Sep 202009
 

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.


I first encountered Rhode Island’s Math the Band on the spastic Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo tour (review here). They were joined on the road by Harry and the Potters and Uncle Monsterface, but held their own with the summer camp-themed exuberance. Their choreographed dance to the Step By Step theme song kicked things off in high gear, and most of their show consisted of the three-piece jumping frantically around stage while their laptops did their music-making for them.

Their glitchy synth-pop would be jarring if it weren’t so endearing. Unfortunately I have yet to come across a recording of the rave-bop “Home on the Range” they performed that night, but their free Covers EP contains enough devil-may-care dance-alongs to keep even the most A.D.D. pre-teen breathless. Highlights include “You Shook Me All Night Long,” the Zelda theme, and “The Sign.”

Sweden’s Ace of Base turned up in the early nineties with this smash single. You were never sure how seriously they took themselves, but with this Math the Band cover that question never arises. This electro-pop tune is played many times faster than it was ever meant to go, like a pimped-out soccer-mom sedan that can’t handle the pressure. The two singers’ parts never perfectly sync up and the exuberant shouting never veers too close to the tune.

Now I don’t mean to say these guys don’t have talent, it’s just that their real skill comes in how well they hide it. Music this absurdly high-voltage takes work, but it sounds like something you and your middle school friends might have recorded at the tail end of an up-all-night slumber party. Craftsmanship and second takes are of less concern than who can leap the highest.

So get your jumping shoes on and go see the sign. Then try to record a cover this silly yourself. I think you’ll find it’s not so easy.

Math the Band – The Sign (Ace of Base) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

Dirty Pop

 Posted by at 11:40 pm  No Responses »
Nov 032007
 

Doing a 180 from the last post’s Dylan covers, today we’re gonna showcase covers of the lowest of the low, the pop song. We’re talking the song that’s written by a team of middle-aged men for some dimwit nineteen year old to auto-tune her way through. Basically, everything you hear on the radio these days. As you might imagine, take away the elaborate production and the irritating fact that someone’s making a killing with these songs, and you wind up with lots of potential for fun covers. With comps like Pop Goes Punk selling big, the pop cover is almost a genre by itself. Here it is, done right.

Jenny Owen Youngs – Hot In Herre (Nelly)
Probably my favorite of the bunch, it takes a real talent to turn a rap song into a…non rap song. But she does it, adding a cutesy tune that is fabulously inappropriate for the lyrics, complete with awkward white-dude backing vocals. Finds like this are why I follow covers.

The Mountain Goats – The Sign (Ace of Base)
A folky duet by a group that seems to be enjoying this one a little too much. The lead singer was quoted as saying this was not supposed to be a joke cover, but rather should bring out the lyrical quality of the original. Whatever.

Willie Nelson – Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
If you didn’t know the original, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out this wasn’t a Willie Nelson song with a particularly catchy melody. He plays with the rhythm of the chorus in a way that throws you at first, but works.

Matt Weddle – Hey Ya! (Outkast)
A Youtube sensation, this version takes the quirky pop sensation and plays it straight, an irony-free meditation on hype and failure. When people perform pop songs as if there’s a deep meaning, 99% of the time they sound like idiots. This is the other 1%.

Jamelia – Numb (Linkin Park)
This was on pretty constant rotation for weeks after I discovered it at Copy, Right. Stripping down the heavy-handed production of the original in favor of heavily-strummed acoustic guitars (perhaps the main staple of good pop covers) reveals an incredibly catchy melody.

Shawn Colvin – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
One of today’s premier cover artists, this one floated around the blogosphere when it came out last year. It’s very tightly done, if perhaps a little precious.

The Raconteurs – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
And, on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, we have Jack White’s side project here. They performed this live a few times in ’06, including this version at Lollapalooza, thrash-rocking it out with some banshee squealing choruses.

Fountains of Wayne – Baby One More Time (Britney Spears)
Sounds about like what you would think Fountains of Wayne doing a Britney Spears song might sound like.

Nickel Creek – Toxic (Britney Spears)
More modern Britney here, this one’s a little love or hate, with fiddle, banjo, and loads of falsetto. I love it.

Dartmouth Aires – Ask the Lonely (Journey)
What pop cover set would be complete without a little Journey, the definition of guilty pleasure? And with a soloist who can belt it like just like Steve Perry, it doesn’t get better. [Note: Apparently Journey’s just good for acapella; Petra Hayden (formerly of the Decemberists) does a nice Don’t Stop Believing.]

Astrid Swan – When You Were Young (The Killers)
I feel like I’m showing all my cards in this entry, as many of these are among my favorite covers ever. The piano by itself would be pretty enough; add on top of it her gorgeous voice and you’ve got a version better than the original.

The Mooney Suzuki – Just Like Jesse James (Cher)
Just released on the album Guilt By Association, it’s another one that sounds so perfect for its context that it’s hard to remember it used to be very, very different.

Hurra Torpedo – Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler)
The rhythm is off, the guitar playing is out-of-tune, and the vocalist can’t sing. But it’s being played by the leading Norwegian kitchen appliance band, so really what more do you need? (Don’t believe me…to youtube!)

John West – Umbrella (Rihanna)
There are a billion cover versions of this already, by everyone from Mandy Moore to Tegan and Sara, but the cello in this one makes it better than most. It takes the über-catchy factor out of the song, making it an acoustic slow jam that rocks you to sleep.