Wilco

 Posted by at 1:31 am  1 Response »
Jun 262009
 

–Note: As of July 1st, all of the archived links from the last year of posts will be dead. So go through the archives via the tags or lists on the right and get downloading! I’ll post a guide to help you in the next day or so, but time is tick ticking away.–

First things first: A Michael Jackson tribute post will undoubtedly be headed your way next week, but until then check out this post of covers of every song off Thriller. When you’re done there, come back here to see some covers of a band that has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Jackson: Wilco!

The Bad Plus – Radio Cure
Why not start with the unusual? The Bad Plus is a jazz trio whose 2008 covers album For All I Care features very different takes on everyone from Nirvana to the Flaming Lips. Dig it. [Buy]

James Eric – Spiders (Kidsmoke)
As regular readers will know, James is an old friend of the blog, having helped us kick off our Cover Commissions series with a dynamite version of Devo’s “Beautiful World.” Two dynamite versions actually, with some MGMT thrown in for good measure. This guy knows his covers, and he’s done three Wilco tunes thus far. This is the most dramatic reinvention though, turning Wilco’s ten-minute fuzz-funk freakout into a little four minute acoustic-and-shaker jam. [Buy]

Second Hand Musicians – Via Chicago
It’s a live one here, from 2006. A little more upbeat than the original. Well, as upbeat as you can be with an opening line like “I dreamed about killing you last night and it felt alright to me.” [Buy]

Donavon Frankenreiter – Theologians
Don’t like guys with acoustic guitars? This might not be the post for you. If you do though, Frankenreiter’s Recycled Recipies covers EP is worth snagging. This is the best track, with some funky plucking and choral harmonies. [Buy]

Rob Gibbs – Jesus, Etc.
Norah Jones made headlines by covering this at Neil Young’s Bridge Benefit shows last fall (video), but this AutoTuned electro take is way more unique. [Buy]

David Potts-Dupre – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
This post was not intentended as a tribute to Jay Bennett, whose work outside of Wilco I am unfamiliar with (and I’m not sure what specific things he did when he was in the band), but I would be remiss in not mentioning his contributions to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and his subsequent falling out that led to a documentary with the above title. [Buy]

Punch Brothers – Poor Places
Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile leads the group with his mandolin with this slow-bluegrass (who knew that existed?) journey through another Yankee classic. A beautiful reinvention; I think I know who Wilco should pick for their next opening act. [Buy]

Ian Hultquist – Sunken Treasure
If that name doesn’t look familiar, let me give you a hint: one of the guys from buzz band Passion Pit. Needless to say, this slow finger-picker sounds nothing like their frenetic dance pop, but if the dude ever comes out with a solo album it might be worth looking into. [Buy]

Benjamin Wagner – How to Fight Loneliness
If Jeff Tweedy’s solo tours have taught us anything, it’s that no matter how elaborate the original, pretty much any Wilco song will sound good with just an acoustic guitar. Wagner takes this to heart on this and other covers, all of which worth tracking down. [Buy]

Libby Donovan – California Stars (Woody Guthrie/Wilco/Billy Bragg)
Any cover lover needs the two Mermaid Avenue discs Wilco cut with Billy Bragg, putting melodies on unfinished Guthrie lyrics. Donovan certainly knows her way around them, cutting a smooth country take of this soaring number. I saw Wilco play it with the Total Pros horns last year (my review) and…damn. [Buy]

Automatic Pilot – Less Than You Think
A warbling piano line gently guides the sensitive-guy falsetto that seems to have a bit of resolve behind the fragility. [Buy]

Mar 202009
 

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist produces a special cover for this blog. The song to be covered is usually chosen by blog readers via a poll or suggestions form. Any artists interested in participating in a future installment, please email me at the address on the right.

A month back we debuted Cover Commissions here with a cover artist extraordinaire, James Eric (read the original post). You readers were invited to vote from ten songs, covering everyone from Vampire Weekend to Gladys Knight. Well vote you did, in droves, and one song emerged the clear victor: Devo’s “Beautiful World.”

Well James took that song and has been camped out in his cover lair for the last few weeks cooking up a special new offering for us. His cover cup runneth over however, and he emerged with not one but three new tunes! Not just two drastically different versions of the winning Devo tune, but also a take on one of the runners up he just couldn’t resist tackling. Before we debut them, let’s hear about it in his own words:

Whenever I record a cover song (which is about once a week these days), I set aside about four hours in one day to complete two versions. One is a stripped-down acoustic ‘demo’ of sorts just to get a feel for the song, and the other is a tad bit more produced. I’ve always heard the argument that any song should take its time to fully develop, but I’m of the opposite opinion, especially for the cover songs I choose. The more output the better, even if the final version isn’t exactly ‘perfect,’ I actually admire recordings that leave the imperfections in tact. Whether it’s an off-key note or something strange buried in the mix, I just like the idea of putting something out there, warts and all. I know I could sit down for any recording, whether if it’s a cover or an original, and take a long time with perfecting it, but I feel it loses its raw essence when it’s re-recorded over and over. I know my mixing/mastering skills aren’t exactly spectacular, but I feel that I work very well with my limited knowledge use of loop-based software and an 8-track mixer.

I have perfect pitch and a gift for recognizing chords upon hearing any song for the first time. So I can almost learn any song, within reason. Granted, it can’t be something like improvised jazz or death metal because my ears and brain can’t travel that fast. I grew up with The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Cars, so my songs always need a poppy hook to really take up residence in my memory. I do like weird noisy stuff too, but I’m more inclined to listen to oldies than newies because most musicians back in the olden times didn’t take themselves seriously. They just found a melody, four chords, and turned it into a simple love song. Devo is a weird band that I definitely enjoy and feel as if choosing to record MGMT also complements Devo’s style just a bit with the synthesized electronica style that I enjoy on occasion. For a really interesting homage to Devo, people should relisten to Weird Al’s brilliant song “Dare to be Stupid.” Stay tuned for a side project where I collaborate with a female singer – the CD will be pressed and released in late May. I think people will enjoy the cover song selections we choose. Thanks so much for listening/downloading and all the support for any of my many uploads :)

First off, I will second the Weird Al recommendation. In fact, James even has an Al cover up at his site, a rare occurrence indeed. Check it out and many of his other tunes here.

Without further ado, I am proud to present the debut results of Cover Commissions. First though, a site disclaimer (ok, so I guess a little further ado). These mp3s may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post them on your blog, send them to your friends, burn ‘em for your office mates. When you do share these however, please include a link to this site. Cover Commissions is a monthly occurrence on this site, and the more traffic this project draws the more exciting we can make these.

Take a listen and thank James in the comments! Then head on over to his site and learn more.

Stay tuned for more Cover Commissions excitement coming your way (starting, let us not forget, with John Anealio).

Feb 192009
 

Hello cover lovers! It’s an exciting day here at Cover Me, for we are debuting a new series. For over a year now I’ve been bringing you covers from all over the interwebs, passing along the best and the strange, the gorgeous and the goofy. However, I’ve been thinking, why be content as a middleman? Why not offer some original content? Since I have no musical talent myself (you know, the old critic as failed musician thing), it’s time to start recruiting people with actual talent. So let me present…Cover Commissions, Volume 1.

Here’s the gist. Every month we will present to you an artist, one who’s probably showed up on the blog before, one whom I feel has a lot to offer cover-wise. Said artist has signed on to produce a special, never-before-heard cover for Cover Me. A commissioned work minus the money. What song will be covered? Well that depends on the artist, but as often as possible, the song choice is up to you! Read on (and if you’re an artist interested in hopping aboard, email me!)


So without further ado allow me present this month’s artist, the man to kick off Cover Commissions: James Eric. You’ve seen James here before, covering Sigur Rós and Justin Timberlake. However, those just scratch the proverbial surface of the covers machine that is James Eric. He’s got dozens on his website, and now he’s signed on to produce a special cover for us!

What song, you ask? Well, this is where you come in. To the right you’ll see a poll of ten songs that James and I came up that he could cover for us. Cast your vote and within a week or two a brand-new cover of the winning tune will be up for your enjoyment! Without further ado…drum roll…here are your options!

Lily Allen – Everybody’s At It
Devo – Beautiful World

The Hold Steady – Slapped Actress
Justice v. Simian – We Are Your Friends
Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia
MGMT – Time To Pretend

Patti Smith – Land

Vampire Weekend – M79
Tom Waits – Misery Is the River of the World

Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

There you have it. Ten songs, both indie and classic, but there can only be one winner. Before you vote though, do your research! For starters, head on over to James’ site and listen to some of his other covers (I’ve linked a few below). Then track down any of the original songs you may not know. They should mostly be available at the Hype Machine (do a search, then click the “Read full post” link if there isn’t a play button) or, barring that, Free Napster (search by track). Which would work best with James’ style? Which would be fun to have a cover of? Cast your vote and if you’re so inclined, post a comment explaining your choice. Also, if you have a better name for this feature that Cover Commissions, I’m open to suggestions.

You have one week to vote, so hop to it! To help you along, here’s a few samples.

James Eric – Mrs. Officer (Lil Wayne)

James Eric – Dreaming (Blondie)

James Eric – Reservations (Wilco)

The Uncoverable

 Posted by at 6:37 am  1 Response »
Feb 162009
 

I’ve heard a lot of covers, but every now and then a song comes along so bizarre I think, no way anyone could cover that. In every case, I turn out to be wrong. It seems musicians can take even the strangest, most idiosyncratic music and remake it in their own image. Let me present…the (not quite) uncoverable.

Neil Cowley Trio – Revolution 9 (The Beatles)
The ultimate in uncoverable (well, after Metal Machine Music…which, incidentally, an orchestra covered). The original is just random noise with some idiot saying “number nine” incessantly. When MOJO wanted to put together covers of all tracks on the White Album, I would have thought they’d given up upon remembering ol’ #9. But no, they persevered, and came up with a funky jazz cover that, unlike the original, doesn’t sound like ass. [Buy]

Alan Licht – Lonesome Valley (Trad.)
The tag says “Trad,” but there’s a lot more to the story. Licht, of avant-garde free-jazz groups like Lovechild and The Blue Humans, describes the history of this track: “Run On’s David Newgarden had played me a CD of hollerin’ contests from North Carolina, so I went about coming up with chord progressions to play behind the recordings of the weird a cappella, howling melodies.” Hollerin’ is a lost art of yelling, communicating messages in wordless yelps. It’s bizarre stuff, and can be explained better here. [Buy]

James Eric – Untitled #1 (Vaka) (Sigur Rós)
The music of angels, Sigur Rós has a sound all their own. Airy, spacey songs that float by sung either in Icelandic or a made-up language (for most of us there’s little difference), their music is entrancing, enticing, and as idiosyncratic as can be. Shockingly, however, there are a few Sigur covers out there, all quite good. I chose this one because (spoiler alert) you can expect to see more of Mr. Eric here in the very near future. [Buy]

Vienna Teng – Idioteque (Radiohead)
Radiohead is a commonly covered band, but some songs lend themselves better to covers than others. The original for this “tune” features such an idiosyncratic drum loop one wonders how to reinvent it. Teng hints at the pattern, but brings out the melody as a folksy tune with (gasp) harmonies! [Buy]

Violent Femmes – Step Right Up (Tom Waits)
Quite a few Tom songs could fit in this uncoverable category, but this tuneless huckster bark goes right up there. Tom’s six-minute infomercial for dozens of questionable products, “Step Right Up” find the Femmes adding in some more free-jazz background and bizarre vocal contortions to sell you their shit. Don’t be caught with your drawers down! [Buy]

Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
“What’s this doing here?” you’re wondering. “It’s one of the most easy-to-cover rock songs there is because of that damn riff.” It’s true; the riff puts it just after “Smoke on the Water” as a popular hook to inspire teens everywhere to pick up an axe. The vocals come second; you know the riff, you can play the song. Smith does the unthinkable though, putting out a version of the tune without the riff! The fact there even is a song without the riff is the real shock, much less that it’s such a good one. [Buy]

Mersault – Westward Ho (Moondog)
There are some unusual stories in music, but it doesn’t get much more bizarre than Moondog. Where to begin? For one, he was a homeless guy. Who only wore homemade clothes. That he designed to look like the Norse god Thor. Including a horned helmet. The strangest thing of all though, was that this “Viking of 6th Avenue” produced gorgeous off-kilter melodies, largely using his own invented instruments. Needless to say, not an artist you’d expect to find a lot of covers of, especially of a song that only has one line. [Buy]

Jars of Clay – Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Gavin Bryars)
Ina little mini-theme here, this is the second recording of a homeless guy. Bryars heard a recording of an anonymous tramp singing a two-line testimonial to his face, and turned it into one of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever heard, adding strings, brass and, later, Tom Waits to come up with 74 minutes of sweeping beauty, all built around the tramp’s sixteen words. Well-regarded Christian rock group Jars of Clay took those few lines and added their acoustic harmonies to bring the simple melody to a new generation. [Buy]

The Antlers – When You Sleep (My Bloody Valentine)
Influential though they are, My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze noisescapes seem so idiosyncratic one wonders how anyone could translate them. Pickin’ on MBV: The Bluegrass Tribute seems a stretch. The Antlers get it right though, keeping the waves of reverb right up front. [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen – Dream Baby Dream (Suicide)
When Springsteen abruptly began closing his 2005 solo concerts with this obscure cover, fan reaction was understandably mixed. The song only has two lines, repeated over an over to an organ loop for as long as thirteen minutes. Hypnotic and haunting, Bruce probably just couldn’t get the melody out of his head, and neither will you. [Buy]