‘Tis the season for free tributes to pop albums of yesteryear. Earlier this year Paper Bag Records put out a free tribute to Madonna’s True Blue. Now, Canadian label Peppermill Records has collected a tribute to Ace of Base’s The Sign. Titled It’s Not a Day for Work (from a line in “All That She Wants”), the collection showcases a sprawling diversity in tackling every song off the chart-topping album. What’s next, Aquarium?
These days, it seems like everybody loves to cover Ace of Base. It’s hard to say just what it is about those quintessentially early-’90s alt-pop Swedes that’s so delightfully coverable, but clearly something is. Maybe it’s nostalgia; maybe it’s the fact that their songs are just so damn catchy while remaining a little bit cynical; maybe it’s even Lady Gaga’s fault for shamelessly using their beats and bringing them straight back into the cultural subconscious.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Claremont, CA’s The Mountain Goats began as the alter-ego of singer-songwriter John Darnielle, who’d record raw versions of songs on cassettes to distribute to friends in the early 1990s. Since then, Darnielle’s project has added a few members and become a major force in the indie world. Albums like The Sunset Tree, Get Lonely and most recently All Eternals Deck have received serious critical praise and become favorites among the college radio crowd. One might guess that’s primarily because of the compelling figure cut by Darnielle; his mix of brutal honesty and quirky humor speaks to listeners much in the way an artist like Ben Folds does, although instead of a massive piano between Darnielle and his audience, there’s usually just an acoustic guitar.
Two weeks ago we brought you a Serbian a capella group covering Rammstein. Now a Danish a cappella group has put together a ’90s dance medley. Is this some sort of new trend? European a cappella groups expertly covering forgotten hits from the ’90s? If they’re as good as these two, we say “bring it on!” The most striking thing about Local Vocal’s medley of ’90s club hits is that they managed to pick some of the most annoying songs from that time period. You probably never wanted to hear “Scatman” or “I Like to Move it” again, but somehow they have been worked into this arrangement without making your ears bleed. In fact, you might be fooled into thinking those songs weren’t actually so bad.
While some cover artists re-interpret known songs, Alyson Greenfield is one who goes for full on re-inventions. Her new EP of glockenspiel and piano-centric hip hop covers, entitled Rock Out with Your Glockenspiel Out, offers exercises in juxtaposition that work on many levels. Not only is she using an instrument straight out of third grade music class to play songs with adult lyrical themes, but her shimmering, simple sound and inflected vocals oppose almost every convention of hip-hop. This version of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” shows her angle, putting such an unexpected twist on an otherwise fairly conventional track that it even transcends appeals to novelty.
Even the most imaginative of us would have difficulty finding much in common between garage-punk geniuses The Stooges and Swedish popsters Ace of Base. They are likely all warm-blooded and oxygen-dependent…anything else? Maybe Missouri-based electro-rockers We Are Like the Spider see something the rest of us don’t, as they recently covered The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants”.