Sunderland indie rockers Frankie & The Heartstrings have been a busy bunch as of late. Last year, they opened up their own record shop in their hometown, and, recently, covered the latest single from their neighbors from the north, Franz Ferdinand. Continue reading »

“Wharf Rat” is an interesting song within the vast canon of the Grateful Dead. First performed in 1971 and included on numerous live recordings, it was never released as a studio track. The lyrics recount the tale of the singer meeting an old man, down and out, who then becomes the storyteller. This storyteller approach was later used by lyricist Robert Hunter in the multipart “Terrapin Station.” Musically, the song is not complex, but it features different sections and tempos, abandoning conventional verse and chorus format. Continue reading »

I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad cover of a Daniel Johnston song. His music just works so well for cover versions. It might be the sparse nature of most of his songs, leaving other artists able to interpret the source material however they want.

The latest band covering one of the songs from Daniel’s vast back catalogue is recently reformed Canadian indie-rock band The Unicorns. Recently seen supporting fellow countrymen Arcade Fire, the band are re-issuing their lost indie classic ‘Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?’ and will be including this cover of ‘Rocketship’ as a bonus track.

There is definitely a Daniel sound retained with this, with the repetitive single note so common with some of his early songs present. In fact, it sounds more like Daniel than most other covers of his songs you’ll hear (although this TV On The Radio cover sounded great using the repetitive note thing too).

This is a great addition to the many covers of the cult hero that are out there and if you listen carefully there’s even a sample of the great man himself at one minute and 50 seconds in.

Check it out below and keep your eyes peeled for the Unicorns re-issue due soon.

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

Interpreting song lyrics can be a dicey endeavor. Many songwriters seem to aspire to something poetic, obscure or obtuse. While it may not be hard to deduce the meaning of lyrics like, say, “I wanna rock and roll all nite, and party every day,” so many songs defy easy understanding, either because the lyrics are vague, or hard to hear, or even utter gibberish. R.E.M.’s early songs were filled with random words that made little obvious sense, and yet along with the music, they somehow created a mood. In 2008, Michael Stipe participated in a Q&A with fans, and he said about his early songs:

those songs were mostly written to be sung live. The pa systems were so crap that no one could ever really hear the singer anyway, including the singer. We just never intended to make records, and then suddenly we were making records and the songs were in my head like that, so we just blurred the vocal and turned it way down. The songs that do have words don’t really make any or much sense, it was about creating a feeling and emotion in the room in the moment. As it turns out the records turned out pretty great too, just inscrutable. I had to learn pretty fast how to write a good or great lyric after that. Please don’t analyze them, there’s nothing but feeling there. Sing along and make it up, that’s what I still do.
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The late JJ Cale had a distinctive, laid back sound to his music that was difficult to replicate. Long time fan and friend Eric Clapton recorded several of Cale’s songs over the years – royalties from “Cocaine” and “After Midnight” probably paid Cale’s mortgage for many years – while never straying far from Cale’s basic approach. Continue reading »

Herb Alpert has always been known for his jazz covers taking some detours from their source material, but, even keeping that in mind, one would hardly expect to find elements of electropop in his repertoire. That’s exactly what we get, though, in his cover of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” first recorded and popularized by big band legend Glenn Miller in 1941. Jarring as the concept may seem, Alpert executes it brilliantly. Continue reading »

The Story Behind digs deep into how an iconic cover song came to be.

Before there was a song called “Gloria,” there was a poem called “Oath.” And the transition from one to the other might never have happened without forty bucks and one loud bass note.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

George Harrison was still struggling to get his voice heard when the Beatles recorded “It’s All Too Much.” They did so during the week that Sgt. Pepper was released (an album with only one of George’s songs); originally planned to appear on Magical Mystery Tour, it was delayed for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, which came out more than half a year after the movie premiered. For a song that seemed determined to be an afterthought, “It’s All Too Much” has gone on to become best known as being perhaps the most underrated Beatles song. East meets West while tripping on acid, and hand in hand they sail into the mystic, taking the time to quote a line from the Merseys song “Sorrow” (which would have to wait for an immortalizing full-length cover until David Bowie came along).
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