They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Prolific indie musician Ben Gibbard celebrates his 35th birthday on August 11. He’ll be spending the big day in Georgia, touring in support of Death Cab for Cutie’s latest release Codes and Keys; here at Cover Me we’re saluting him with five covers of his work by other artists. In light of his extensive catalogue with both Death Cab and electronic side project The Postal Service, there were a lot of options, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few of the best.
Cadillac Sky – I Will Follow You Into the Dark (Death Cab for Cutie cover)
Unquestionably the most covered Gibbard track is Death Cab’s poignant acoustic number “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” Even the most cursory Google search brings up dozens of results, but one of the finest comes from Cadillac Sky. The Fort Worth bluegrass group infuses the track with mandolin and haunting harmonies that perfectly capture the sparse sadness of Gibbard’s original.
Olafur Arnalds – Marching Bands of Manhattan (Death Cab for Cutie cover)
String quartet covers are usually lame. Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds’ arrangement of Death Cab’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan” breaks the mold by working thoughtfully with the source material to produce a graceful performance. The melancholy sweep of Gibbard’s work is well-suited to a strings-only makeover. Though the lyrics are usually a standout component of Death Cab tracks, the nuanced blend of strings on this track is rich enough to fill the void.
Grime Slide – Someday You Will Be Loved (Death Cab for Cutie cover)
Taking on another lush Death Cab track, cover-loving trio Grime Slide contributed their version of “Someday You Will Be Loved” to this year’s compilation Cover Up. The cover might be the biggest departure from Gibbard’s sound to make this countdown, trading out the soft sonic wash of the original for distorted vocals and a snapping dance beat. Grime Slide name-check Passion Pit as a musical influence and that’s an accurate hint as to what the track sounds like, jammed with electronic tweaks.
Ben Folds – Such Great Heights (The Postal Service cover)
A fellow Ben – Ben Folds – covered The Postal Service single “Such Great Heights” in 2006 during a Myspace gig. He doesn’t alter the structure of the track extensively, but it’s well worth checking out the performance video to see him play both the piano and synth parts with remarkably speedy dexterity. Also cool: the unexplained giant group of acoustic guitar players accompanying him from the audience. This alternate version is also terrific.
Frank Turner – The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (Postal Service cover)
The final cover in our set is another Postal Service track, this time “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” English punk-folk musician Frank Turner takes it on in a cover that does the opposite of Grime Slide’s “Someday You’ll Be Loved,” stripping away the electronic quirks of The Postal Service original. Turner, who covered “District” live in London a few years ago, turns out a lovely cover of the track that escalates dramatically despite a very simple acoustic arrangement. Accompanying himself on guitar, Turner begins the track with halting vocals before crescendoing to a passionate conclusion that reveals his roots as the former frontman of post-hardcore act Million Dead.