Oct 182021
 

Georgia BlueWhen Joe Biden was bidding for POTUS, Jason Isbell declared his support by tweeting a promise. If the state of Georgia, his home state, went blue (Democrat), a possibility hitherto deemed impossible, he would record a cover album of Georgia-related songs for charity, “and damn is that gonna be fun.” As Isbell would later say, he had been looking for an excuse to record such a record for some time, but this now offered the ideal opportunity.

Well, Georgia went blue, against the odds and expectations, and with the release of Georgia Blue, three organizations are the better off for it, with all the album’s proceeds going toward Black Voters Matter, Georgia Stand-Up and Fair Fight.
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Sep 172021
 
!!! Tracy Chapman R.E.M.

The music of !!! can feel confounding on first listen. The group, whose name is pronounced “chk-chk-chk,” have made a rats’ nest of dance-punk releases across two decades, and their name sets somewhat of a high barrier of entry as to what they’re all about. Beneath the blistering production (and hard-to-Google identity) though, you’ll find a band with unflagging creative momentum and, especially on their recent records, some properly funky instrumental chops. Continue reading »

Sep 142021
 
Okay Kaya

“Nightswimming” was the fifth single from R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People. Uncharacteristic for both the album and the band as a whole, it’s just bassist Michael Mills on piano and Michael Stipe singing, backed by an orchestra. Stipe’s lyric is one of his simplest and most overt – unless you read what he says the song is really about, and then maybe it isn’t. Regardless of the lyric, the song is about as simple and straight-forward as REM ever got.

Okay Kaya is a Norwegian-American singer-songwriter whose appeared on Cover Me a few times in the last year. On her new cover of “Nightswimming,” recorded for Jagjaguwar’s upcoming Join the Ritual, Kaya completely abandons the piano melody. And she also dramatically alters the vocal melody. Instead, there’s Kaya’s multi-tracked voice and an ever-increasing assortment of keyboards and other gently distorted musical sounds. The aesthetic is very bedroom, as opposed to the orchestral vibe of the original. The vibe has changed, and it feels as though Kaya is telling a different story than Stipe was in the original. But there’s still the sense that you are hearing a very personal story, intended only for you.

May 052021
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Patti Smith Twelve

Up until her release of Twelve in 2007, Patti Smith had not been much of one for studio covers, give or take her fabled extended riff on “Gloria,” which remains a live staple. Sure, she had the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock’n’Roll Star” on her third album, and Dylan’s John Wesley Harding deep cut “Wicked Messenger” on her sixth, but she otherwise largely wrote her own, with her friends and band members. Twelve surprised fans and critics alike, not only by being all other people’s songs, but also by the twelve songs Smith had chosen. Continue reading »

Apr 262021
 

Scouting for Girls "Easy Cover"Scouting for Girls, an English pop band, are preparing to unleash some pent up momentum and energy in the form of a UK and Ireland tour, their longest ever, starting in September. In preparation, they have released a new album, Easy Cover. It features 8 tracks throwing back to their ’80s childhood and 3 original tracks inspired by those good old days. This is one of those albums released recently that can’t be taken out of the pandemic context. It was clearly formed as a response to the all-encompassing gloom and doom and as an attempt to provide a soundtrack to crawling back out into the light.

Scouting for Girls say it themselves:

We’re not trying to do justice to these songs! That’s impossible. We’re just trying to have fun and take them out on the road to give people the night out they deserve after 2020!

With that framing in mind, this (mostly) cover album delivers. Will it change your life? No. Is it earnest and feel-good? Definitely!

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Nov 302020
 

Dan Mangan is one busy guy. He’s a member of an increasingly large community north of the border, right at the front end of, if you will, Canadiana, a redoubtable second or third wave of artists following on from Cohen, Young and Mitchell. Hallowed company? Yes, but Mangan is worth the compliment. He’s put together a solid body of work, well worth checking out, since starting out in the mid-noughties. Whether his solo acoustica or his more experimental ensemble work, where he finds the join between avant-garde and electronica, he has also found time to write soundtrack music and to be a contributing arts editor to the Canadian version of UK newspaper the Guardian.

An accomplished songwriter himself, he has an interesting take on cover versions: “It’s a matter of sanity. I get sick of the same taste in my mouth and I need to sing someone else’s song to cleanse my palate.” And glad we are he does, as it means the release of Thief. This is a collection of palate cleansers he has slipped out over the past few years, together with some new.
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