Thursday, April 19, 2018

I've Got This Covered: 12 Times My Favorite Artists Covered One Another and How I Wish the Original Group Would Return the Favor

One of the greatest joys in life for me is when two artists I like are fans or collaborators of one another. I even went so far as to schedule a vacation around a show featuring two of my favorite artists from different bands. This Saturday is Record Store Day, and there are two exciting crossovers of artists I enjoy. A release by Elvis Costello will feature a cover of "Someone Else's Heart" (Squeeze) and a record in support of same-sex marriages will feature Ben Gibbard covering The Beatles "And I Love [Him]." So I have decided to compile a list of some of my favorite crossovers, along with some crossovers I wish would/could happen.

1) Oh Boy! - She and Him/Buddy Holly
It's not my favorite cover of all Time, but I do think it's really cool that this duo covered the great Buddy Holly. It was included on a compilation that also featured some of my other favorites including Florence and the Machine and Julian Casablancas

In return, I wish Holly could posthumously record a cover of "I've Got Your Number, Son."

2) Mr. Blue Sky - Lily Allen/ELO
Ms Allen has a new album coming out in June, but in the meantime, let's look back at a much earlier piece produced by Greg Kurstin. I actually enjoy this cover, I think it brings something different to the table, even though I love the original piece.

I would like to hear ELO's take on "Back to the Start."
If not a cover by Jeff Lynne's ELO, I would at least love to hear what Jeff Lynne would have done with the production in some of Allen's songs, particularly from the It's Not Me, It's You era.

3) Friends of Mine - of Montreal/The Zombies
One of the most underrated Zombies tunes was covered by of Montreal in their earlier days. It's a fairly literal translation, but somehow Kevin Barnes' voice alone changes the song immensely.

An of Montreal cover by The Zombies is more complicated, since the former have always been a fairly avant garde group, but I think something from the early albums or Lousy With Sylvianbriar would work out. I guess I would most like to hear The Zombies perform the Zombie-esque "Old Familiar Way."

4) This Charming Man - Death Cab For Cutie/The Smiths
The Smiths passed the baton of somber lyrics with a catchy tune to Death Cab For Cutie, and I think it's only fair that the latter did an upbeat cover of The Smiths classic. It was a b-side to "The Sound of Settling," but I think Morrissey could put an interesting twist on "Title and Registration."

5) All Day and All of the Night - Kate Nash/The Kinks
Adding a little dash more punk rock to this classic Kinks track, it can't be said that Nash didn't do anything interesting to this song.

I would like to see The Kinks do a cover of "Birds" somehow. 
The song would become a voyerish story song, which Ray Davies happens to be an expert at.

6) Life's What You Make It - Weezer/Talk Talk
While it beats the "It's My Life" cover by Gwen Stefani, I can't exactly give this cover my seal of approval. I still appreciate the love of Talk Talk that had to have led Weezer to cover one of my favorite tracks by the former band.

Figuring out how to reverse this cover process is probably the most difficult on the list. Even at their poppiest, there is no other band like Talk Talk, and as they progressed, they became even further from the mainstream. And Weezer's sound is so loud and guitar-driven that it's hard to imagine Talk Talk covering them. So I suppose the best thing I can think of would be that in this imaginary world, Talk Talk would cover "Keep Fishin,'" but much more slowly.

7) 2000 Miles - KT Tunstall/The Pretenders
One of my favorite Pretenders songs is also one of my favorite Christmas songs. While the Tunstall version isn't that different, it's still gorgeous, and earns an equal place in my Christmas playlist.

I think Chrissie Hynde could make several Tunstall pieces work for her, but I would most like to see her perform the slide-guitar-heavy "Hold On."

8) Helter Skelter - Rooney & Everybody Else/The Beatles
Know of a song you don't fully appreciate until you see it live? While I never actually saw this performance live, I didn't fully appreciate this Beatles song until I saw two of my favorite bands perform it together live (on a Youtube video). 

It's a tough return cover since two bands I love are featured here, but I would really love to see John Lennon front a Beatles cover of "Faker" by Everybody Else.

9) Think About Your Troubles - Jellyfish/Harry Nilsson
Jellyfish wore their influences on their sleeve while still being unique. Their heartfelt cover of this track from The Point has everything you can hope for in a Nilsson cover.

Nilsson would have been able to do a great version of "Now She Knows She's Wrong."

10) Joanne - Benjamin Gibbard/Michael Nesmith
Hey look, it's the aforementioned cover I traveled to California to witness. Technically this isn't a cover so much as a co-cover and technically, Nesmith has already covered a Gibbard song with The Monkees, but Gibbard has a storied history of covering Monkees songs also, so I would just love to hear Nesmith perform another Gibbard piece, namely "Oh, Woe."

"Oh, Woe" is one of my favorite Gibbard compositions, but I also think Nesmith could bring some of his own melancholy to it, for a beautiful performance.

11) 1000 Umbrellas - The Format/XTC
I got into both of these bands around the same time, so this was pretty cool. Of note: The Format also covered Jellyfish, The Kinks, and Harry Nilsson.

I imagine that XTC could have done something cool with "She Doesn't Get It."

12) Up the Junction - They Might Be Giants/Squeeze
Possibly one of my favorite crossovers simply because of how unexpected it was for me to find it, this is a loving and not altogether innovative cover that nonetheless captures what I love about both of these bands.

I think that Squeeze should cover "Pet Name" as a thank you gift. It already fits their style.

Agree? Disagree? What's your favorite artist collaboration? Let me know! And don't forget to support your local record store Saturday!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Top 5: Happiest XTC Songs

XTC are a band whose work spans decades, and ranges from commenting on the music industry ("Funk Pop A Roll") to religion ("Dear God") to overzealous parenting ("Making Plans For Nigel"). But one of my favorite things about XTC is the fact that their songs can also be "Stupidly Happy," if you will. Despite his own struggles with mental illness, Andy Partridge is an expert at writing songs about the lighter side of life (like "You Bring the Summer" for The Monkees) and Colin Moulding is great at writing upbeat, poppy tunes. So since it's the middle of Winter and it's easy to get the doldrums, here are a few awesome XTC songs that radiate pure joy.

5. "King For A Day"

This song's melody has always made me smile. It's so upbeat and cheery, even though it's about an ugly lust for fame or wealth. But despite the lyrical content being a bit of a downer, it's still got positive vibes.

4. "Wrapped in Grey"

This isn't the most poppy XTC track, but it's all about positivity. There's almost a lullaby quality, yet it's a reminder that "your heart is the big box of paints." As Andy Partridge says "Life doesn't have to be grey and soulless. If you tap into your own emotions, you can experience all the colours."

3. "Then She Appeared"

When XTC were The Dukes of Stratosphere, they planned on using another pseudonym- The Golden- and releasing "Then She Appeared" as a lost single from 1967-1968. Instead, they ended up releasing it as XTC, and the result is probably my favorite of their songs.

2. "Stupidly Happy"

Andy Partridge describes this one as "The dumbest but happiest song I ever wrote." Ever feel so happy that you're smiling for no reason and singing along to the dumbest pop songs you normally don't even like? This is the song that perfectly describes that state of being.

1. "We're All Light"

From XTC's final album, Wasp Star, this song is probably their most positive one by a longshot. I can't help but agree with Andy Partridge: "This song makes my feet smile."

Andy Partridge quotes and factoids lifted from here and here. What XTC song makes your feet smile? Let me know in the comments!