Nov 302011
 

Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.

In “I Kissed a Girl,” Santana (Naya Rivera) grapples with being forced out of the closet while the show’s two elections (Kurt Hummel for student body president and Burt Hummel for Congress) enter their last days. Meanwhile, the competition between the New Directions glee club and rivals the Troubletones cools down as the groups come together to help Santana through her identity crisis.

Before we get too deep into this week’s episode, we need to backtrack a bit to our previous entry. I had mentioned how much I enjoyed last episode’s closing Adele mash-up, “Rumor Has It/Someone Like You,” and apparently I wasn’t the only one. Besides commenters and friends of this site, the music-buying public also voiced their support, giving Glee its best-performing single by far in a long, long time. “Rumor Has It/Someone Like You” hit number 11 on the U.S. charts; the next highest-charting song from this season, a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” didn’t even crack the top 40 (it settled at 59). The last Glee song that did so well was actually one of their original numbers from the middle of season two, “Loser Like Me.” The last cover to rival the Adele mash-up’s performance was “Forget You,” which you may recall unfortunately featured Gwyneth Paltrow. Not a bad accomplishment for Glee‘s 300th song then, eh? Perhaps that mash-up signals a return to a more pop-oriented soundtrack after a first few months dominated by musical numbers. Continue reading »

Jun 292011
 

The track listing of Relient K’s Is for Karaoke covers EP makes one thing immediately apparent: this band has good taste in music. Excepting the oddball Justin Bieber cover (presumably included as a joke), these songs’ original artists stand among the coolest of the cool rock bands: Weezer, Gnarls Barkley, even They Might Be Giants. It’s a diverse tracklist sure to draw even casual fans to investigate this effort. But will they like what they find when they get there?

Unfortunately, Karaoke finds Relient K striking the wrong tone on at least half of its songs. The band embraces the worst trait of its pop-punk genre here – over-earnestness – and it knocks this album down a few pegs. Not that covers shouldn’t be heartfelt, but listen to singer Matt Thiessen’s delivery on opener “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” originally by Cyndi Lauper. It seems like his soul truly aches for those poor un-fun-having girls; “that’s all they really want” sounds less like a celebration of simplicity and more like a plaintive cry for somebody, anybody to let these ladies lighten up. That might work on a more artsy record, I suppose, but the tracklist and title of Karaoke imply a lighthearted nature, something “Girls” totally misses. Continue reading »

Nov 292009
 

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. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.


Just two weeks ago I was bitching about how much iTunes was trying to jeopardize this feature and now I’m eating my words. Damn you Steve Jobs! The timing for this song is perfect.

Thanksgiving has ended and Christmas decorations are going up everywhere. So what could be more appropriate than a song about…Christmas decorations! Sure, neon lights have replaced boughs of holly, but being jolly never goes out of fashion.

“Deck the Halls” comes to us from Wales by way of Mozart. The song’s feel-good melody was first recorded (as in written down) by harpist John Parry Ddall (nickname: Blind Parry of Ruabon) in the mid-18th century, though its roots may be centuries older. It soon spread throughout Europe though when Wolfgang “Amadeus Amadeus!” Mozart used the tune in his 1788 Sonata in G.

The lyrics we sing today first appeared in a New York newspaper in 1881, but how they got attached to the Welsh tune is unknown. By the turn of the century though, “Deck the Halls” as we know had become a staple of carolers nationwide. Ironically, in Wales the tune has become “Oer Yw’r Gwr” (Cold Is The Man), which is actually about New Year’s Eve.

Ohio pop-punkers Relient K first released this cover on their 2004 Christmas album Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand. The album was re-released with some new tunes three years later as Let It Snow, Baby…Let It Reindeer. Before you get on them for having too many Christmas albums though, remember that these guys got their start on the Christian rock circuit. At any rate, it’s hard to bash a well-done pop-punk cover though and these guys do smirk-rock with the best of them.

Want more Christmas covers? Follow us on Twitter, where Cover Me will be posting a new Xmas cover every day of Advent!

Relient K – Deck the Halls (Trad.) [Buy]

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

Christian Rock

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Aug 272009
 

Our Shuffle Sunday pick a few weeks ago reminded me of a theme I’d been planning to work up for a while. See, for my senior thesis I researched the phenomenon of Christian rock, otherwise known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I examined the fan base, seeing who they are and why they buy what they buy. During the course of this I was exposed to quite a bit of Christian music, and learned that musically, it’s like any other genre: 90% of it is terrible, the other 10% not bad. Lyrically it spans the gamut from the in-your-face (Larry Norman, Newsboys) to “Jesus is my girlfriend” non-specificity (Amy Grant, Switchfoot).

Here’s some of the not bad, CCM artists covering other CCM artists (mostly). To dispel a few popularly-held beliefs: Creed is not CCM and neither is Evanescence. These are Christians who rock (horribly), but were never part of the CCM community. Know who was though? Sufjan Stevens. So don’t be so quick to roll your eyes. Go below to learn and if you want to check out that thesis, it’s here.


DC Talk – I Wish We’d All Been Ready (Larry Norman)
This was CCM’s first hit, a tune from 1969 by the “Godfather of Christian rock,” the man who the term “Jesus freak” was coined to refer to. The movement started when evangelicals brought a bunch of California hippies into the church. They abandoned free love and drugs, but didn’t want to abandon rock and roll. DC Talk are the biggest Christian hitmakers of the ‘90s – their song “Jesus Freak” is arguable the best CCM song ever – so it’s fitting they pay tribute to their forefather. Even if the lyrics are…well, you’ll see. [Buy]

Relient K – Between You and Me (DC Talk)
DC Talk’s 1995 album Jesus Freak heralded the second coming of Christian music. It sold two million copies to Christians and non-Christians alive, proving that whether one agreed with the message or not this was music to jump to. Relient K currently blur that same line, alternating Christian rock festivals with Warped tour appearances. [Buy]

Jars of Clay – God Will Lift Up Your Head (Trad.)
The more I listen to Jars of Clay, the more I begin to think they may be the best CCM group out there. Great musicians, greater songwriters, and phenomenal interpreters. For their album Redemption Songs they put new music to a dozen old hymns, making them both poppy and emotionally inspirational. [Buy]

Lost and Found – Scars and Stripes (Tim Graf)
The duo that invented speedwood – like speed metal, played on acoustic instruments – tackles a peer’s tune on a b-sides disc released only to fan club members. It’s more complicated lyrically than a lot of CCM tunes, which makes it more interesting. [Buy]

Third Day – Saved (Bob Dylan)
Many readers will know Dylan had a born-again phase, releasing three Christian albums. Needless to say, it’s an obvious source for in-the-know bands like Third Day to tackle. And did I mention Dylan’s coming out with a Christmas album in October? Maybe he hasn’t left the faith after all. [Buy]

Sanctified Glory Mountain Revival Family – Guilty By Association (Steve Taylor)
Ever since the controversy over his tongue-in-cheek hit “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good” – he blows it up because he’s an ice cream man worried about losing customers – Taylor has been a bit of an outlaw in the world of CCM. Here he’s just as sarcastic as ever, criticizing Christians who think listening to secular music will send you straight to hell. [Buy]

Geoff Moore & The Distance – Why Should the Devil (Have All the Good Music)? (Larry Norman)
This song title could be called the mantra of Christian rock. It’s the quote commonly used to justify a genre that some Christians still object too (check out this site – it’s pretty funny). Well, he clearly doesn’t – this song rocks. [Buy]

Audio Adrenaline – Gloria (U2)
U2 is another band of Christians who rock, but enough of their songs are Biblically informed that there’s a whole Christian rock tribute album to them. Fun fact: many Christian radio stations will only play CCM covers of U2 songs, but not the originals. [Buy]

The Swirling Eddies – Alcatraz (Al Denson)
We heard their DeGarmo and Key cover a couple weeks ago, and this track comes off the same lovingly mocking album that takes the silliest classic CCM tunes and makes them even sillier. Ironically, it also makes them better. [Buy]

Philmore – Living On a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
Bon Jovi is in no way a Christian group, so it’s interesting to see a song you never thought of as religious repurposed. All of a sudden the title has a totally different meaning. [Buy]

Jun 032008
 

Put on your scarves and Buddy Holly glasses, cause today we’re bringing you the band that was emo before the term existed, and once the term did exist, still kicked ass. For everyone who grew up on the first of their three self-titled albums, and Pinkerton, here are a few new ways to think about your favorite songs. Oh, and did I mention their new one comes out tomorrow? =w=

Asher – My Name Is Jonas
One of the better-known songs on the album, I had trouble finding a decent cover of this one. The best I could find is this solo acoustic take. I like the guy’s voice, but the recording quality’s not great.

Beans – No One Else
Weezer rave!!! Someone get me a glowstick.

Christopher John – The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
One of the more obscure songs on the record, this was always a favorite of mine. This quiet take mostly does it justice, though the singer verges on whiney.

Biffy Clyro – Buddy Holly
The same group who brought you that Umbrella cover that made the blog rounds last year, here Clyro brings a spastic guitar-attack to the album’s trademark song. If you haven’t seen the original video, incidentally, it’s one of their best, so check it out.

Spoony – Undone (The Sweater Song)
It starts out just like the original. Then quickly stops being anything like the original.

Relient K – Surf Wax America
An acoustic take of a song they performed live on their ’06 tour, they strip it back to acoustic guitars and some super-sensitive harmonies. Pity this version doesn’t have the piano and steel guitar the live version does, but it’s the only decent quality recording I could find.

Wakey! Wakey! – Say It Ain’t So
This guy has gotten a lot of well-deserved hype for his cover series, and this song is a perfect example, a delicate piano take that manages to not be as lame as that description might sound.

Hermann H and the Pacemakers – In the Garage
Off the incredible – and incredibly strange – Japanese tribute album Across the Sea, Hermann brings the bossanova excitement with a full horn section.

Glasseater – Holiday
Like the original, but crunchier, and with a wannabe John Bonham on drums.

Mock Orange – Only In Dreams
At four and half minutes, the length pales in comparison to the original, but it’s a tightly-done take that makes the song as loud and rocking as everything else on the original album.

Dec 242007
 

I almost didn’t do a Christmas theme this week just to buck the trends, but decided that, though Christmas songs may be a cliché, they’re a good cliché. So instead I’m just gonna post more tracks than normal. Which, given that every week my lists get longer, is really saying something. So go drink too much eggnog, accidentally kiss your second-cousin under the mistletoe, and wake up on December 26th to unpayable credit card debt. Cause, after all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Relient K – 12 Days of Christmas (Trad.)
A punk-rock take on the Christmas classic, made more memorable than your average punk cover by the addition of a new chorus. This has to be the most obnoxious song to carol, with verse after verse of shitty gifts, but the K guys manage to keep it fresh through at least 10.

Sufjan Stevens – O Come O Come Emmanuel (Neale/Trad.)
We got a taste of Sufjan’s reworking of Christmas classics last week, but here’s another, a subtle and fragile plea.

Jackson Browne & Bruce Cockburn – All I Want For Christmas Is World Peace (Timbuk3)
Incredibly lame title, but other than that the lyrics are interesting (“chestnuts roasting on my VCR”), and the two provide some earthy harmonies. Sure it’s a little over-the-top, but sincerity doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A couple slight audio imperfections, since it’s live, but nothing bad.

The Stars – Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)
Probably my favorite Christmas song, it’s full of fury and despair until the redemption at the end. No wait, there is no redemption, it’s just bitter the whole way through. There’s no way to better The Pogues version with Kirsty MacColl, and these folks don’t try, but provide another nice take, a lot more sincere and a lot less drunk. If you don’t have the original though, you need it.

Jethro Tull – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Trad.)
Ian Anderson and co. came out with a Christmas album a few years ago and, surprisingly enough, it’s not terrible. The original songs are very good themselves, which is rare for any “new” attempts at Christmas material. This instrumental cover, while not departing from the classic Tull sound, would be enjoyable to throw on during some ham stuffing or turkey basting.

Liz Phair – Winter Wonderland (Bernard & Smith)
She doesn’t show her groin, whine about divorce, or sing about how much she loves semen on this one. Instead, it’s a moderately updated take with a some drum machine and muted acoustic guitar backing a straightforward vocal.

Johnny Cash – Little Drummer Boy (Davis)
Kind of like Hurt, after you’ve heard Cash’s version no others measure up.

Jimi Hendrix – Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne
When you throw it in an instrumental distortion medley though, it takes on a whole new life

The Hotshots – Snoopy Versus the Red Baron (The Royal Guardsmen)
This was a favorite of mine as a kid, a new twist on the Christmas spirit that really hits home. This reggae-ska cover was a #4 hit in the UK and, though I think it suffers greatly for having eliminated the chorus, is otherwise fun.

Anberlin – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
The original was the centerpiece of maybe the most famous Christmas album of all time, Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You. I couldn’t decide whether to put up this version or the softer one by Death Cab for Cutie, but that’s all over the blogosphere, so here’s a new one, a sort of alt-rock take that’s full of chutzpah. Wait, wrong holiday?

Darlene Love – Christmas Must Be Tonight (The Band)
I was really hoping this wasn’t originally by The Band since their version is so good I wanted to post it, but it was and I had to find another. Love just came out with a full album of Christmas material a couple years ago (she knows where her talents lie I guess), and has a voice that has aged beautifully, with far more character than her old stuff. Really belting this one out, she reminds me of seeing Mavis Staple sing The Weight with The Decemberists.

Bruce Springsteen – Christmas Day (Detroit Junior)
Live from one of his holiday shows in ’01, it’s a great call-and-response number that has loads of energy and doesn’t say a thing. Tell me those horns don’t get you dancing though.

Lost and Found – Mary Mary (Avery & Marsh)
Here’s a Christmas song I’m sure you’ve never heard, done in Lost and Found’s “speedwood” style (like speed-metal, but wood). If you can make it through some nasally vocals, it’s worth it.

Wax Audio – Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (John Lennon)
Couldn’t decide on this one whether to go for good or interesting for a cover of this, and I went for the latter. Listening to it at first I didn’t realize the premise, and I almost thought it was William Shatner. Turns out the vocals are by a different daft gent working way beyond his ability level, President G-Dubs Bush. Listen to it, it’s certainly creative, and even almost catchy in its own right. Here’s something similar done to R.E.M.

Ed Harcourt – In the Bleak Midwinter (Rossetti/Holst)
A lesser-known Christmas hymn here, it’s got a lot of history as a mid-19th century poem later set to music. Harcourt rocks it out, reels it back in, then rocks it out harder.

Herbie Hancock ft. Corrine Bailey Rae – River (Joni Mitchell)
The original song doesn’t really have all that much to do with Christmas when you listen to it, but it’s become a holiday staple for some reason, and lord knows there are plenty of good covers of it. This one’s off the surprise black sheep nomination for this year’s Album of the Year Grammy.

Neko Case – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (Tom Waits)
I would think this would be impossible to cover, but Case does a nice slow-burning version accompanied only by some sort of airy organ.

Tom Waits – Silent Night (Mohr/Gruber/Trad.)
Tom used to use fragments of this to bookend Christmas Card live in concert in the late 70’s, but I hadn’t realized he recorded a version for a charity album ten years later. Where the 70’s version was drunken piano, that instrument is nowhere near this martial holler with soaring vocals (well, the ones that aren’t Tom’s are soaring), strings, accordion, and god knows what else thrown in there.