Aug 022022
 
Rachel Sumner Joanna Newsom Colleen

Harpist/singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom’s debut record, The Milk-Eyed Mender, has inspired a number of memorable covers. But look ahead through the rest of of Newsom’s work—post-2006, frankly—and notable versions become far harder to come by. Newsom’s move from Milk-Eyed to her sophomore record, Ys, and beyond involved a series of especially massive creative leaps: modest folk songs to epic orchestral suites, and, later, to triple LPs. Newsom’s work has only gotten richer and more fascinating, the lyrics denser and the arrangements knottier — but, at least based on past precedent, she’s also seemingly grown more… uncover-able.

It’s refreshing and impressive, then, to come across a cover of not only a post-Milk-Eyed Mender tune, but a Newsom acolyte who has made their own creative in-roads to her later work. This would be singer-songwriter Rachel Sumner, who, alongside her band Traveling Light, has shared an artful new cover of Joanna Newsom’s “Colleen.” Continue reading »

Aug 022022
 
two minutes to late night

The heavy-metal band/talk show group Two Minutes to Late Night, covers The Smith’s”This Charming Man” in their latest video. It was pretty gutsy for them to take this tune by the ever-popular English rock band and make it go punk. And this wasn’t just a Two Minutes cover. My Chemical Romance member Frank Lero (guitar, backup vox) also took the stage, along with Nestor Chumak of Canadian rock band PUP, and comedian David Wain on drums. 

The 1984 original is grooving, indie, and Beachy, whereas Morrissey’s vocals are emotive and melodic. While it’s difficult to derive much meaning upon first listen, the song is actually a story from the first-person perspective about a man who gets a flat tire on the hillside. Then, a man driving an expensive car drives by and offers him a ride. That all being said, the tune is much deeper than that: The original was intended to reach gay audiences, and showcase the softer side of masculinity. 

This new version is driving, catchy, and angsty. Its yell-singing, standard punk beat, and distorted guitar are certainly a contrast to the original. That being said, the lead vocals harken back to that British indie-rock original ever so slightly.

” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Check out The 40 Best Smiths Covers Ever here!

Aug 012022
 
best cover songs of july 2022
Brett Eldredge – Cold Heart (Elton John, Dua Lipa cover)

Against all odds for a rocker of his generation, Elton John had a genuine hit with a single he released just last year, at age 74: “Cold Heart.” It topped the chart in the UK – his first song to do so in 16 years. It did nearly as well in the States, reaching number 7 and topping a number of secondary charts. Having current pop hitmaker Dua Lipa on board no doubt helped, as did releasing it as a remix by Pnau (“Hot Dance/Electronic Songs” was one of those secondary U.S. charts). It also fairly shameless incorporates bits of earlier hit singles “Rocket Man” and “Sacrifice” as well as deeper Elton cuts “Kiss the Bride” and “Where’s the Shoorah?” In country star Brett Eldridge’s live cover, though, it all blends together seamlessly. Continue reading »

Aug 012022
 
wet leg smoko

For their recent appearance on Australian radio station Triple J’s Like A Version series, Isle of Wight indie-rockers Wet Leg covered much loved local band The Chats’ track ‘Smoko’. Given frontwoman Rhian Teasdale’s ‘too-cool-for-you’ vocal style, as evident on their massive hit “Chaise Lounge,” I had wondered how this would translate against The Chat’s almost oppressive Australian accents and pub rock aggression. Continue reading »

Jul 292022
 
Leo Moracchioli

If you were a child in Canada in the early 1980s, like I was, you watched Fraggle Rock. Now, it aired in other countries as well – the UK (TVS), the US (HBO) – but in Canada it was on, CBC, our national public broadcaster, for four years. There wasn’t much on TV in Canada in the 1980s and so it was a treat that we had these cuddly, wacky puppets on the one channel everybody got. And I was the prime demographic: I was barely a toddler when it premiered. I hadn’t thought much about the show, in recent years, but I do remember the theme song, though, which is catchy and really easy for children to sing along to. Continue reading »

Jul 272022
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

When it comes to instrumental covers of popular music, my go-to is the edgier jazz artists–you probably know the ones I mean. They are lovable troublemakers, but sometimes their jarring ways, all the virtuoso-signaling, is not what the mood calls for. More and more I appreciate instrumentalists who play the melody straight, who embrace the original arrangement of the song and work within its comforting confines.

The trick is that a more modest and direct approach can wash the color out of a song–it becomes the music you hear when the bank puts you on hold. A good cover has a proper edge to it: there’s embellishment and surprise in it, a searching quality, a point of view–all the things missing from the music that elevators listen to during their work hours. For me, the Michael Udelson Trio brings all the good aspects to their jazzy treatments, and leaves behind the undesirable bits.

The band has so far released two recordings, both of them cover albums: Irrational Numbers and Minor Infractions (2015 and 2016). (During the COVID lockdown period, the trio got together virtually to share some new material with fans–so maybe there’s more albums coming in the future.) This next part I find mystifying: these two albums and the songs on them have a vanishingly small number of views/plays. (Probably most of those plays are mine.) The trio’s most popular track on Spotify is their take on Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” It has 17,000 plays. For every other Udelson track, Spotify displays a blank instead a number in the “Plays” column–which why the phrase “vanishingly small” seems apt. It’s fair to ask how that 17,000 figure compares to any jazz piano version of “Paranoid Android.” Here’s a point of comparison: Brad Mehldau’s cover has nearly 5,000,000 plays.

Few seem to know or care about MUT–not even its own members, as we’ll see shortly. So who are these guys, and where their fans at?
Continue reading »