Friday marked the first (and we’re guessing only) annual Bon Iver Day in the city of Milwaukee. Wisconsin’s favorite son kicked off his summer tour in the city’s Riverside Theater and, in addition to playing most of the songs off his doubly self-titled new album Bon Iver, Bon Iver, he threw in a surprise Björk cover.
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.
This past weekend, Rekjavik’s Nordic House held a karaoke marathon to support an environmentalist petition. Amidst what we assume were lots of warbled “Stairway to Heaven”s, one surprise participant stole the show: Björk! She sang Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” demonstrating once again that when she’s not too busy yelping or grunting, the woman has an excellent voice. She also dueted with Icelandic musician-turned-politician Ómar Ragnarsson on his 1965 single “Þrjú hjól undir bílnum.”
Certain records labels come to represent a sound as fully as the bands they represent. Sub Pop, Epitaph, Matador – all names that conjure up a particular aesthetic for those familiar with their roster. Anova Music may not boast the fame or history of the big labels, but with its small lineup it too represents a specific sound: Israeli indie. Genre-wise, it’s all over the board – from the EatLiz hard rockers to jazz singer Ruth Dolores Weiss – but the small community stays strong.
On a selfish note, we like Anova because of all the covers they send us. Whether generated by label policy or coincidental artist initiative, the songs always deliver. In September we posted Electra’s cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and we recently named Weiss’ Leonard Cohen cover one of the best of 2010.
Björk covers are a tricky business. The originals are so idiosyncratic (read: weird) they seem to defy reinterpretation. How do you replicate the bizarre studio productions? Everyone from Radiohead to the Decemberists have tried, with mixed results.
Three Swedish artists attempted the, if not impossible, at least the very difficult at a ceremony awarding Björk the Polar Music Prize. Amazingly, even with the woman herself watching, all three pulled it off. Pop maven and 2010 breakout star Robyn, who covered Alicia Keys a few weeks ago, rocks some Björk-worthy shoulder pads for an orchestral-dance “Hyperballad.” Songwriter Ane Brun, who we recently heard cover Alphaville, utilizes the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra to their full potential in a delicate “Jóga.” Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums brought a little steel drum to “Human Behaviour.” Hard to know which is the best, though the honoree herself seems particularly moved by Brun.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should.
What is it about Iceland? Yes, sometimes it spews enough ash to shut down European flights for weeks. Sure, sometimes it accumulates debt that threatens the entire global economy. Everyone has their faults. The music Iceland exports seems universally fantastic though. Does Iceland simply not have any pop-punk emo kids? Where are the ear-bleeding Top 40 rappers? Does the Icelandic populace just have better taste than everyone else?
The country continues its winning streak with Ólöf Arnalds. Ms. Arnalds debuted in 2007 with – say it with me now – Við Og Við. She works closely with Sigur Rós piano/xylophone player Kjartan Sveinsson and her latest single features Björk. Icelandic musicians stick together.