I have no hard data to back this up, but I suspect that EPs play a larger role in the world of cover songs than they do elsewhere. In the wider world, EPs tend to be an afterthought, a set of rejects or remixes that may or may not be worthwhile. People pay little attention to EPs, and artists act accordingly, saving their real statements for the full-lengths. In our world, though, we see as many EPs as we do proper albums, and they’re every bit as good. An artist may hesitate to put out a “cover album” – still a loaded term in some circles – but in the age of Garageband and Bandcamp, it’s only too easy to record a half dozen covers and toss ‘em out between albums. Therefore, in honor of the EP’s prominence in our world, we present our favorite EPs of 2011 (with an MP3 from each).
Though identical sisters The Watson Twins first broke through as backup for Jenny Lewis on Rabbit Fur Coat, they’ve stepped into the spotlight on their own with three albums of ethereal indie-folk. They follow up last year’s Talking to You, Talking to Me with the eclectic, literally-named EP Night Covers. The Kentucky-born duo revealed an intriguing range of artists in the tracklisting when they chatted with Cover Me last week. On Night Covers, they create a cohesive mini-album from diverse source material, staying true to the style established on their previous releases. The sisters told Cover Me that they “ha[d] a lot of fans asking for recordings of [live] covers” after playing the tracks on tour, which prompted them to take the pleasant, restrained, and occasionally quirky arrangements on Night Covers into the studio.
Though they’d already been active in the Los Angeles music scene for nearly a decade previous, indie/alt-country duo the Watson Twins made a big splash in the music world in 2006 with a pair of major releases. Alongside their debut EP Southern Manners, the Twins provided magnificent backing vocals on Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis‘ first solo record, Rabbit Fur Coat. A high-profile project like that surely warrants some serious attention, and since ’06 the Twins have continued to bestow records on a loving fanbase, knocking out the full-length Fire Songs and Talking to You, Talking to Me in the next four years.
Cover Me’s discussed the Watson Twins before (check out this write-up of their beautiful rendition of “Just Like Heaven” from Fire Songs), but their latest release has them on our radar big-time. On April 18, they’ll self-distribute a six-song covers EP, appropriately titled Night Covers, that sees them interpreting artists from the Black Keys to Sade (we premiere the full tracklist below). Leigh and Chandra Watson graciously took the time to chat with us via Skype about their impending release.
You know the story. The Jews needed eight days of oil to purify the Temple in Jerusalem. There was only enough oil for one day. Miraculously, though, that small amount lasted for all eight nights. And on every one of those nights Yo La Tengo played a concert.
Well, maybe they passed on that first Hanukkah, but it seems they’ve played eight crazy nights of shows every year since. Twenty-ten was no exception. As chronicled at BrooklynVegan, the nights of December 1-8 each saw a unique Yo La Tengo show go down at Maxwell’s in New Jersey. Every evening featured surprise openers and comedians, including heavy hitters like the National and Jeff Tweedy.
Live Collection brings together every live cover we can find from an artist. And we find a lot.
The recent release of Easy Wonderful has given Guster fans reason to fall in love with them all over again. As their album title insinuates, they have an agreeable sound that resonates with you and has aged well over the past (almost) 20 years. If the Beach Boys went to college in the 90′s, added some bongos, and stayed out of the sun, Guster is what they would sound like.
Featured on soundtracks like Life as a House and Wedding Crashers, their songs can pull at the heartstrings as you croon along with them. On the other hand, they are better known for their laid-back, wisecracking personalities that beam from the stage and infect their fans. During their years of touring, they have taken on many cover songs with both their sensitive and playful dispositions (but mostly the latter). Typically at the end of a show, Guster will rile up the crowd with a number from Madonna, Talking Heads, or whoever sings the “Cheers” theme song (Portnoy) and get everyone involved. Most of the time, it’s just an excuse to get drummer Brian Rosenworcel out in front showing off his questionable vocals, calling in the crowd for backup. It’s just like being at a karaoke bar.
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]
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]