If there’s a Simon & Garfunkel song that is appropriate for the year New York City had in 2020, it’s “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Written by Paul Simon when Art Garkunkel ran off to film Catch-22 during the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water, the song expresses Simon’s feelings of loneliness, solitude and freedom as he begins to realize that their partnership may be over and they will both be doing their own thing. Sure, it’s not a direct translation to the situation many New Yorkers found themselves in multiple times in 2020, but a number of the lyrics resonate with being stuck in a lockdown or walking empty streets.
Pete Yorn is one of those names you know, if not always realizing or recognizing why. His debut album made him a Rolling Stone One To Watch for 2001, going gold to boot, thanks partly to the single “Life On A Chain.” (Aah, that Pete Yorn!) A further six albums have followed, as well as various other live albums and collaborations. He’s been the musical muscle behind some of Scarlett Johansson’s excursions into music, they making one LP and an EP together, another possibly on the way. He is also a regular on soundtracks and tributes, performing the songs of others as varied as The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen and New Order. We have featured him often.
Now comes album number seven, Pete Yorn Sings the Classics. Quite where the parallel galaxy is that considers this quirky set of songs classics, I don’t know, but it’s somewhere I could happily live. OK, many you will know, and some are fitting of that title, with others maybe vaguer memories, perhaps from childhood. But don’t dismiss this, the love here seeps thickly through the grooves and makes this just one great big grin of a project.
Matt Bellamy, frontman of British rock band Muse, released a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” From the first strum, the most noticeable change in this abridged version is the replacement of the piano with guitar. Then the sounds of an organ gently come in like a wave pushing over the last third of the song. Although there are fewer instruments in the acoustic cover the overall feel is anything but simple. Bellamy’s distinctive voice causes the vocals to be prominent with bright falsettos and a powerful finishing vocal run.
‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
August 16 has long been a day of infamy in the history of American popular music. It started in 1977 when Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n’ Roll, passed away. Forty-one years later, another member of rock royalty also died: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Though she was older and her death less of a shock to the cultural landscape, I still remember the exact moment when I heard the news. I was with my family driving home from Sesame Place in Pennsylvania listening to the Beatles channel on SiriusXM. The DJ interrupted to tell us the sad news and in Franklin’s honor played her version of “Let It Be.”
While it’s odd to categorize a new album as a teaser, it’s hard not to consider Closer To Grey, today’s surprise release from Chromatics, to be just that. In 2015, the band announced that a new album titled Dear Tommy was on the way, going so far as to offer an official track listing. Though several tracks earmarked for it have trickled out since then, the album itself has never been released. Stories of all copies being destroyed have led to comparisons with the the poster child of all that is unreleased, The Beach Boys’ Smile. In this day and age of stand alone song releases and mix tapes, an unreleased album being regarded with such reverence and anticipation is a rarity, and in the case of Chromatics, deserved.
Anais Mitchell & The Staves – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)
For a few years now, long-running French video company La Blogothèque has been filming a series they call “One to One” at Bon Iver’s various European festivals. They blindfold one audience member and bring them into a private room for a concert for one. Bon Iver did one, and Damien Rice’s is a must-watch. Personally, that experience sounds more awkward than enjoyable – especially with all the cameras in your face – so I’d rather just watch someone else’s personal concert on video. This one is a gem, feature The Staves with Anais Mitchell delivering a gorgeously-harmonized Sheryl Crow cover.