Aug 262016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

hem

Writing an “Under the Radar” piece inevitably forces the writer to address the elephant in the room: Why is an artist you like enough to spend time researching and crafting a piece about considered to be “Under the Radar” by the vast majority of people? Hem, a band that formed in 2002 and sporadically released music until last year, would seem to have had so many advantages – intelligent songwriting, fine musicianship, a distinctive sound and, maybe most importantly, a lead vocalist with a scarily gorgeous voice. Seven of their songs were used in national commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a classic Christmas cover was used in an ad for Tiffany’s, and other songs have appeared in television shows. They created music, which was well received by The New York Times, for a production of Twelfth Night for New York’s legendary Shakespeare In The Park program, featuring Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Hamish Linklater. They were touted by outlets as diverse as NPR and Entertainment Weekly. Yet it appears that radar just doesn’t pick them up.
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Apr 042014
 

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!

Rock history is full of bands who created something truly special, with inherent value, that for whatever reason never got their due in the music marketplace. The dB’s (that stands for decibels, don’t you know) could be a case study in how to make great music and influence other musicians, but miss out on commercial success. Passed over by labels hunting for the next Knack, the band, led by guitarists Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, signed with British label Albion Records at the very beginning of the ’80s, which meant that both their stellar debut and its follow up weren’t officially released in America for years.  The band only signed with an American label, Bearsville, after founder Stamey left to forge a solo career. When they submitted a video  to MTV for their suicide-themed song “Amplifier,” they were rejected.
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Dec 092013
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language. – Unknown

Neil Innes turns 69 today. For more than forty years he has been acclaimed as a songwriter, musician, and performer, acclaimed by allmusic.com as “the most important figure in British musical comedy since the heyday of vaudeville.” He’s been on both sides of a plagiarism lawsuit – he has to credit John Lennon and Paul McCartney as co-writers of Rutles songs, while the Oasis song “Whatever” is now required by law to credit Innes due to lifting the opening of his “How Sweet To Be an Idiot.” So Innes has talent to burn and no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity to boot, but in the United States he remains relatively unknown. For all his accomplishments, Innes may be one of those whose peculiar talents simply aren’t appreciated as much on this side of the Atlantic. This is best described as “America’s loss.”
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Jun 172011
 

This Week on Bandcamp rounds up our favorite covers to hit the site in the past seven days.

Today’s Bandcamp feature (our 20th) takes an unexpected theme: girl power! Four of the five songs at least come from female artists or lady-fronted bands. They range from icons embodying the spirit of rock in a female frame (Beth Gibbons of Portishead) to groups who embody something less than the feminist ideal (the appropriately-named Sugababes). And then there’s a song originally by Big Star, who represent none of these things, but just couldn’t be skipped. Continue reading »

Jun 022011
 

It’s difficult to get more beautifully simplistic than Big Star’s “Thirteen.” Elliott Smith nailed it in his cover, but he didn’t add much sonically beyond his unmistakable vocals and that inescapable melancholy. To amp the song up would invite disaster, so one must wonder, would it be possible to go the other way and tone down the original? Continue reading »

Mar 292011
 

As you all know by now, the folks down at The A.V. Club have returned with A.V. Undercover, where bands pick songs from an editor-compiled list and perform them in the confines of the club’s remarkably small studio. The list contains the usual collection of classics and guilty pleasures – “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals, anyone? The latest group to drop by the studio is California noise-poppers (and Sub Poppers!) Dum Dum Girls. Continue reading »