The first CD released by The Postal Service was the 2003 single “Such Great Heights.” The song was written by Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello and featured Iron & Wine doing a cover version on the B-side. The Iron & Wine take was featured on the soundtrack for Garden State and went on to become the wider-known version. Ever since, the song has made the cover rounds. Ben Folds, Rilo Kiley, Streelight Manifesto have all had a go and recently we featured Amanda Palmer and Kim Boekbinder doing a wonderful ukulele version.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Prolific indie musician Ben Gibbard celebrates his 35th birthday on August 11. He’ll be spending the big day in Georgia, touring in support of Death Cab for Cutie’s latest release Codes and Keys; here at Cover Me we’re saluting him with five covers of his work by other artists. In light of his extensive catalogue with both Death Cab and electronic side project The Postal Service, there were a lot of options, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few of the best.
Well, it’s late October. Leaves are turning, temperatures are diving, and the best Halloween costumes are long gone from the shelves of stores across the country (looks like it’s “homeless guy” for me again this year). For many, this all amounts to just one thing: the baseball playoffs. But as the Giants and Rangers get ready to square off in the World Series, it may seem like there’s little excitement in it for those of us unfortunate enough to call ourselves Dodgers, Mariners, or, worst of all, Yankees fans.
Music fans, on the other hand, are having a field day (get it? field day? heh). At last Wednesday’s NLCS game between the Giants and Phillies in San Francisco, Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard sang the national anthem. As if that wasn’t enough, Gibbard’s wife, She and Him‘s Zooey Deschanel, took on “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. Gibbard and Deschanel – the match made in indie heaven – were a nice lead-in to Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the game the following day. All three of these performances, available for streaming below, are remarkable in their simple beauty.
David Bazan is endlessly fascinating. Known primarily for his work with Pedro the Lion, he has spent decades on the Christian rock circuit questioning the religion’s basic tenants. The fantastic Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock aptly describes him as “leading his listeners out of the desert of certainty, preaching the gospel of doubt.” He won’t play most Christian music festivals and most Christian music festivals wouldn’t have him anyway.
A few months ago Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie fame performed Pedro the Lion’s first single “Big Trucks” at a Stereogum SXSW event. After all this waiting though, a video just surfaced. It’s a close-up pro-grade recording (shot for Stereogum I’m guessing, though they never posted it) that looks good and sounds better. Nice of Gibbard to shout out a fellow Seattleite, who actually opened for Death Cab on tour in 2007 (that’s Bazan on the left in the photo above, Gibbard on the right).
2009 will disappear into the ether in a few hours, but before it does there’s time for one last retrospective to do: The Top Covers of 2009. The Artists-to-Cover this year seemed to be Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, though somewhat surprisingly no particularly definitive tribute to the latter has surfaced.
25. Imogen Heap – Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Any cover of this song loses something without the Vincent Price voice-over. Imogen Heap may not be the Godfather of Horror, but she’s just quirky enough to pull it off. [Buy]
24. Jason Bajada – You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son (Wolf Parade)
There’s nothing harder to pull off than an acoustic-guitar and voice cover. Anyone can try – just strum the chords – but few stand out from the pack of YouTube wannabes. Bajada is one. [Buy]
23. Thom Yorke – All for the Best (Miracle Legion)
How a semi-obscure songwriter got so many A-listers for his tribute album (Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black) is a bit of a mystery, but the “Idioteque”-esq blips Yorke warbles over somehow makes perfect sense. [Buy]
22. Atlas Sound – Walk a Thin Line (Fleetwood Mac)
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox’s other band put up this tempered falsetto cover on his blog with little fanfare earlier this year. As with most things he gets his hands on, it exploded. [Buy]
21. Florence and the Machine – Addicted to Live (Robert Palmer)
Largely known for the robo-models who jerk about in the video, “Addicted to Love” gets a much-needed upgrade from blog darling Florence and the Machine whose Lungs was one of the best albums of the year. [Buy]
20. The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
This list easily could have been the twenty-five best Jack White covers of the year. On the b-side to the “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single (vinyl only, naturally), White hollers like an in-the-gutter bluesman which the band emits musical sludge around him. [Buy]
17. Joensuu 1685 – I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen covered Suicide in 2005 and this one sounds like Suicide fighting back. The feedback frenzy of an opening lasts almost three minutes until the singing begins. And this is the short version! [Buy]
16. Anya Marina – Whatever You Like (T.I.)
I despise this song with a passion, so it’s ironic that not one but two brilliant covers were some of my most-played (the other being by Joan As Police Woman). The lyrics are as profound as ever. Shorty, you the hottest. Love the way you drop it. Brain so good, could have sworn you went to college. [Buy]
14. Feist and Ben Gibbard – Train Song (Vashti Bunyan)
Indie-tastic charity comp Dark Was the Night had more new covers than many tribute albums, but was excluded for consideration from our list ‘cause it had just as many originals. However, the harmony on this semi-obscure song form 1966 cannot be ignored. [Buy]
13. John Frusciante – Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley)
Frusciante recently quit the Chili Peppers. If that enables him to make more experimental psychedelic covers like this one, thank goodness. He should have brought Flea with him. [Buy]
12. Coldplay – Fight for Your Right (Beastie Boys)
The Beastie Boys canceled a summer of high-profile festival appearance when MCA announced he had cancer. Jay-Z subbed in at All Points West, paying predictable tribute (“No Sleep Til Brooklyn”). More unexpected was Chris Martin’s brilliant minor-key piano ballad two days later. And the crowd goes wild . [Buy]
11. Town Bike – Radio Nowhere (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen closed his four-hour appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle with a mashup of this and “Radio Radio.” Slamming it into “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” works too. [Buy]
10. Ben’s Brother – Poker Face (Lady Gaga)
Everyone from Weezer to Daughtry covered “Poker Face” this year, its catchy hook a natural for ironic sing-alongs. The indie-acoustic covers seemed to work best and “beta male” Jamie Hartman sings it so enthusiastically you almost don’t hear the tongue in cheek. [Buy]
9. Chromeo – I Can’t Tell You Why (The Eagles)
Electro-funk duo Chromeo seems an unlikely duo to cover the Eagles. Their effects-laden delivery beats the odds though, taking the 1979 single straight into the twenty-first century. [Buy]
8. Dex Romweber Duo ft. Jack White – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
Definitely the best Geechie Wiley cover this year. Jack White produced this one for his Third Man Records label and was nice enough to add his enviable yelp to this blues stomp. [Burn]
7. My Gold Mask – Bette Davis Eyes (Jackie DeShannon/Kim Carnes)
My Gold Mask sent this one our way a couple months ago, which just goes to show you artists out there, submissions are never ignored. [Buy]
5. The BPA ft. Iggy Pop – He’s Frank (Slight Return) (The Monochrome Set)
Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook to his mom) created the Brighten Port Authority apparently solely to produce some killer club-funk tracks with his favorite vocalists. Iggy Pop, who these days seems to have made a career out of guest appearances, sneers his way through this unearthed gem. Biggest shock of all: he managed to keep his shirt on during live performances! [Buy]
4. The Gaslight Anthem – I Do Not Hook Up (Kelly Clarkson)
The Gaslight Anthem tend to cover Bruce Springsteen, The Band, and Johnny Cash. Did the heart-on-sleeve rock revivals finally succumb to the temptation of the ironic pop cover? Not a chance. Against all odds Brian Fallon gives a Kelly Clarkson song the emotional heft of “The River.” [Buy]
2. Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)
Nick Cave recently called this his new favorite band, which is all the recommendation one needs. Their garage-punk racket turns this innocent love song into the best stalker rocker since “Every Breath You Take.” [Buy]