Riley Haas

Riley is a digital marketing trainer and strategist in Toronto. He obsessively writes and talks about music and once had a classic rock radio show in university. His favourite cover of all time is Uncle Tupelo's version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." He's also a movie fan, having seen approximately 4,400 films. You can follow him on Twitter @riley_haas.

Jun 232020
 
Hilgegard von Blingin'

“Creep” is the song that made Radiohead. It didn’t happen overnight, as it went only to #78 in the UK when it was originally released. But it soon became a hit in other countries – including the US, where it is still their biggest hit – and was re-released in the UK, this time going to #7. There are still people out there who think Radiohead are the “Creep” band.

There have been a lot of acoustic covers of “Creep,” especially lately. In June 2020 alone there have been at least three prominent covers. Whether it’s the pandemic, or whether it’s because “Creep” is really a ballad, it’s become a staple.

Hildegard von Blingin’ seeks to change that. A “bardcore” artist who has sprung up on YouTube just recently, she covers pop hits of the last few decades as Medieval music. (The name is a reference to Saint Hildegard of Bingen, often recognized as the first major composer of European music.)
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Jun 162020
 
Nick D'Virgilio

Barrett Strong‘s “Money” was Motown’s first serious hit (though it was released it when the label was still known as Tamla). Though many prefer Strong’s original version, the song’s fame increased with a fairly straightforward version by The Beatles and the cheeky New Wave one-hit wonder by The Flying Lizards (a fave of Barack Obama’s in his college years). In the Strong and Beatles versions, the lyrics are a celebration of greed and avarice. Only the Flying Lizards’ interpretation really hints at the likely tongue-in-cheek nature of the words.

Nick D’Virgilio is the drummer for American prog rock band Spock’s Beard and English prog rock band Big Big Train. For his upcoming second solo album Invisible, due out June 26th, he assembled a bunch of famous prog rock musicians to take on this classic track, with a pretty different approach from the most famous versions.
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Jun 112020
 
The Gay Agenda band

Bjork‘s “Army of Me” is one of her most iconic songs of the ’90s, thanks in part to the Michel Gondry-directed video. The song deviates a little bit from her normal trip hop sound, to something closer to industrial pop. The song is about Bjork’s difficult relationship with her brother and how he needs to get his act together.

The Gay Agenda is a self-described “homo riot hardcore punk” band with extremely provocative imagery inspired by street artist Homo Riot, among others. Their version of “Army of Me” leans much more into metalcore than hardcore, with rumbling bass recalling the original’s pulsating bass keyboard, pummeling metal guitars, and screaming/growling vocals that fall somewhere on the spectrum between metalcore and black metal. It’s intense.
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Jun 092020
 
Joseph Shabason

Gymnopédie No.1 is the most famous of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies and probably one of his most iconic compositions. A soft, lilting melody for piano, legend has it Satie introduced Paris to it by having a pianist play all three pieces during the reception prior to his scheduled performance. Whether or not the story is apocryphal, it’s characteristic of Satie’s satiric wit and innovative approach to composition. The Gymnopédies may not technically be part of his infamous “furniture music,” but they are are an important precursor. A piece like this shows why Satie is regularly regarded as the godfather of ambient.

Saxophonist and composer Joseph Shabason takes this legacy seriously. As part of Western Volume’s Composure: Classical Reworks for Modern Relief series, Shabason has updated the first Gymnopédie with an ambient jazz vibe. The piano is still there, but it takes a while for it to enter. Loops and samples provide the backdrop, but also the introduction. When the piano does enter, over a minute in, it is accompanied by Shabason’s saxophones taking part of the melody. Violinist Drew Jurecka guests, adding to the ambient background noise.
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Jun 052020
 

If you’ve seen The Sopranos, you know Alabama 3’s “Woke Up This Morning.” It’s arguably now one of the most famous themes in TV history. Few songs are so associated with a particular type of TV show, even though the song predated the show by a couple years. The moment you hear the title line, it’s almost impossible not to envision Tony Soprano driving through New Jersey.

Guts Club clearly don’t want that connection. Though nominally a folk group, this New Orleans duo has taken an entirely different approach on this cover, abandoning their acoustic instruments for electric guitars and a synthesizer. They’ve even renamed their version “Song for Carm,” shifting the focus to Tony’s wife and back to the song’s original subject: a woman who has suffered domestic violence fighting back, not gangsters. Continue reading »

May 292020
 
head like a hole cover

This past December, a few friends headed up to Pepperbox Studios in rural central Vermont to record a few songs and exercise some creative instincts. A few songs were considered, one of which was this classic Nine Inch Nails track “Head Like a Hole.” Marshall Morgan laid down the riff and producer Kristina Stykos, owner of Pepperbox, filled out the recording.

Stykos had never heard the original song, so her arrangement likely has a lot do with the drastic change in sound. The three singers, activist Kira Elliot, and friends Lindsay Hopkins, a performance artist, and Carrie Drapac, then recorded their vocal parts. They called their one-off group Venus and the Moon. Continue reading »