Mar 072010
 

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can.




Mark Kozelek

When I first heard Sun Kil Moon’s Tiny Cities, I didn’t realize it was all Modest Mouse covers. This is funny since I’m sure that’s the reason I bought it in the first place. By the time I got around to listening, though, I’d entirely forgotten that fact. Instead, I fell in love with Mark Kozelek’s sparse acoustic songs, eleven short gems of haunting beauty.

When I finally learned that these were not originals, I didn’t know how to feel. I’d already built a relationship with the album under one set of assumptions, and finding those tested jarred me a bit.

Needless to say, I came around. If anything, I’m even more impressed at how natural these sound in such drastic rearrangements. Pickin’ on Modest Mouse this ain’t (though that also exists).

“Convenient Parking” is a perfect example. Like many of Isaac Brook’s songs, the meaning is open to interpretation. When I hear it, I can’t help being reminded of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”: the parking lot as symbolic of urban sprawl, itself symbolic of America bulldozing its past.

Kozelek ditches the grungy sound of the original (first released on Modest Mouse’s 1997 The Lonesome Crowded West) for spare plucking and a stream-of-consciousness run through the lyrics, knocking the entirety of the original’s 4:08 into under two minutes. Whew.

Sun Kil Moon – Convenient Parking (Modest Mouse) [Buy]

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below.

Jan 042010
 

Seems like everyone made more resolutions than usual this year. It’s easy to see why. After what everyone but China agrees was a decidedly crappy decade, the opportunity for a fresh start, however artificial, feels revitalizing. The individual New Years Resolutions will quickly fade as always, but hopefully the collective optimism towards a new decade has more staying power.


OK Go – This Will Be Our Year (The Zombies)
The Zombies released this single early in 1968, but sadly their optimism was misplaced — by the time it hit stores the band had already broken up. [Buy]

The Dresden Dolls – New Years Day (U2)
The tag says “12/31/03,” but the 10-9-8 countdown leading into this performance suggests that’s a few seconds out of date. This apt (if slightly clichéd) song turns romantic potential into rejuvenating possibility, Amanda Palmer singing “I will begin again” like an emotional cleansing. [Buy]

Easy Star All Stars – Fitter Happier (Radiohead)
A reggae Radiohead tribute album seems a shaky proposition, but it’s hard to deny the naming potential: Radiodread. Actually this cover is about as reggae as the original is pop, but that doesn’t stop the All Stars from translating the list of resolutions into Rasta-speak. [Buy]

The Flaming Lips – (Just Like) Starting Over (John Lennon)
This 1980 single hit number-one two weeks after Lennon’s death, persevering despite the fact that its b-side was Yoko Ono simulating orgasm in Japanese. [Buy]

Lyle Lovett – Blue Skies (Irving Berlin)
Irving Berlin wrote this as a last-minute addition to the obscure Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy in 1926, three years before the Great Depression hit. Though the show was a flop, the song was an instant success. On opening night the audience demanded star Belle Baker reprise the song a stunning twenty-four times. [Buy]

Elton John – Don’t Stop (Fleetwood Mac)
Rumours is one of the most depressing breakup albums in history, but “Don’t Stop” brings a rare glimmer of hope. The lyrics seem almost too cheery taken on their own, but in the context of such a painful album the forced positivity takes on all sorts of narrative nuances. [Buy]

Joe K’s Kid – Changes (David Bowie)
Featuring the best stutter since “My Generation,” the “Changes” single came smack in the middle of Bowie promoting his significantly weirder album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (last month’s Full Album). While the chorus seems optimistic on first listen, some strange lyrical twists make you wonder. [Buy]

Goldspot – Float On (Modest Mouse)
“Float On” comes off the aptly-titled Good News for People Who Love Bad News. “I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere,” songwriter Issac Brock told The A.V. Club. “I just want to feel good for a day.” [Buy]

Elliott Murphy – Better Days (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen has complained that when he made happy music in the early ‘90s, audiences turned away. He’s got a point. While righteous average-Joe indignation has always been a part of his appeal though, the fact that the two “happy” albums he refers to were his first without the E Street Band didn’t help matters. [Buy]

Muse – Feeling Good (Newley/Bricusse)
Another huge hit from a semi-obscure musical, “Feeling Good” comes from 1965’s The Roar of the Greasepaint – the Smell of the Crowd. The song gained prominence through a recording by Nina Simone, but rendition ain’t too shabby either — Total Guitar magazine named it the fifth best cover of all time. [Buy]

The next Full Album set, traditionally Cover Me’s first major post of the month, will go up next week.