Oct 122010
 

Cover Me first, ahem, covered Jon Hardy and the Public back in 2009 when the band released an EP of Randy Newman covers entitled Little Criminals: Songs of Randy Newman. As we noted back then, Randy Newman covers pretty much never get old, particularly when they include a version of the greatest lyrical work of all time, “Short People.” What we didn’t know then though was that, while in the studio for that EP, the band was also working on a reinterpretation of Them‘s 1965 hit “Here Comes the Night.”

We’re happy to revisit the St. Louis quintet’s soulful melodies with an exclusive premiere of that work. Their version of “Here Comes the Night” shares much in common with the 1965 original in beat and basic structure, but cuts out any semblance of upbeat doo-wop that may have shown through on the original. Lyrically, the song deals in the painful subject matter of breakups and the heartache of watching your ex move on to someone new. Van Morrison sings the verses in an amazingly upbeat and almost carefree way. There is no such joy in Hardy’s voice. Continue reading »

Dec 312009
 


2009 will disappear into the ether in a few hours, but before it does there’s time for one last retrospective to do: The Top Covers of 2009. The Artists-to-Cover this year seemed to be Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, though somewhat surprisingly no particularly definitive tribute to the latter has surfaced.

Speaking of tributes, anything off of our Best Cover Albums list was excluded for consideration here (you can still download those songs here though). Without further ado, let the list begin!

25. Imogen Heap – Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Any cover of this song loses something without the Vincent Price voice-over. Imogen Heap may not be the Godfather of Horror, but she’s just quirky enough to pull it off. [Buy]

24. Jason Bajada – You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son (Wolf Parade)
There’s nothing harder to pull off than an acoustic-guitar and voice cover. Anyone can try – just strum the chords – but few stand out from the pack of YouTube wannabes. Bajada is one. [Buy]

23. Thom Yorke – All for the Best (Miracle Legion)
How a semi-obscure songwriter got so many A-listers for his tribute album (Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black) is a bit of a mystery, but the “Idioteque”-esq blips Yorke warbles over somehow makes perfect sense. [Buy]

22. Atlas Sound – Walk a Thin Line (Fleetwood Mac)
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox’s other band put up this tempered falsetto cover on his blog with little fanfare earlier this year. As with most things he gets his hands on, it exploded. [Buy]

21. Florence and the Machine – Addicted to Live (Robert Palmer)
Largely known for the robo-models who jerk about in the video, “Addicted to Love” gets a much-needed upgrade from blog darling Florence and the Machine whose Lungs was one of the best albums of the year. [Buy]

20. The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
This list easily could have been the twenty-five best Jack White covers of the year. On the b-side to the “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single (vinyl only, naturally), White hollers like an in-the-gutter bluesman which the band emits musical sludge around him. [Buy]

19. Ben Lee – Kids (MGMT)
To anyone who thinks this song is all synth-hook, this plucked acoustic take should change your mind. [Buy]

18. Matt the Electrician – Faithfully (Journey)
The triumphal horns bring the bombast early on, before ceding the stage to a singer-songwriter and his ukulele. [Buy]

17. Joensuu 1685 – I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen covered Suicide in 2005 and this one sounds like Suicide fighting back. The feedback frenzy of an opening lasts almost three minutes until the singing begins. And this is the short version! [Buy]

16. Anya Marina – Whatever You Like (T.I.)
I despise this song with a passion, so it’s ironic that not one but two brilliant covers were some of my most-played (the other being by Joan As Police Woman). The lyrics are as profound as ever. Shorty, you the hottest. Love the way you drop it. Brain so good, could have sworn you went to college. [Buy]

15. Eels – Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
Eels’ E recorded this vulnerable piano cover for MySpace Transmissions, the sound of a man unable to mask his pain. [Buy]

14. Feist and Ben Gibbard – Train Song (Vashti Bunyan)
Indie-tastic charity comp Dark Was the Night had more new covers than many tribute albums, but was excluded for consideration from our list ‘cause it had just as many originals. However, the harmony on this semi-obscure song form 1966 cannot be ignored. [Buy]

13. John Frusciante – Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley)
Frusciante recently quit the Chili Peppers. If that enables him to make more experimental psychedelic covers like this one, thank goodness. He should have brought Flea with him. [Buy]

12. Coldplay – Fight for Your Right (Beastie Boys)
The Beastie Boys canceled a summer of high-profile festival appearance when MCA announced he had cancer. Jay-Z subbed in at All Points West, paying predictable tribute (“No Sleep Til Brooklyn”). More unexpected was Chris Martin’s brilliant minor-key piano ballad two days later. And the crowd goes wild . [Buy]

11. Town Bike – Radio Nowhere (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen closed his four-hour appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle with a mashup of this and “Radio Radio.” Slamming it into “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” works too. [Buy]

10. Ben’s Brother – Poker Face (Lady Gaga)
Everyone from Weezer to Daughtry covered “Poker Face” this year, its catchy hook a natural for ironic sing-alongs. The indie-acoustic covers seemed to work best and “beta male” Jamie Hartman sings it so enthusiastically you almost don’t hear the tongue in cheek. [Buy]

9. Chromeo – I Can’t Tell You Why (The Eagles)
Electro-funk duo Chromeo seems an unlikely duo to cover the Eagles. Their effects-laden delivery beats the odds though, taking the 1979 single straight into the twenty-first century. [Buy]

8. Dex Romweber Duo ft. Jack White – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
Definitely the best Geechie Wiley cover this year. Jack White produced this one for his Third Man Records label and was nice enough to add his enviable yelp to this blues stomp. [Burn]

7. My Gold Mask – Bette Davis Eyes (Jackie DeShannon/Kim Carnes)
My Gold Mask sent this one our way a couple months ago, which just goes to show you artists out there, submissions are never ignored. [Buy]

6. The Pluto Tapes – Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio)
Just when you thought you were sick of this song, this slow-burn cover strips away the effects to bring the submerged tune to the fore. [Buy]

5. The BPA ft. Iggy Pop – He’s Frank (Slight Return) (The Monochrome Set)
Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook to his mom) created the Brighten Port Authority apparently solely to produce some killer club-funk tracks with his favorite vocalists. Iggy Pop, who these days seems to have made a career out of guest appearances, sneers his way through this unearthed gem. Biggest shock of all: he managed to keep his shirt on during live performances! [Buy]

4. The Gaslight Anthem – I Do Not Hook Up (Kelly Clarkson)
The Gaslight Anthem tend to cover Bruce Springsteen, The Band, and Johnny Cash. Did the heart-on-sleeve rock revivals finally succumb to the temptation of the ironic pop cover? Not a chance. Against all odds Brian Fallon gives a Kelly Clarkson song the emotional heft of “The River.” [Buy]

3. Elizabeth and the Catapult – Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)
A song so good we did a whole interview about it. [Buy]

2. Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)
Nick Cave recently called this his new favorite band, which is all the recommendation one needs. Their garage-punk racket turns this innocent love song into the best stalker rocker since “Every Breath You Take.” [Buy]

1. Kings of Convenience – It’s My Party (Leslie Gore)
Pure beauty straight out of Norway, complete with a faux-trumpet solo. Nothing more to say. [Buy]

That’s it for this year. See you in 2010!
Jul 282009
 

Jack White is best known as the frontman for the White Stripes, but these days he’s making waves in plenty of other ways. Whether it’s his newest project The Dead Weather, his new record label, his vinyl-fetishist record store, or his appearance in guitar god documentary It Might Get Loud, White’s a hard man to avoid. It’s hard to keep track of all his musical projects, but here’s an attempt at an overview. In chronological order, here’s a look at the other (ie. Meg-free) side of Jack White.


Goober and the Peas – Snoopy’s Christmas (The Royal Guardsmen)
Those who were shocked by Jack’s debut as the Dead Weather’s drummer hadn’t heard this band, in which Jack briefly played drums as “Doc.” His first release with them was the three-song Christmas record A Christmas Eve Get-Together With… A cover of one of my favorite holiday songs kicks it off. [Buy]

Two Star Tabernacle – Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis)
The briefly-lived Tabernacle never released a record (though their two tunes backing Andrew Williams, available here, are phenomenal). There are two live bootlegs floating around though, with Jack rocking the guitar. More importantly, he takes on a few vocal duties from this ’98 track, his nasal holler already very recognizable. [Buy]

The Hentchmen – Some Other Guy (Richie Barrett)
Jack switched between bass and guitar duties for the Hentchmen, appearing on their excellent garage-rock release Hentch-Forth.Five. It kicks off with a couple covers: “Psycho Daisies” by the Yardbirds (White would later back Jeff Beck live) and this classic rock’n’roll jammer that the Beatles recorded too. [Buy]

Jack White and The Bricks – Ooh! My Soul (Little Richard)
A hint of things to come in this live jam session with Brendan Benson, later of the Racs, Ben Blackwell (Dirtbombs) and Kevin Peyok (The Waxwings). It’s mostly White Stripes tunes (we’re at ’99 already), but they close with an roaring take on this Little Richard (and others) tune that hears Jack attempt Richie’s falsetto holler. It sounds unrehearsed and the recording quality isn’t great. Something tells me Jack would approve. [Buy]

The Upholsterers – Ain’t Superstitious (Willie Dixon)
Before Jack was a Raconteur, before he was a White Stripe, he was an upholsterer. Yes, that’s lower-case for a reason: Jack actually ran Third Man Upholstery, and was apparently pretty good at it. Here he teams up with his boss in the biz Brenan Muldoon for a three-song record where you can hear the assertive, guitar-wailing White coming into his own. [Buy]

Jack White – Fragile Girl (The Waxwings)
Recorded exactly one month before the Stripes’ breakthrough White Blood Cells came out, this solo concert finds Jack and his guitar at local Detroit venue the Gold Dollar playing tribute to heroes like Blind Willie McTell (“Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues”) and Beck (“Cold Brains”). Here he remembers some local boys, some of whom he’d played with (see The Bricks above). [Buy]

Jack White and Beck – Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Robert Johnson)
Jack and Beck have a history of turning up at each other’s gigs, as happened at this Michigan Beck show where the pair jammed out on a few tunes. It’s no secret Jack loves the blues, so this delta classic proved a perfect choice. [Buy]

Jack White – Wayfaring Stranger (Trad.)
I’ve never seen the film, but I can say with confidence that Cold Mountain has one of the greatest soundtracks ever. That’s due in no small part to Jack’s participation. He does six solo recordings that evoke Appalachian country with mandolin, fiddle, and banjo. More than anything though it’s his voice that stands out, showing the singer underneath the shouting. [Buy]

The Raconteurs – Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
And…we’re back to shouting. When you hear the furious rendition of this one-hit-wonder you’ll be glad for the volume. [Buy]

The Raconteurs – Keep It Clean (Charley Jordan)
The Racs’ second album Consolers of the Lonely contained a cover of “Rich Kid’s Blues.” This live track is in a similar vein, but better, Jack White singing about coca-cola who, as you’ll remember, he wrote a song for himself. This come from a soundboard recording from Bonnaroo ’08 and is one you’ll want to put on repeat. [Buy]

Jack White and Bob Dylan – Meet Me In the Morning (Bob Dylan)
This one stretches definition of cover, I know. Jack’s covered Dylan on many occasions, but here he’s covering Dylan with Dylan standing right behind him. I consider it a cover though ‘cause old Bob doesn’t do a lot, standing back and letting Jack rip at this ’07 concert. It’s a cover Jack hasn’t done anywhere else, chosen presumably for its local Nashville reference. The next night, Jack rejoined Bob’s band for more familiar quasi-covers “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Outlaw Blues.” [Buy]

The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
I saw the Dead Weather last week (what inspired this post) and since they’ve only got one record out, they padded their set with a few covers. Bob Dylan’s “New Pony” (from the record), Pentagram’s “Forever My Queen,” West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s (who?) “Child of a Few Hours Is Burning To Death” (what?), and this. We first heard this one as the b-side to their “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single, and that’s where this come from. It doesn’t like Van Morrison, but it does sound bad-ass as hell. [Buy]

Dexter Romweber Duo – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
I mentioned Jack’s record label in the introduction. Well this is one of his first releases from earlier this year, a 7” by the Dex Romweber Duo. Jack joins in on both sides of the record, which (sell-out!) can also be purchased from iTunes. It doesn’t get much more obscure than Geechie (or Geeshie) Wiley, but then again Jack does obscure better than most. [Buy]