There There

Important Vinyl Update … The Artist: Radiohead. The Album: “There There” single. The Store: Plan 9. The Price: $6.

Welcome to the B-side of the discussion of B-sides! After Justin Townes Earle whet my appetite with his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Streets,” I poked around online for other fun B-sides. Quick side note – I’m a huge eBay tease. I tend to use my watch list not to monitor items I’d like to win in an online auction, but as a shopping list for the record store. Something about buying vinyl online is less satisfying, less eventful, and makes me feel like I’m cheating on my local record stores. That’s why I was so excited when I noticed a record behind the counter at Plan 9 that I’d seen on eBay the night before: a promotional copy of Radiohead’s “There There” – the first single off their 2003 album, Hail to the Thief. Though I’m a big fan of “There There,” I was even more intrigued by the single’s B-side, a song I’d never heard called “Paperbag Writer.” Turns out it’s a really cool and haunting bass-driven song with an creeping electronic beat and some truly creepy strings. As with a lot of Radiohead throwaways, it could really be the best song off another band’s album (or a fantastic track on a horror movie soundtrack), and the fact that it was discarded is a testament to the band’s greatness. Most of all, I love that I’m still discovering things about Hail to the Thief eight years after the album’s release. Such is the magic of B-sides! You can preview “Paperbag Writer” below, and you can buy it on iTunes as part of the There There EP, which features another B-side, “Where Bluebirds Fly.” And if you’re vinyl-inclined, keep an eye out for an upcoming series of 12″ King of Limbs remixes, with the first arriving in early July.

Justin Townes Earle

Christchurch Woman

Whether they’re cover songs or tracks that have been scooped up off an album’s cutting-room floor, B-sides are a great way to get to know your favorite bands even better. And you don’t have to be a vinyl collector to get in on the fun! Look, I’ll prove it to you! My current bout with B-side fever started on May 23, when Justin Townes Earle released the digital Christchurch Woman single. Its B-side is a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Streets,” a tune JTE played as the closer of his recent show at the Camel in Richmond. The cover first appeared on a limited-edition Record Store Day 7″, and since I didn’t manage to get my hands on a copy, I was elated when I learned it was available on iTunes. I have to confess, I’m a HUGE fan of Springsteen covers. I didn’t grow up listening to the Boss, and have never been able to jump into his catalog with both feet. For whatever reason, I need to hear his songs through the prism of another band’s style for the original versions to come into focus. In exactly this way, JTE’s version of “Racing in the Streets” has given me another Springsteen song to love. The recording is sparse, just vocals and acoustic guitar, but JTE’s mastery of dynamics is what makes the cover really shine. Have a listen below, and run to iTunes to download the two-song single. And if you don’t already own it, for the love of all that’s holy, get his most recent album Harlem River Blues. Srsly.