May 012010

Cover News is a weekly feature keeping you up to date on the goings-on in the world of cover tunes, tribute albums, etc. At the bottom we showcase the submissions we’ve been sent in the past week (send us yours)! As always, follow Cover Me on Twitter for the latest news.

The Arcade Fire

This Week’s News

The latest Cover Commissions brings us an ethereal “Political Science” by We Are the Willows.  Check in next week to vote on May’s Cover Commissions!  [Cover Me]

On April Fool’s Day, I tricked our Twitter followers with a claim that Matt at You Ain’t No Picasso had posted a bunch of Arcade Fire covers.  Inspired by the joke, he did just that two weeks later.  You’re welcome, internet.  [YANP]

We already knew Bettye LaVette’s album tackling “The British Rock Songbook” would be amazing.  “All My Love” confirms it.  [Spinner]

The Flaming Lips released their Dark Side of the Moon tribute on vinyl a few weeks ago, promoting it with an acid-trippy “Breathe” on Jimmy Fallon.  [The Music Slut]

We’ve posted Via Tania’s cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” back in January.  Now she’s back, in front of a mountain, with a ukulele Fever Ray cover.  [Filter]

Keller Williams makes the short list (very short) of Jam Band Artists Non-Jam Fans Can Enjoy, so his Thief covers album should me fun.  [Glide]

Bon Iver covered Peter Gabriel for Record Store Day.  He then covered Tom Petty just for the hell of it.  [Each Note Secure]

Girl in a Coma (nice Smiths reference) has released the third and final volume of their Adventures in Coverland series.  Listen to the tunes online and then pick it up on vinyl.  [Blackheart]

If you want to destroy my sweater, hold this thread as I walk away.  [Stereogum]

It’s a few weeks old, but Josh Ritter covering “Moon River” is worth any delay.  [Daytrotter]

Florence and the Machine wants to get into your pants with this Mario Winans cover.  [Billboard]

The AV Club continues their series of exclusive cover videos and includes a tantalizing list of to-be-posted songs.  “Who will cover Journey’s ‘Faithfully’?” the site asks.  Any chance the answer is “No one”?  [The AV Club]

This Week’s Submissions

Christopher Bryant – Frank Sinatra (Cake)  [more]

Christopher Bryant – Going the Distance (Cake)  [more]

Christopher Bryant – Italian Leather Sofa (Cake)  [more]

Christopher Bryant – Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps (Cake Farrés/Davis)  [more]

Deerhoof – Hitch Hike (LiLiPUT)  [more]

Grand Mal – Rich Girl (Hall & Oates)  [more]

Grand Mal – Winter In (Gene Clark)  [more]

Grand Mal – You Should Be Ashamed (Emitt Rhodes)  [more]

The Hecklers – Rock N Roll Is Dead (The Rubinoos)  [more]

Peter Pracek – Kokomo Me, Baby (Mississippi Fred McDowell)  [more]

Peter Parcek – Showbiz Blues (Fleetwood Mac)  [more]

Passporte Royale – Airplanes (B.O.B.)  [more]

Passporte Royale – Born Free (M.I.A.)  [more]

Lindsay Ray – Daydream (Wallace Collection)  [more]

Snow & Voices- Mistress (Red House Painters)  [more]

Tarentem – Rockin’ All Over the World (John Fogerty)  [more]

VARN Industries – The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)  [more]

We Are the Willows – Political Science (Randy Newman)  [more]

We Are the Willows – Make the World Go Away (Eddy Arnold)  [more]

835 – Only an Expert (Laurie Anderson)  [more]

Email your cover for inclusion!

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist covers a reader-selected song for this blog. Any artists interested in participating, email me.

We Are the Willows first hit the Cover Me radar back in December.  Minnesota songwriter Peter Miller’s ethereal singing entranced us, sounding like the Beach Boys if you removed everything but the highest harmony.  We knew that voice would create some unique covers.

Readers selected from songs by Imogen Heap and the Shins, but perennial underdog Randy Newman took the crown with “Political Science.”  As everyone knows, a Cover Commissions victory makes up for an Oscar loss.  Miller describes his approach:

I fell in love with this song because it was covered by one of my favorite bands, Pedro the Lion.  I really love basically anything David Bazan does and when I heard his cover of Political Science I really wanted to play it as well.  Randy Newman’s version is of course, also awesome.  I play this song at almost every show when I play solo.

One of my favorite parts about how this song turned out is that at the end there are these background “oooh’s” that sound like sirens and they are under the last verse about bombing all these other countries.  I didn’t really plan on that.  I recorded this song in my basement in Minneapolis, MN.

We Are the Willows – Political Science (Randy Newman)

On a roll, Miller recorded one of the other nominees: “Make the World Go Away,” by country music pioneer Eddy Arnold.  There’s a morbid humor in pairing a song called “Make the World Go Away” with one that implores us to “drop the big one.”  Well played, Peter.

This was one of my Grandpa’s favorite songs.  He was a real romantic guy and a very tender soul.  I played this song at his funeral and ever since it’s really stuck with me.  I know that seems sorta masochistic, but there is something about playing that song that keeps my grandpa alive in some way.  This song features Karin Hasse who plays in We Are the Willows when we play live.  This song was recorded by Danny Wolf in Madrid, Iowa.

We Are the Willows – Make the World Go Away  (Eddy Arnold)

Check out more We Are the Willows at MySpace, iTunes and Minnesota Public Radio.

This mp3 may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post it on your blog, send it to your friends, tweet it to the world. When you do though, please include a link to this site to promote future installments of Cover Commissions.

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist produces a special cover for this blog. Our readers choose the song from a list of suggestions provided by the artist. Any artists interested in participating in a future installment, please email Cover Me at the address on the right.


The sound Minnesota’s Peter Miller creates as We Are the Willows isn’t easy to describe. Here’s how other people have tried: “He holds your hand through the maze of contradictions like a tour guide brimming with whatever he calls ‘soul,” writes one site. “If Schroeder from Peanuts grew up listening to Elliott Smith, it’d sound something like this,” says another. Perhaps the most telling description comes from this University of Wisconsin student breaking into tears watching Miller perform.

Indeed, it’s hard to listen to the haunting melodies of We Are the Willows without being moved. Like an earthier Sigur Rós, Miller conjures grand soundscapes to envelop his curious and questioning lyrics. To record his just-released album A Collection of Sounds and Something Like the Plague he roamed all over Minnesota with a laptop microphone capturing the sounds around him. Those are real birds chirping you’ll hear, and a real train rushing by.

“I tried to reinvent all these things in my surroundings to make them into something different,” Miller told Minneapolis’ City Pages. “A train going by doesn’t mean anything more than a train going by. But the song it’s in, it can be something completely different than what it is. It can be reinvented. So all these sounds, they become something else.”

This sonic map soon became an actual map, depicting Minnesota with the typical “water, bridge, tunnel” landmarks replaced by “died a little bit on the inside” and “nick and i practice karate.” Here it is in miniature (click on the image for a larger version).


Originally a side project from Miller’s popular indie quartet Red Fox Grey Fox, We Are the Willows has taken on a life of its own as bloggers everywhere discover the haunting beauty laced through Miller’s songs. Check out this video of him performing for Minneapolis’ The Current last month.


You’re ahead of the game after watching that. Now you can avoid the oft-made mistake of thinking that bell-clear tenor comes from, well, a girl. No, that’s really him. Here are a couple more samples, from his pay-what-you-want A Family. A Tree. EP.

We Are the Willows – A Funeral Dressed As a Birthday
We Are the Willows – Isabel’s Song

Now that tender tenor comes to Cover Me for December’s Cover Commissions. You know the drill, but here’s a refresher. Below are eleven songs, each linked to a YouTube video. Listen to each song, listen to Miller’s original material, then pick which song he should cover in the poll on the right. You’re dealing with one hell of a voice, so choose carefully!

The Contenders

Voting closes in one week, so get deciding! Vote in the poll on the right.

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