Jan 042011

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.

Many people who know Tim Reynolds came to him via one man: Dave Matthews. The two toured together as an acoustic duo for years. He toured with Dave Matthews & Friends and finally became an official Dave Matthews Band member in 2008. Saying Reynolds would be nothing without Matthews gives him too little credit; prowess this impressive couldn’t go unheard forever. Without Dave though, Reynolds’ career trajectory would look very different.

Before you dismiss him as some leech riding Matthews’ coattails though, you need to hear his solo stuff. Whether you think Matthews is a modern prophet or self-important fratboy is irrelevant. Even the most ardent Dave-bashers can enjoy Reynolds’ guitar mastery. No mindless jamming here; when Reynolds sets out on an instrumental journey, he does so with purpose. Continue reading »

Apr 062010

The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Peter Gabriel has never gotten much love from the indie world, but thanks to a new covers album he’s finally getting the Pitchfork articles he deserves. Scratch My Back presents a clever concept: he covers the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire with the understanding that they’ll return the favor. So far Bon Iver, the Magnetic Fields and Paul Simon have obliged. While we wait for more to surface, here’s a look at Gabriel’s finest hour: So.

Queensrÿche – Red Rain

This apocalyptic torrent holds up surprisingly well given a louder treatment. The best cover of this is by R.E.M. and Natalie Merchant, but Gabriel guests there so it doesn’t really count. [Buy]

Maiysha – Sledgehammer

At the Roots weekly late-night NYC jam session over the summer, Maiysha performed this one with the band. Sadly there’s no recording of that barn-stormer, but her album recording keeps the sultry teases. [Buy]

Willie Nelson & Sinead O’Connor – Don’t Give Up

Covers of this one (of which there are many) tend to be sickeningly emotional. Willie’s sing-speak gives the proceedings a more honest touch, and Sinead’s broken warble completes the picture. [Buy]

Michael Aaron – That Voice Again

Apparently the “voice” is meant to represent judgment. I prefer to think of it as paranoia. [Buy]

Tim Reynolds – In Your Eyes

This song also tends towards the über-emotional cover. While those tend to work better here, you can’t replicate Youssou N’Dour. Dave Matthews Band guitar virtuoso Reynolds tears it up with a funky acoustic instrumental. [Buy]

Fever Ray – Mercy Street

Fever Ray, the current project of The Knife singer Karin Dreijer Andersson, performed this one live a few times near the end of last year. It’s a paranoid electro-goth rush, like just about everything else she does (including her fantastic Nick Cave cover). [Buy]

Ari Hest – Big Time

Singer-songwriter Hest clearly loves this album, regularly performing covers of this, “In Your Eyes,” and “Mercy Street.” Check those out at archive.org. [Buy]

Justin Cottrell – We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)

Anyone who’s ever taken a psych class knows Milgram’s experiments. In a nutshell, Yale scientist Stanley Milgram had volunteers quiz a “student,” giving the student a shock of ever-increasing power when he got an answer wrong. The goal was to see how long people would continue to give the shocks as the student (in reality a partner of the experimenter) screamed in pain. Some volunteers reached a point where they refused to administer another shock. Most didn’t. In one variation 37 out of 40 subjects never stopped. Chilling stuff. Read more. [Buy]

Laurie Anderson – This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)

Anderson co-wrote this with Gabriel and actually released her version first. Gabriel didn’t release his version on the first pressing of So, perhaps content to have appeared on Anderson’s recording. [Buy]

Dec 092009

The first post of the month always features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

The thing most surprising about the music on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is its accessibility. Just imagine someone hearing the concept behind this album for the first time. “So it’s about a transsexual alien who tells the world it only has five years to survive. This news makes the transsexual alien sad, so he writes some songs and forms a hit band. Then he becomes Jesus for awhile, until other aliens come along and rip him into little bits to absorb his essence.” Good God, the person would think, what could music about that possibly sound like? Well, it turns out it sounds like good old-fashioned rock and roll with a sprinkle of glam. No one (including Bowie) really understands the plotline, but everyone can get on board with the incredible music.

Arcade Fire – Five Years

In 2005 Wynn Butler and the Arcade Fire crew performed this with Bowie himself at a iTunes-released Fashion Rocks concert (great video here). This comes from around that time, a Bowie-less concert performance that features all the bombast we’ve come to expect from the Fire. [Buy]

Tim Reynolds – Soul Love

Longtime Dave Matthews sideman Tim Reynolds may be one of the best acoustic guitar players around today. He’s got dozens of concerts available for free download at archive.org, most featuring a wide selection of instrumental covers like this one. [Buy]

L.A. Guns – Moonage Daydream

One of the best opening couplets in rock: “I’m an alligator / I’m a mama-papa coming for you!” The Whites Stripes do a raw version of this live (video), but stay tuned for some more polished Jack White. [Buy]

Nena – Starman

You probably know Nena from her hit “99 Luftballoons,” unless you live in Germany where she’s a legitimate artist with an actual career and everything. Wherever you’re from, her album Cover Me (dumb name, huh) is worth snagging, if only for the phenomenal two-sentence Wikipedia description: “Cover Me is a cover album by German pop star Nena, released in 2007. It contains songs that she likes.” Apparently one song she likes is a German-language version of “Heroes.” [Buy]

The Raconteurs – It Ain’t Easy (Ron Davies)

I used to exclude albums with non-original songs from Full Albums consideration until the irony of excluding artists who did covers from a cover songs blog became too great. Plus, we know Jack White’s a fan of the album (see above), so his shrieking guitar work is surely tribute to original Ziggy player Mick Ronson. [Buy]

Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust

Wes Anderson is a weird director. There’s no other explanation to explain why he scored his The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with singer/actor Jorge’s Portugese-language versions of Bowie classics. Anderson even put videos of Jorge performing the songs in the movie! Here’s the clip for “Lady Stardust.” [Buy]

Techno Cowboy – Star

One fine day singer-songwriter Brad Stubbs decided to strap in some weird 80s instruments under pseudonym Techno Cowboy and record The Ziggy Stardust Omnichord Album. The world was never the same. [Buy]

Shesus – Hang On To Yourself

Good band name, badass band. [Buy]

derpferdheissthorst – Ziggy Stardust

This one was recorded for one of our earliest Cover Commissions series, narrowly beating “The Safety Dance” and “You Spin Me Around.” If you like what you hear (and you will), these German gents have a few more covers available at their spiffy new website. [Buy]

Golden Delicious – Suffragette City

David Bowie loved Mott the Hoople so much he offered them this song if they agreed not to break up. They declined, so Bowie came back with a second offer: “All the Young Dudes.” They recorded it, had a massive hit…then broke up anyway. [Buy]

Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

The original plays while “the infinites” tear a washed-up old Ziggy to bits onstage. This cover would be better suited to soundtrack the last dance at prom. Until the unexpected ending. [Buy]