Apr 152016
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

kelly clarkson cover

Kelly Clarkson is a genuine pop idol – idol is the key word there. She found fame as the original winner of American Idol back in 2002, mostly on the strength of her amazing voice. Not content to simply rest on those laurels, she quickly put her TV show winner past behind her and sought out a bigger, different sound. Her second album, Breakaway, accomplished that; she netted the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album and sold over fifteen million copies. That’s not bad for an album used as a statement piece about taking control of her own career.

Clarkson has continued refining her sound. At times she’s flirted with rock, as she did with the My December album. She’s indulged in country music as well, duetting with Reba McEntire on several occasions, finally leading to their co-headlining 2 Worlds 2 Voices tour in 2008. No matter what she chooses to sing, Kelly brings that amazing voice. Rolling Stone‘s Arion Berger said that “her high notes are sweet and pillowy, her growl is bone-shaking and sexy, and her midrange is amazingly confident.” With that kind of instrument at her command, any song she chooses to sing is worth listening to.
Continue reading »

Oct 152012
 

The names Tommy Miller and Justine Dorsey may not be familiar to most people outside of the YouTube music community. The two are a part of a collaborative musical effort on YouTube called “Steamy in the City,” comprised of some very talented musicians and filmmakers looking to make a diverse music channel on the Internet. It has been just over a year since the inception of the channel, and the aforementioned duo have just come out with what can only be described as one of the most adorable and happy renditions of one of No Doubt’s newest singles, “Settle Down.” Continue reading »

May 032010
 

The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

London Calling entered into the world in December 1979, but didn’t make its stateside debut for another month.  That makes 2010 the album’s 30th anniversary on this side of the pond.  It’s aged well.  While many classic albums sound very much of their time — that’s not to say dated — London Calling sounds like something that could have been made yesterday.  With the cover image and the cover songs, the politics and the pop, the ambitious two-disc package set a bar that no double album has since matched.  So, all together now: “And I…live by the river!”

Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Little Steven Van Zandt – London Calling
Many artists cross genres with “London Calling,” ranging from bossa nova (Bruce Lash) to surf instrumental (The Pyronauts).  Somehow though, kicking this set off with anything besides a balls-to-the-wall rocker seemed wrong.  This all-star performance comes from a Grammy tribute to Joe Strummer.  [Buy]

The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor)
The Clash wasted no time getting to the rockabilly, turning Vince Taylor’s 1958 twelve-bar b-side into a full throttled rave-up.  Setzer and his orchestra jump, jive and wail through their unique brand of big band punk, adding in a touch of the Theme from Peter Gunn[Buy]

Skarabazoo – Jimmy Jazz
You may never have noticed the subdued whistle in the intro to this one, but Skarabazoo pushes it front and center.  The Italian accent adds a suitably sinister touch.  [Buy]

No Doubt – Hateful
Before all the B-A-N-A-N-A-S nonsense, Gwen Stefani could pull off some real punk swagger.  [Buy]

The Cocktail Preachers – Rudie Can’t Fail
The Charlie Does Surf tribute album settles comfortably into the über-niche genre of instrumental surf-rock.  The Cocktail Preachers buck the trend though, shouting out “Rudie can’t fail” one whole time!  Such rebels.  [Buy]

Brady Harris – Spanish Bombs
Brady’s fantastic Cover Charge album polishes everyone from Motörhead to the Killers with a country-folk gloss.  Check out the “Heart of Glass” cover he recorded for Cover Me back in February. [Buy]

Southern Arts Society – The Right Profile
In 1956, screen star Montgomery Clift was driving home from a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s.  Having had one too many, he smashed his car into a tree, destroying his famous good looks with one crunch of glass and metal.  His next ten years have been described as the “longest suicide in Hollywood history.”  The Clash wrote this song about it.  [Buy]

Petty Booka – Lost in the Supermarket
Joe Strummer wrote this song imagining the childhood of guitarist Mick Jones (who sang lead on the track).  Japanese ukulele player Booka adds a dose of cute without losing the sad.  [Buy]

The National – Clampdown
In music history, 2010 may be remembered as the Year of the National.  Everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR is stumbling over themselves praising High Violet, the most anticipated album of the spring.  The stream over at the New York Times indicates it might live up to the hype.  [Buy]

Calexico – The Guns of Brixton
Fun trivia fact: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Brixton after this song.  Must be cheery growing up as an homage to police repression.   [Buy]

Buck-O-Nine – Wrong ‘Em Boyo (The Rulers)
The classic death-ballad tale of Stagger Lee, a southern pimp convicting of murdering William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve 1885, gets twisted around.  In the Rulers’ version, Stagger Lee is the hero of the tale.  St. Louis’ Riverfront Times hosts a telling[Buy]

Social Distortion – Death or Glory
Following a few years behind the Clash, Social Distortion gave punk anger a West coast spin.  They didn’t get around to covering the Clash until 2005 though, on the soundtrack to the skateboard film Lord of Dogtown[Buy]

La Furia – Koka Kola
La Furia are a Clash cover band with a twist: every song gets translated into Spanish.  [Buy]

James Dean Bradfield – The Card Cheat
The Manic Street Preachers singer busted out this relative obscurity at a 2006 festival appearance.  This underrated narrative describes the rise and fall (mostly fall) of a dishonest gambler.  [Buy]

Mauri – Lover’s Rock
If one had to name London Calling’s Achilles heel, this song might be it.  It aims for insight into the tension between love and sex, but quickly devolves into blowjob puns.  [Buy]

Creation Rockers – Four Horsemen
The Clash roiled punk purists by incorporating outside styles like reggae.  Shatter the Hotel: A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer pays it back.  [Buy]

Thea Gilmore – I’m Not Down
Gilmore popped up here last week, beautifying Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.”  Now she’s back with an anthem for society’s trampled on.  [Buy]

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Revolution Rock (Jackie Edwards & Danny Ray)
And we’re back to Spanish, on a track from these prolific Argentineans’ 1994 album Vasoc Vacíos (Empty Glasses).  [Buy]

Dwight Yoakam – Train in Vain
Johnny Cash once called Yoakam his favorite country singer, which is about as much endorsement as anyone should need.  [Buy]

Last month’s album: So, by Peter Gabriel.

Jan 182010
 

Music is about making noise kind of by definition, so the number of songs extolling the virtues of silence is surprising. In truth, the only sonically accurate piece about silence is John Cage’s 4’33”…but it’s hard to find covers of that one that differ much from than the original, for obvious reasons. If you’re unfamiliar with the piece, go get educated, then come back and listen to some slightly louder songs.


Action Camp – Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode)
Telling someone to enjoy the silence kind of undercuts the message. “Hey you! Are you enjoying the peace and quiet? Well, are you??” [Free EP Download]

Christopher O’Riley – I Better Be Quiet Now (Elliott Smith)
O’Riley takes Smith’s advice, shutting his trap for a soothing piano instrumental. [Buy]

The Tremeloes – Silence Is Golden (The Four Seasons)
Frankie Valli and the gang originally put this out as a b-side to “Rag Doll.” They should have given it its own release; in 1967 the Tremeloes took it to number one in the U.K. [Buy]

Stanford Harmonics – The Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel)
A cappella Simon and Garfunkel? Yawn. Well give it a chance, because this very strange interpretation incorporates all sorts of unexpected genres like ambient and chillout electronica. [Buy]

Everclear – Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-Gos)
The Vegas Years is an unusually good title for a covers album. Everclear’s top-40 alt-rock sound works pretty well with this one, a guilty-pleasure hit itself in its time. [Buy]

Sonic Youth – Loudmouth (The Ramones)
Kim Gordon’s favorite band is the Ramones, so on their 1991 live album Hold That Tiger they closed with four covers, none of which are quiet. [Buy]

Benjamin Costello – No Surprises (Radiohead)
Because suicide is one way to get some peace. [Buy]

No Age – It’s Oh So Quiet (Björk)
This seems to be No Age’s answer. Too quiet? Well we’ll fix that! [Buy]

Jet Pack – Don’t Speak (No Doubt)
Jet Pack may not speak, but on this killer surf-rock instrumental they don’t exactly shut up either. [Buy]

Deerhoof – A Kind of Hush (Herman’s Hermits)
There’s probably a reason more covers don’t just randomly omit words, but it certainly is unique. [Buy]

Nov 092009
 

No one has ever accused musicians of being too well-adjusted. There’s a fine line that keeps a love song from crossing from romantic to creepy and it’s a line musicians frequently cross. Sometimes the sketchball factor is intention (The Police), other times it clearly is not (The Turtles). So get ready to write some restraining orders, cause it’s StalkerFest ’09.


Allred – Every Breath You Take (The Police)
We’ll kick it off with the stalker song to beat all stalker songs, the tune that goes beyond obsessed-rejected to psychotic-deranged. People using this for their wedding song might want to think twice. [Buy]

Plectrum – Across the Sea (Weezer)
Rivers Cuomo wrote this as a response to a girl sending him fan mail from Japan. “When I got the letter, I fell in love with her,” he said. “I was very lonely at the time, but at the same time I was very depressed that I would never meet her. Even if I did see her, she was probably some fourteen-year-old girl, who didn’t speak English.” This is the response from Japan, off the all-Japanese tribute comp of the same name. [Buy]

Spiers & Boden – Run For Your Life (The Beatles)
In 1973, John Lennon said this was his “least favorite Beatles song,” the one he most regretted writing. The catchy melody does hide the incredibly bitter, aggressive lyrics. The “I’d rather see you dead, little girl” line though came not from Lennon’s pen, but from Elvis Presley’s “Baby, Let’s Play House.” [Buy]

Rachelle Ann Go – Two Steps Behind (Def Leppard)
This Filipino-Chinese singer named her 2007 album Obsession, so her stalking creds are song. “You can run, but you can never hide / From the shadow that’ creeping up beside you.” Yikes. [Buy]

Lee Rocker – One Way or Another (Blondie)
It’s not just guys doing the stalking though. Debbie Harry plays predator here, driving past the guy’s house in the dead of night to see what’s going on. One way she’ll get him may be with charm, but you get the impression other involves tying him to a basement radiator. [Buy]

Leningrad Cowboys – Happy Together (The Turtles)
This song seems sweet until you read the actual lyrics. They take the romance one step too far, since there’s no indication the girl in question hasn’t gone into the Witness Protection Program to avoid being “happy together” with this creep. The Russian choir singing this version adds an extra notch of “Eeeee…” [Buy]

Kevin Doyle – Escape (Enrique Iglesias)
“You can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape my love”? Enrique, your love sounds like a sexual predator. [Buy]

Four Year Strong – Spiderwebs (No Doubt)
While song from the point of view of the stalker are everywhere, here’s one from the flip side of the coin. Poor Gwen Stefani has to screen her phone calls. This comes of Four Year’s recent cover album Explains It All. [Buy]

Scala and Kolansky Brothers – Walking After You (Foo Fighters)
Where “Run for Your Life” implies a brief and terrifying chase, Dave Grohl seems more like a slow prowler. This gal may be looking over her shoulder the rest of her life. [Buy]

WAZ – I Will Follow (U2)
Similar sentiment to the Foo Fighters. “If you walk away, I will follow.” Ladies, bear this in mind when entertaining your Bono fantasies. [Buy]