I have no hard data to back this up, but I suspect that EPs play a larger role in the world of cover songs than they do elsewhere. In the wider world, EPs tend to be an afterthought, a set of rejects or remixes that may or may not be worthwhile. People pay little attention to EPs, and artists act accordingly, saving their real statements for the full-lengths. In our world, though, we see as many EPs as we do proper albums, and they’re every bit as good. An artist may hesitate to put out a “cover album” – still a loaded term in some circles – but in the age of Garageband and Bandcamp, it’s only too easy to record a half dozen covers and toss ‘em out between albums. Therefore, in honor of the EP’s prominence in our world, we present our favorite EPs of 2011 (with an MP3 from each).
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 second of this week’s birthday twofer follows yesterday’s Leonard Cohen feature. There, we heard Nick Cave cover “Avalanche” with the Bad Seeds. Today, Mr. Cave takes a load off while others pay tribute to him. It’s his 54th birthday and, judging by the vital fury of his last few albums, we suspect he’s just getting started.
As we noted on Monday, Bird Call is putting out her covers EP, Other Creatures, on May 24th. After hearing the opening track from the album you might be reminded of a similarly-named group who put out a covers album last year: The Bird and the Bee. Their tribute to Hall & Oates was a very subtle updating of many of that duo’s greatest songs; they took the ’80s versions and lovingly tweaked them just enough to make them sound modern.
When Beck released his album Sea Change in 2002, there was little doubt about the meaning of the title. Coming off his Prince-esque Midnite Vultures, with its sleazy funk stylings, no one expected the bare bones sadness and stillness of Sea Change. By the time you hit the fifth track, “Lost Cause,” you were either head over heels for a side of Beck many people hadn’t seen before, or scrambling for your copy of Odelay. If you’re in the former camp, “Lost Cause” is a sacred song, sad beyond words despite the upbeat fingerpicking and swirling ambiance.