The Coasters — “Down In Mexico”
The video above was sent to me by a lucky soul whose laudable sense of initiative has resulted in a trip from Richmond to Tampa, Florida for Radiohead’s show at the St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday. It makes me so happy when I hear about people taking this type of trip. Whether it’s by plane, train, automobile or pimped-out Rascal, schlepping yourself that far to see a band is a beautiful thing, and it definitely gives the people around you a reason to see what all the fuss is about. In this case, she and I are already on the same page. As Joey Tribbiani might say, RADIOHEAD GOOOOD. We were also on the same page yesterday, when she showed me this 2008 video of Gnarls Barkley performing In Rainbows track “Reckoner,” which is to say that neither of us knew exactly what page to be on. There’s a lot to take in. I think the most alarming element of the cover has to be Cee Lo’s intensity, both in terms of the force with which he’s singing and the CRAZY-ASS STARE he exhibits. It’s kind of insane. But then again, shouldn’t every Radiohead song be sung as if you were completely bonkers? The paranoia, anger and confusion call for an off-kilter messenger… possibly someone who has a history of questioning his or her sanity… someone who has shown that he or she has no problem dismissing others’ behavior with extremely sharp language… someone who’s unsure about his or her own reckoning… clearly Cee Lo is just the man for the job! Watch the video of Gnarls Barkley’s cover of “Reckoner” above or listen to the audio below to see if you agree, and snag In Rainbows from iTunes here. And to any of you who are planning to schlep your bones across state lines to see a concert in the near or distant future — I salute you.
Gnarls Barkley — “Reckoner” (Radiohead cover)
Did you know that Cher’s record company wanted to remove the now-famous auto-tuning that producer Mark Taylor added to the vocals of her 1998 hit, “Believe“? Crazy, right? What do you think the world would be like nowadays if Warner Brothers had gotten their way? Would we have flying cars? Would Lehman Brothers still have collapsed? Would there be an independent Palestinian state? What would T-Pain be doing at this very moment? We’ll never know, because Cher responded to her label’s request by saying that the digital effect on her voice would be removed “over [her] dead body.” Well then. But with all due respect to “Believe,” it stands to reason that, much like a synthesized disease that squirms its way out of a top-secret government lab, setting in motion a zombie apocalypse that sweeps the entire planet, leaving nothing but horror, violence and destruction in its wake: auto-tune was bound to get out at some point. OK, maybe that’s a hyperbolic analogy. And in truth, I’m not campaigning against auto-tune at all. On the contrary, auto-tune is a fascinating phenomenon to think about, especially when you’re dealing with a group like Fun. and a singer like Nate Ruess.
Some songs are just built for the weekend. Of course, I might be biased, having first heard “DoYaThing” early Thursday evening, when I could just sense a fun Friday blog post rumbling somewhere out there on the interweb (I can also feel cold fronts coming via my screwed up right shoulder, just FYI). Nonetheless, the combination of Gorillaz, James Murphy and André 3000 screams “Shake it like a Polaroid picture” to me, and I have a feeling the song will make its presence felt at a fair number of bars/clubs/bridge games this weekend. “DoYaThing” is the latest installment in Converse’s “Three Artists. One Song.” series, which previously featured a snazzy summer tune created by Kid Cudi, Rostam Batmanglij and Bethany Cosentino. Pretty awesome stuff, for an ad campaign. But “DoYaThing” has something else going for it, other than its mid-week release and a trio of well-credentialed collaborators: a video starring the Peanuts gang. Well… sort of. I have no idea who made this video. I highly doubt anyone licensed anything to make it (this is starting to sound like one of those crappy TV news stories in which a reporter gets in front of the camera just to say, “Details are hazy at this point…”). What I DO know is that the video brings back some fun memories, and there are some fly-ass dance moves to be learned from it. My favorite has to be the hybrid running man/zombie thing going on in the back row. In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and call dibs on the running zombie as my signature move for wedding season. I better not hear about any of you lot busting it out at a reception without my permission, capiche? Stick to the electric slide and no one gets hurt. Even though it looks as though an official “DoYaThing” video is coming soon, this one will do me just fine for now. Besides, it’s the perfect antidote to that gross MetLife commercial that uses Schroeder’s piano playing as an analog for retirement planning. Ugh. Watch above, listen/download below, check out the 13-minute, one-take, extended version of the song here, and have a very happy Friday!
So I’ve been sitting on this one-liner for a solid year, just waiting for the perfect occasion to post it to Twitter, but I’m gonna share it with you guys instead. You ready? You suuuuure?!? OK, OK, here’s the joke, set off in its own paragraph so you know when to laugh riotously…
I’m pretty sure Emmylou Harris’ answering machine just says “Yes.”
Get it? Because she collaborates with everyone under the sun? Any ROTFLCOPTERing out there? No? Crickets? OK, so now you know why I’ve been sitting on it. Really though, Harris has performed with a zillion artists (I’d start listing them here, but my last post was more than 1,000 words, and the proprietors of You Hear That don’t pay me enough to keep up that clip), making her one of the most prolific and respected backup/duet singers in the biz. So whats the occasion? What Emmylou event inspired me to unleash this dormant comedic gem? Did she collabo with Kayne? Did she duet with Dokken? Nope — well, not that I’m aware of. In fact, she’s not even directly involved.
Last week turned out to be a cover song celebration, with one post about a monster collection of repurposed Bob Dylan tunes and another about Punch Brothers’ out-of-this-world takes on Radiohead. And while I didn’t really set out to double down on the covers, I couldn’t be happier that theme emerged, because it got me thinking differently about Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet that has just released a new recording entitled Seven Steps.
Before going any further, I am obligated by the International Code of Music Blogging Ethics to point out that classical music is usually “not my cup of tea.” But it’s not “not my cup of tea” in the same way that, say, olives are “not my cup of tea.” Olives I hate with a passion. The word “tapenade” is an iron-clad deal-breaker when scanning the menu at fancy restaurants. Classical music, on the other hand, is something that I have a great deal of interest in learning about, but I have a long way to go, both in terms of appreciation and understanding.
So how did Brooklyn Rider manage to make connection with their 2011 effort, Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass? I think Glass’ minimalist style deserves some of the credit. As with any learning endeavor, repetition is helpful, and the repetitive structures in Glass’ music engage without feeling overwhelming, despite the fact that a great deal of complexity is hidden within those patterns. But I think the lion’s share of the credit belongs to the group’s 4 musicians, who themselves are refreshingly relatable.
Every once in a while, I’ll be watching a drummer go to town during a rhythmically demanding section of a song, and I’ll say to myself, “That dude is an alien.” Certain drummers have that extra gear that makes it look like they’re working with more than two arms and two legs — how else could they be doing so much at once and/or making so much noise? Not so coincidentally, I described Battles’ John Stanier as “otherworldly” when I witnessed his handiwork at the 9:30 Club a few months back, and I’d be inclined to throw that same adjective at Wilco’s Glen Kotche, especially when it comes to his chaotic outbursts in “Via Chicago.”
So what the hell does this have to do with Punch Brothers?!? They don’t even have a drummer!
I’m glad you asked! Chris Thile, the group’s frontman and mandolin player, is one of the few people outside the world of stick-wielding snare-strikers that produces that same super-specific, disbelieving reaction: “That dude is an alien.” And I’m not alone — Ed Helms from The Office has had the exact same thought.
Bob Dylan has written a lot of songs. More like a shit-ton of songs. As in, if he had a nickel for every song he wrote, he could pull a Scrooge McDuck and take a daily dip in his pool of nickels. What I’m trying to say is there are a lot of Bob Dylan tunes out there, and if someone tells you with a straight face they know every single one, it’s completely acceptable to give them this face in return. His catalog is a such big mountain to climb, and let’s be honest; the thought of listening to all of his albums back to back would make even the most fervent fanatic blink once or twice. There are just so many damn lyrics. Good lord. But his being so prolific is, of course, a gift, not a curse. You can keep discovering new reasons to love him, even if you’ve already heard hundreds of his songs, and that’s where covers become particularly handy. Hearing other musicians interpret Bob Dylan’s music is one of the best ways to visit the parts of his dark and brilliant brain you haven’t been to yet, and just last night my friend and musical sherpa Clay alerted me to an amazing cache of 76 such covers. Assembled to benefit Amnesty International and released less than a month ago, Chimes of Freedom: The Music of Bob Dylan offers takes on Dylan tunes by everyone under the sun, including Elvis Costello, K’naan, Adele, Bettye LaVette, Pete Townshend, Bad Religion… really the list goes on and on and on. It’s nuts. And [be sure to read this in your best and most disproportionately loud Billy Mays* voice] ALL 76 OF THESE SONGS CAN BE YOURS FOR THE LOW, LOW PRICE OF $19.99! Crazy, eh? So many thoughtful and revealing covers at roughly a quarter a pop AND a large chunk of the money goes to a charitable organization. Everyone wins! Hell, you may even be able to write off the purchase on your taxes (I have no idea if this is true. It’s probably not. You Hear That Financial Services, L.L.C. isn’t exactly street legal, and may or may not, in fact, exist). I’m still making my way through the whole collection, but check out two of my favorites so far, — My Morning Jacket doing “You’re A Big Girl Now” and Raphael Saadiq doing “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” Hey, did you know Raphael Saadiq was in Tony! Toni! Toné!? SRSLY! Listen below and click here to snag Chimes of Freedom from iTunes.
My Morning Jacket — “You’re A Big Girl Now” (Bob Dylan cover)
Raphael Saadiq — “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” (Bob Dylan cover)
I’m usually a huge fan of ridiculous spectacles, pop music and making judgmental comments about celebrities, so the Grammys should be right in my wheelhouse. Nevertheless, I had a really tough time enjoying what I watched last night. Something just felt… off. Reading this stomach-turning Hello Giggles post about Chris Brown just a few hours before the ceremony certainly didn’t help. Seeing this collection of “I’d let Chris Brown beat me” tweets after the show didn’t help either. Nor did the ratio of performances to on-air award presentations, which seems to grow more disproportionate each year (only 10 of the 78 awards were given out on TV). Whatever it was, I walked away more than a little disappointed. But guess what? It’s a big Internet out there, and I’ll let someone else complain about how bad the show was. Besides, a few things happened that made me very happy that I did watch. I loved Justin Vernon’s acceptance speech, for one thing. The acknowledgment of his discomfort in winning showed equal measures of courage and integrity, given his earlier comments about how meaningless these awards are and how creativity should be its own reward. Adele winning everything in sight was heartwarming, as well. I find a tremendous amount of character in her voice, which is refreshing in a pop music paradigm that, as Dave Grohl pointed out in his (rudely truncated) acceptance speech, often favors tonal perfection over personality. But the thing that I’ll remember most about this year’s Grammys was the Civil Wars performing a quickie, one-minute version of “Barton Hollow,” the song that won the award for “Best Country Duo/Group Performance.” They were great. I’d listened to this tune a number of times, and I’ve always liked it, but their natural demeanor and strong, straightforward delivery really stood out from the glut of comically over-produced and awkwardly shoehorned collaborations. Not only did Civil Wars seem like they belonged on such a grand stage, it looked like they could teach a thing or two to some of the other, more well-known and brazenly bedazzled honorees. Their minute on screen was exactly what I needed to jump on the Civil Wars bandwagon with both feet, and I can’t wait to spend more time with their 2011 release Barton Hollow, which took home the award for “Best Folk Album.” Listen to the studio version of the title track below and click here to buy the album on iTunes. I have a feeling you won’t be the only one doing so this week.
The Civil Wars — “Barton Hollow“