Mar 022018

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

emel mathlouthi covers

We first discovered Emel Mathlouthi at last year’s Northside Festival. But let me be clear: when I say “discovered,” I hardly mean she was unknown. In fact, we were very late on the bandwagon; the Tunisian singer-songwriter is an international star. A few years back she became known as the “Voice of the Arab Spring” after one of her song’s became an anthem for the revolution. She even performed it at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2015:

As you can see in that video, her original songs are stunning. Her most recent album, Ensen, was my personal favorite album of 2017, and today she releases a follow-up set of inventive remixes of those songs titled Ensenity. You can get a taste over at The Fader.

With a voice like that, you won’t be surprised to learn she can deliver some pretty stunning covers too. She can belt “Hallelujah” with the best of ‘em, and has equally beautiful takes on David Bowie and Björk under her belt. She was even kind enough to put together a pretty mind-blowing version of “All Along the Watchtower” for my book party. It’s the rare cover that owes next to nothing to Jimi Hendrix: Continue reading »

Sep 152011

Last night the “Big Four” of thrash metal – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath, and Anthrax – played their second U.S. show at Yankee Stadium. Despite bad blood in the past, the vibe onstage was all bro-hugs and congratulations all around on having made it this far. The four bands even united during Metallica’s first encore song to pay tribute to a mutual influence: Motörhead. James Heftield called Lemmy the Godfather of Metal (“whether he likes it or not”) before rocking through the band’s legendary “Overkill.” Continue reading »

Apr 142011

YouTube is filled with amateur cover “artists.” Most stink. On the ‘Tube extracts the exceptions.

YouTube often tests the faith of even the most loyal champion. Why do so many teenage girls think webcam a cappella versions of Rihanna hits make them worthy of our time? Millions do, apparently. Just when you feel ready to give up on the whole endeavor, you come across a wild looking Ukrainian piano maestro playing Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Vika Yermolyeva, who goes by the moniker vkgoeswild on YouTube, trained classically and has received numerous awards for her playing. Now based in Iceland, she also harbors a not-so-secret love of metal, which she expresses by showcasing her solo piano arrangements of songs by bands such as MetallicaNine Inch Nails and System of a Down. Her stunning results illustrate the beauty of the piano as a musical instrument in the right hands: an instrument that combines percussion and melody better than all others, allowing for an incredible range of expression. Continue reading »