything rumbling in his head about his life from the seemingly trivial (“I eat fast foods”) to the profound (“I sleep with life and death in the same bed”) and listing the sounds, pages, and images that have enveloped and defined it. And yes, the sound you just heard was Bob explaining the meaning of life in under 5 minutes because unlike the rest of us, he can just do that.

Australian singer-songwriter Emma Swift has recorded an album of Dylan covers titled Blonde on the Tracks which is set for release in August. And the first track she opted to release was not a familiar classic but a stunningly warm, heartfelt version of “I Contain Multitudes.” She serves it up as a hypnotic, melodic hymn, very reminiscent in style of vintage Gillian Welch, resulting in something exceptionally beautiful.
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Jun 232020
 
Hilgegard von Blingin'

“Creep” is the song that made Radiohead. It didn’t happen overnight, as it went only to #78 in the UK when it was originally released. But it soon became a hit in other countries – including the US, where it is still their biggest hit – and was re-released in the UK, this time going to #7. There are still people out there who think Radiohead are the “Creep” band.

There have been a lot of acoustic covers of “Creep,” especially lately. In June 2020 alone there have been at least three prominent covers. Whether it’s the pandemic, or whether it’s because “Creep” is really a ballad, it’s become a staple.

Hildegard von Blingin’ seeks to change that. A “bardcore” artist who has sprung up on YouTube just recently, she covers pop hits of the last few decades as Medieval music. (The name is a reference to Saint Hildegard of Bingen, often recognized as the first major composer of European music.)
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Jun 162020
 
Nick D'Virgilio

Barrett Strong‘s “Money” was Motown’s first serious hit (though it was released it when the label was still known as Tamla). Though many prefer Strong’s original version, the song’s fame increased with a fairly straightforward version by The Beatles and the cheeky New Wave one-hit wonder by The Flying Lizards (a fave of Barack Obama’s in his college years). In the Strong and Beatles versions, the lyrics are a celebration of greed and avarice. Only the Flying Lizards’ interpretation really hints at the likely tongue-in-cheek nature of the words.

Nick D’Virgilio is the drummer for American prog rock band Spock’s Beard and English prog rock band Big Big Train. For his upcoming second solo album Invisible, due out June 26th, he assembled a bunch of famous prog rock musicians to take on this classic track, with a pretty different approach from the most famous versions.
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Jun 112020
 
The Gay Agenda band

Bjork‘s “Army of Me” is one of her most iconic songs of the ’90s, thanks in part to the Michel Gondry-directed video. The song deviates a little bit from her normal trip hop sound, to something closer to industrial pop. The song is about Bjork’s difficult relationship with her brother and how he needs to get his act together.

The Gay Agenda is a self-described “homo riot hardcore punk” band with extremely provocative imagery inspired by street artist Homo Riot, among others. Their version of “Army of Me” leans much more into metalcore than hardcore, with rumbling bass recalling the original’s pulsating bass keyboard, pummeling metal guitars, and screaming/growling vocals that fall somewhere on the spectrum between metalcore and black metal. It’s intense.
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Jun 092020
 
Joseph Shabason

Gymnopédie No.1 is the most famous of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies and probably one of his most iconic compositions. A soft, lilting melody for piano, legend has it Satie introduced Paris to it by having a pianist play all three pieces during the reception prior to his scheduled performance. Whether or not the story is apocryphal, it’s characteristic of Satie’s satiric wit and innovative approach to composition. The Gymnopédies may not technically be part of his infamous “furniture music,” but they are are an important precursor. A piece like this shows why Satie is regularly regarded as the godfather of ambient.

Saxophonist and composer Joseph Shabason takes this legacy seriously. As part of Western Volume’s Composure: Classical Reworks for Modern Relief series, Shabason has updated the first Gymnopédie with an ambient jazz vibe. The piano is still there, but it takes a while for it to enter. Loops and samples provide the backdrop, but also the introduction. When the piano does enter, over a minute in, it is accompanied by Shabason’s saxophones taking part of the melody. Violinist Drew Jurecka guests, adding to the ambient background noise.
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Jun 082020
 
quarantine covers
Angelique Kidjo – Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil cover)

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