In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Lou Barlow broke his collarbone.
That’s the sort of thing that would slow down most musicians, but not Barlow. He kept right on touring the UK with Dinosaur Jr. after the mishap this spring, posting a celebratory video when he made it the whole way through without the metal pin popping out. Now he’s about to embark on a June solo tour; hopefully the pin will stay in for that too. In April, he even released a new 7″ with a photo of him in the hospital on the cover. Watch the self-directed video for “Love Intervene”:
In the middle of all that touring and healing, he took some time out to tell us about his favorite cover songs. As anyone who’s followed his career with Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. will not be surprised to learn, he knows his stuff. From alt-rock peers like Mudhoney to more-unexpected personal favorites (an Ace Frehley solo cut?), Barlow digs deep. And, never one to do the bare minimum, he picked six cover songs for his Pick Five. We just hope he didn’t have to use his collarbone to write ’em.
Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh)’s new cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” has a number of knocks against it. His description doesn’t exactly sell it: “i was asked to record a version of this tune awhile back..nothing came of it..thought i’d put up here.” It’s accompanied by shaky iPhone video of his kids. And instead of being played on John Cusack’s boombox, it sounds like it was recorded into that boombox.
But despite all that, Barlow delivers a beautiful acoustic version that rescues the song from the cliche it has sometimes become. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with maybe a mandolin accompanying him (hard to tell given the audio), what at first appears to be a tossed-off lark actually turns into a moving and compellingly beautiful performance. And his kid’s cute too. Listen below.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Someday you idiots will shut up and listen to him. — Lou Barlow
Elliott Smith was an outlier. He stuck out on his label, Kill Rock Stars, home of Sleater-Kinney and The Raincoats. He stuck out at the Oscars, wearing a white suit while performing “Miss Misery,” a polar bear stranded on a floating iceberg that failed to sink the Academy’s love of all things Titanic. And he stuck out in defiance to America’s ignorance of his music by continuing to do things his own way, against the advice of those who supposedly had his best interests in mind. Unfortunately, he sometimes didn’t have his own, either.
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.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Elliott Smith’s 1997 release, Either/Or, strikes the perfect balance between the stripped-down acoustic recordings of his early career and the more fleshed-out arrangements that he would later explore. It doesn’t hurt that the album contains some of his most memorable melodies as well.
With its near-whispered vocals and dark lyrics, Elliott Smith’s music has always had a personal, headphone-music quality to it—you don’t see many summer barbecue mixes blaring tracks like “2:45 AM.” As a result, the best covers of his songs tend not to stray far from the singer-recording-in-his-bedroom model, but we’ve also included some of the more adventurous interpretations of his work.