Sep 302016
 
Fugees

They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)

We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late. Continue reading »

May 062016
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

jeffdig

I was fifteen years old when I was first introduced to the world of Infinity Cat Recordings. I was immediately enamored with the punk DIY aesthetic presented by a group of young Nashville punks. When I say “young,” I mean YOUNG. Like only a few years older than me at the time young. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, in their late teens at the time, formed the indie label with the guidance of their father in 2002. A host of psychedelic and grunge-tinged punk bands emerged from the label right from the get-go, leading publications like The Guardian and Billboard Magazine to name it one of the best indie labels in America. JEFF the Brotherhood, a two-piece psychedelic garage-rock band also formed by the Orrall brothers, acted as a sort of nucleus for the label, guiding the overall sound and feel of the rest of the bands that make up the collective.

In a way, the band has always been a source of centering for myself as well. Maybe they aren’t guiding my life choices, but they do have a way of bringing me back to my suburban teenage rebellion years – a time when I was determined to take the world by storm and (pardon my French) fuck shit up, Nashville punk style. JEFF The Brotherhood serves as a reminder to do what I want, and how I want to do it. Every now and then, I will go back to one of their first singles, Noo Sixties, and be reminded of that seemingly contradictory hard-working-punk ethos.
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Apr 292016
 

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

korgis

The Korgis really were an extraordinary group. With a name derived from the name of ubiquitous ’80s synthesizer makers Korg, they evolved out of the eccentric and often unclassifiable ’70s UK band Stackridge, at a time when fashion demanded shorter and hookier songs, shorter hair, skinny ties, and shiny suits, i.e. the ’80s. Stackridge were resolutely unfashionable and nominally prog, although their music could be an odd amalgam of twiddly instrumentals, folk, psychedelia and music hall. Their instrumentation could include anything from flutes and fiddles to dustbin lids, and bear tribute to the days when record companies had money to invest in the sometimes vainglorious pursuit of a hit, allowing a band to mature over several albums, rather than today’s one strike and you’re out.
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Nov 222013
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Michael Hutchence was born to be a frontman. With hair and shirtlessness that would make Jim Morrison proud, and a singing style that could be both passionate and cool in equal measures, Hutchence helped the songs of INXS stand out; they’re clearly from the ‘80s, but timeless in a way that most hits of the decade can’t claim.
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May 132013
 

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

“Stagolee” or “Staggerlee,” or “Stack-O-Lee,” or other variants, is the musical retelling of a cold-blooded murder. Some trace the song to roots in English murder ballads, but it seems pretty clear that the precipitating event that led to this much-recorded story was the killing of William Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton at the Bill Curtis Saloon in St. Louis at Christmas time in 1895. Lyons’ death certificate is reproduced above.

By all accounts, Shelton was a “bad man,” a pimp and gambler, and he and Lyons were at the saloon, drunk and arguing over politics or some such, when Lyons made what probably didn’t feel like a fatal mistake — he took Shelton’s Stetson hat, possibly after Shelton had crushed Lyons’ derby. Accordingly, Shelton shot him dead. Rather than lead to calls to ban handguns, this seemingly pedestrian, if horrific, event (it was apparently just one of 5 similar murders that day in St. Louis) sparked a legend that has been recorded more than 400 times, in virtually every style imaginable.
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Apr 192013
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Fans of Gram Parsons are generally divided into three camps over 1999’s Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons. The first thinks it’s brilliant, a reverent homage to a great songwriter and a testament to the weight of his country rock influence. The second likes the raw sound of another tribute album better: 1993’s Conmemorativo: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, featuring the likes of Bob Mould and The Mekons. And the third camp feels that the only person that can sing Gram Parsons songs is Parsons himself.

If we took the philosophy of the last opinion to heart, this site wouldn’t even exist. While the so-called purists would deny any version other than the one by the original artist as being legitimate, it certainly would be a dull world if all musicians were content to color within the lines without recognizing that someone else before them drew those lines. While Conmemorativo does contain some gems, there are two reasons why Return of the Grievous Angel is better: great production values, and the guiding hand of Emmylou Harris, who worked so closely with Parsons and who served as executive producer of the compilation. So count us among the members of that first camp. Now let’s meet the man who inspired the album. Continue reading »