You may listen to the gentle plucking when this begins and thing, boy that’s not what I expected from that band photo. Is this an acoustic flying V? Blacktop Mojo’s “My Girl” stays pretty and meditative for over half the run time, turning the oldies classic into a pretty folk-rock ballad. Eventually, though, true to that long-hair-and-leather image, the heads start banging and axes start shredding.Continue reading »
When Bruce Springsteen invited Billy Joel to play with him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 40th anniversary concert, he described their meeting as the “Bridge and Tunnel Summit.” This crossover surprised no one; the two artists are similar in many ways, riding careers that exploded from modest singer-songwriter origins playing dive bars to filling stadiums across the world. But one of the ways their trajectories have diverged: The Tunnel side of that equation (that’s Bruce from New Jersey) is about 100 times cooler than the Bridge side (Billy from Long Island). As a result, Springsteen songs have been covered far more often than Joel tunes, despite both having quite a few household-name hits under their belt.
Or maybe they’ve just been covered differently. When we did our Springsteen list, we had an abundance of genre-spanning covers to choose from, the hippest artists around finding meaning in Bruce’s work from every conceivable direction. Doing this month’s Joel list, we had an abundance too – of lounge piano. So much lounge piano.
Joel’s songs deserve better treatment than they often get. So we had to dig deep for this list, sifting through the schlock. There’s a little jazzy piano sprinkled in here and there, sure, but there’s also hardcore punk, ’90s R&B, spectral folk, robot electronica, south-of-the-border disco, and more. Turns out there are plenty of revelatory Billy Joel covers out there; they’re just lurking a little below the surface.
I do enjoy when covers elevate a song out of it’s original environment and strengthens the power of the song itself. Indeed, this is what the Dresden Dolls (made up of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione) have achieved with their cover of “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday,” originally from The Muppet Movie.
Currently residing in New Zealand, Palmer said in a tweet “this song’s about being homesick for something you don’t understand.” The cover doesn’t change much from the original – the slow ballad structure and sense of yearning is retained, but Palmer’s piano sounds more poignant and powerful considering the context in which it is now being sung. This is what good covers should do – take songs from one context, and make them perfectly describe another.
Separated by distance and by quarantine, the Dresden Dolls were meant to be collaborating for an album this year, but managed to record this cover and put it on Bandcamp to raise money for the Boston Resiliency Fund.
“Mah Nà Mah Nà” is an unlikely children’s song. It was originally written by Italian composer Piero Umiliani for the 1968 film Sweden: Heaven and Hell. The London Institute of Contemporary Arts described the film as “an Italian shockumentary depicting the strange customs of the natives of Sweden in the ‘60s. It’s an archetypal mondo movie, with scenes of lesbian nightclubs, nasty bikers, teenage sex education, drugs, topless girl-bands and suicide.” The song appears during a scene where a bunch of young girls, wearing only towels, soak in a sauna.Continue reading »
Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)
Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song.Continue reading »