Sufjan Stevens returned last year out of the blue with two new releases. One was the standard orchestral, grandiose indie folk he’s become known for over the years, and the other, The Age of Adz, was a surprisingly electronic exploration. One of the better tracks on that album was the dubstep-influenced “I Walked.” It’s one of the most minimal songs Sufjan has done outside of his piano ballads, with a mechanical-sounding beat driving it forward, and dark, brooding synthesizers fading in while his reverb soaked voice croons the lovesick lyrics.
Hard Stuff made loosely hinged hard rock back in the 1970s. Their sound was raucous and was a perfect fit for a time period where everyone was pushing the boundaries. In 1972, they released the track “Jay Time,” a jam tune full of syncopation and hard-driving, distorted guitars. It generally sounds like a song that a band along the lines of Austin’s White Denim might release these days. And that’s just what they did.
Few past and current artists go as well together as John Hartford and Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth. Both have a classic American folk sound that ties together the stories told in the lyrics perfectly. It makes sense, then, that Matsson would decide to incorporate a cover of Hartford’s classic song “Gentle on my Mind” into his live repertoire.
Guided by Voices are a truly influential band in the indie music sphere. Their 20+ year run provided the sonic groundwork for the lo-fi, DIY aesthetic so prevalent in today’s indie music scene. So it comes as no surprise that so many artists would be willing to provide covers from all eras of Guided by Voices work for the tribute album, Sing For Your Meat. Ranging from veterans such as The Flaming Lips, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth fame), and Lou Barlow, to artists more recently making names for themselves like La Sera and Blitzen Trapper, the bands on this 23-track tribute pay loving homage to a band without whom they might not exist.
Things kick off with a slightly sped up, straight forward rock cover of “Scalding Creek” by Kelly Deal and Buffalo Killers. The vocals keep the simple two part harmony. When they take a break, the lead guitar comes wailing through for a simple, yet effective solo, until the song pulls back on the reigns a little and comes to an abrupt halt. Things keep moving along quite swiftly, since, keeping true to the spirit of Guided by Voices, most songs clock in around two minutes or so, and indie star power like Thurston Moore and Lou Barlow is nicely mixed in with lesser known artists like Western Civ.
The Guided by Voices tribute album comes out this weekend, and as we approach its Record Store Day release, we’re hearing more and more of what we can look forward to. We’ve already played you covers by Thurston Moore, Cymbals Eat Guitars and Mass Solo Revolt, and now it’s time to draw your attention to another.
Occasionally, in the vast expanse of mediocre cover songs flooding YouTube, you find a true gem that can completely transform your opinion of a song. This is precisely what happened when I stumbled across Melissa Brandt’s brilliant acoustic cover of T.I.‘s “Whatever You Like.” We’re admittedly a few months late getting this to you, but we just couldn’t resist posting it.