Tag Archives: awesome

Music Monday: Cover songs!

I find cover songs, on the whole, super-interesting; many of them are slices of various musicians and bands at their worst or most outright bizarre (see Nickelback’s cover of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” by Elton John) or their best (see below). Love ’em or hate ’em, covers seem to be a perennially-discussed topic amongst fans of music and popular culture. There is even a website devoted to covers.

This post collects just a few of my favorites, because a post of all of my favorite covers would be entirely too long. Lyrics for each song are linked via the song title.

Garbage did an absolutely stunning version of “Candy Says,” originally by the Velvet Underground, a while back:

Next up is Tori Amos, about whom I should probably just write a whole blog entry because she is so prolific with cover songs (TAKE NOTE, me). Anyway, she covered a bunch of songs written by men about women for her 2001 album Strange Little Girls, but two of the arguably best tracks from those recording sessions did not actually make it onto the album.

After All” (David Bowie):

Only Women Bleed” (Alice Cooper):

This doesn’t mean that Strange Little Girls was a bad album, however. Check out her piano and voice cover of Joe Jackson’s “Real Men” — a searing indictment of traditional masculinity that is still pretty damn relevant in the present moment, even though it was recorded in the early 1980s:

Covers have also been a unique part of Tori’s live shows. I would be remiss not to include her absolutely gorgeous organ-and-voice version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” recorded in 1996:

Then there’s her version of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” performed on tour in 2005:

Speaking of Radiohead covers, roots/Americana musician Gillian Welch has been known to cover “Black Star” in concert; in many ways, her version surpasses the original:

Again surpassing the original (which may equal blasphemy to some Dylan fans, I know): Nina Simone sings Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’“:

I am including Antony and the Johnsons’ b-sided take on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” because it is so radically different from the original song (check those string arrangements), but still awesome:

Patti Smith’s album Twelve is a collection of covers; if you’ve ever wanted to hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” interpreted as a folk tune WITH BANJO, this is an album worth picking up:

And lastly, recently-departed R.E.M. once recorded an amazing cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale.” Michael Stipe’s quiet falsetto is, in many ways, an intense counterpoint to original VU vocalist Nico’s monotone:

Feel free, as always, to link your favorites in the comments.

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Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter: A short introduction

[Description: Black and white image of musicians Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher.] (Image courtesy of jessesykes.com)

So, as probably evidenced by the existence of this tag on my Tumblr, I am a huge fan of the alt-country band Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter. I have seen them perform live several times (five or six, by now? I’ve stopped keeping track, truth be told); I’ve also met Jesse several times, and she seems like a pretty awesome lady who also makes amazing music (that sound you’re hearing would be my fangirlish squeal; my friend and occasional concert buddy Amy can attest to the intensity of my squeeage).

The band’s current lineup consists of Jesse Sykes (lead vocals/guitar), Phil Wandscher (guitar/vocals), Bill Herzog (bass/vocals), and Eric Eagle (drums/vocals). Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the Sweet Hereafter’s musical style is distinguished by layers of eerie (yet catchy!) melody ensconced in drifting wisps of sound that seems — at least from a metaphorical standpoint —  akin in some ways to the layer of misty fog that is a near-constant in the Pacific Northwest.

From a less metaphorical standpoint, however, the music of Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter is country — or, more accurately, alt-country — for people who wish that country music was less poppy. If you’ve ever wanted to hear more late ’60s- early ’70s psychedelia influence in alt-country music, you will probably find something to appreciate in this band’s oeuvre. Or perhaps you’re one of those folks who would listen to more acid-rock/psychedelic material, but you tend to enjoy great musicianship and vocal skills in addition to seemingly endless guitar solos. Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter are a perfectly down-tempo combo of psychedelic rock, alt-country (complete with nicely utilized slide guitars), and atmospheric chill-out music. To some, this may appear to be (or sound like) an odd formula, but in the hands of these talented musicians, it is a successful one; they consistently manage to merge the otherworldly and dream-like with the down-home, and the results are usually spectacular.

Okay, onto the actual music! The selection of their stuff available on YouTube is decent (many of the songs I wanted to include here were not on YouTube); accordingly, I’ve limited the songs posted here to high-quality live performances and audio-only tracks. Lyrics for most of these songs are available at Always On the Run.

From Reckless Burning (2002):

The title track:

Lonely Still:

Doralee  (solo performance circa 2009, for French webzine Le Cargo):

From Oh, My Girl (2004):

Title track:

The Dreaming Dead (which you may have heard on HBO’s True Blood):

Grow a New Heart (Note: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite of theirs, but this one is consistently near the top of the list!):

From Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul (2007):

LLL (live at the No Depression Festival, 2009):

The Air is Thin (official video):

Spectral Beings:

Station Grey (live in Amsterdam, 2008):

From the Gentleness of Nothing EP (2007):

Be it Me or Be it None (also for Le Cargo sessions):

Gentleness of Nothing (peculiar pleasure):

And one non-album track, “The Sinking Belle” with BORIS and Sunn0))):

The band’s latest album, Marble Son, is currently out in Europe and France, and is due to be released on July 26 in North America. One of the tracks from the forthcoming release, entitled “Ceiling’s High,” is below:

If you’d like some mp3s to download instead of waiting for all of these YouTube videos to load, the band’s now-former label, Barsuk, has a couple of songs available for free, as does the live music website Daytrotter.com; their official website also has a few songs available for streaming (click “Listen” on the menu at left).

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Quick Signal Boost: BADD 2011

I haven’t been able to put together a post for Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) this year due to other commitments, but be sure to go check out the list of this year’s posts, compiled by Goldfish at Diary of a Goldfish. As with other years, I am sure that there will be many excellent and thought-provoking posts!

I’ve contributed to BADD in the past, so now may be as good a time as any to drop some links: a poem, a bingo card, the first bingo card (cross-posted at FWD; not for BADD, but perhaps necessary for context of card #2).

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Songs: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “And No More Shall We Part” (2001)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “And No More Shall We Part” (lyrics). I believe the above performance is from a French television show.

I am starting a new Tumblr/blog series for 2011! It is about songs that have somehow impacted my life, and why. I was going to write about entire albums, and then I realized that that would become a huge undertaking that I would end up never finishing. So: an intermittent series on songs, because many songs are bite-sized, aurally speaking, and manageable enough for me to write about and not feel like I’m giving other things (other tracks on an album, for example) short shrift.

I’ve been trying to write about this song, and what it means to me, for the past couple of days and have been mostly coming up blank. No More Shall We Part was the first Nick Cave & TBS album I bought, around early 2006 or so, after an internet friend, Sarah, had included “Do You Love Me (Part 1)” (which, strangely, is not on that album!) on a mix some years before, and I kept pressing the back button each time the track would end. I can’t remember the reason why I bought this album first; it may have been the first result on Amazon when I typed in “nick cave and the bad seeds,” or it may have had the highest rating on iTunes or something.

The “real” reason, though, is not important. Nick Cave’s music–despite the weird, sometimes off-putting reliance on the women-as-goddesses-or-evil-temptresses trope of some of his work (or, in the case of most of 1995’s Murder Ballads, as victims of homicide by men)–has meant a lot to me, and continues to. No More Shall We Part is my favorite album of his and the Bad Seeds.

I first heard this album–and this song, which was the one that really grabbed me–during a particularly difficult time in my life. Out of nowhere, I had started experiencing moderate to severe chronic pain and fatigue to go with it, and I had no idea what to do. None of the doctors I saw could figure out what was wrong with me. When I was tired or in too much pain to do very much (which was often), I would rest and listen to music. “And No More Shall We Part” was one of the songs that I listened to constantly; almost without fail, whenever I played it, I’d listen to it at least three or four times because it was just that affecting.

I don’t believe in God. Nick Cave, however, does, and is not shy about expressing this in his lyrics. “And No More Shall We Part” contains many references to God; though this specific aspect of the song did not grab me, something about the way he sings it absolutely did.

Lord, stay by me
Don’t go down
I’ll never be free
If I’m not free now

Lord, stay by me
Don’t go down
I never was free
What are you talking about?

I didn’t believe in God, then. I needed something, however, to get me through the worst of the pain, to remind me that I was going to be okay even if the doctors–if most people around me, to an extent–couldn’t see what was going on in my body. It’s hard to put into words, but Cave’s voice was that hand reaching through my headphones, assuring me that I would be okay, even if I felt alone and scared and hopeless and bad for having health problems–and, ultimately, even if I couldn’t see any answers on the immediate horizon.

[Originally posted on my Tumblr]

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Things That Make My Life Easier: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

[Image description: Four bottles of perfume in front of and resting upon some books; the bottles are labeled “Australian Copperhead,” “Banded Sea Snake,” “Cottonmouth,” and “Asp Viper,” respectively. Image courtesy of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.]

Today, I am taking a page from amandaw’s awesome series “Things That Make My Life Easier” and have chosen to spotlight the fantastically scented goodness of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. As a person with chronic pain, I have found that certain things having to do with the five senses that take my mind off of my pain — even for a few minutes — makes dealing with pain and fatigue much, much easier. While I am unsure of the scientific veracity of perfume oils and their use in general life-improvement for folks with pain issues (in my case, fibromyalgia, which for me usually causes intense muscle pain and moderate to severe fatigue), I have personally benefited from wearing the complex and often surprising essential oil blends in which the Lab specializes. While smelling nice certainly won’t bring my physical pain down from, say, an 8 to a 1 (on a scale of 1 to 10), many of these blends have helped me to relax, focus on a different sort of physical sensation that is not abjectly, horrendously painful, and generally be more comfortable as I go about my day.

Besides a “General Catalogue” consisting of hundreds of scents—all inspired by a diverse mix of people (comic-book heroes and heroines; H.P. Lovecraft), places (the “Wanderlust” line, which offers scents inspired by famous locales) and things (love [image on page is NSFW], myth and fairy tales, classic art, religion and spirituality, and Alice in Wonderland, to name just a few)—BPAL also offers Limited Edition blends. Currently, they are offering their annual Fall/Halloween scents; if you’ve ever wanted to smell like an apple orchard, fall leaves and smoke, or Halloween candy, one (or more) of these oils may be for you.

It is next-to-impossible for me to pick favorite blends, as mine seem to change by the day. There are a few that I consistently utilize, however: Blood Kiss is a bizarrely dark blend of vanilla, clove and cherry that I’ve been wearing for years (I’m on my third bottle of the stuff). Absinthe is effervescent, minty and (obviously) boozy. When I want to smell sort of like a head shop sans the moldy undertone, a couple drops of Sin do the trick. Aquatic scents seem to be my most-used “category,” with the salty, swampy Bayou being the one that I reach for most often, tied with the Limited Edition Sturgeon Moon (the latter is no longer available, unfortunately). The smoky, slightly citrusy goodness of Carnaval Diabolique (part of a sprawling LE series of the same name) makes for a great late summer/early fall scent, as does the sharp, lavender-tinged Casanova.

Of course, the very fact that I wear essential oil perfumes brings up another issue — how to be sensitive and accommodating to fellow PWDs who may have scent sensitivities, allergies, or who may have otherwise painful reactions to scented stimuli. When I’m planning to be out and about, I tend to wear a drop or two at most, usually applied with a q-tip, and allow ample time for the oil to dry before I leave the house; this is not a perfect solution, but I am still figuring out how to balance the benefits that I personally get from wearing these amazingly-crafted oils with the needs of other PWDs whom I may encounter in public.

[Originally posted at FWD.]

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Important!

I have a guest post up at the amazing blog Tiger Beatdown! This is exciting, at least for me! Please go read it (even though it is kind of long)!

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Why Roxy Music is awesome (as is Bryan Ferry)

This is part one of a two-part post on Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, and why they are fabulous. The songs here are some of my favorites, and this post is intended to give readers/listeners a little preview as to this band’s total awesomeness. Take it away, random YouTube users!

“In Every Dream Home a Heartache” from For Your Pleasure (1972): This, unequivocally, is the song that made me a Roxy fan. There are so many layers here — like a delicious sandwich, if you will pardon the metaphor — and, more importantly, you do not have to know jack shit about music, songwriting, or composition to realize this. The lyrics, I think, essentially predicted suburbia’s dead end and/or souless McMansion-white-picket-fence-with-traditonal-heterosexual-marriage-big-SUV-and-2.5-children before those things even existed as specific Western cultural artifacts. I am sure that there is some sort of Technocultural Studies dissertation that could be written about this song (perhaps with a snappy, oh-so-postmodern title to go along with it?), but my relentless fannish devotion (among other things) prevents me from even considering taking on such a project.

“Mother of Pearl” from Stranded (1973): While it’s not my favorite Roxy song, it is a classic, and a good introduction to the band’s overall style.

“The Thrill of it All” from Country Life (1974): Ignore the retrogradely sexist cover art — and also dig the weirdness of that command coming from someone who has a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies (namely me). Country Life is my favorite Roxy album other than For Your Pleasure, and admitting this probably counts as blasphemy in some circles (as it was the group’s first album after Brian Eno left). But admit it, I must, because the album is so freaking good. And one verse (somewhat indirectly) alludes to a rather famous Dorothy Parker poem, so what’s not to love?

“Casanova” from Country Life (1974): This is my favorite Roxy song of all time. I can’t quite put into words how fantastic it is in every way possible; thus, I urge you to listen. The lyrics are brilliant; anyone who’s been graphically catcalled by gross dudes or unskillfully hit on by some creepy, drunken fraternity trust-fundie asshat at a bar will be able to relate. I would like to think that this is Bryan Ferry’s message to other dudes in which he says, “Guys, stop acting like such monkeys and/or thinking you’re totally suave, because you are actually the opposite of suave,” but my interpretation could be way off.

“Same Old Scene” from Flesh + Blood (1980): It’s from the ’80s! Otherwise known as that decade where some mostly drugged-out rich people made a lot of terrible music, and which is mostly invoked when hipsters want to be nostalgic for crap that they were too young to remember as crap! But please, do not worry, because “Same Old Scene” is an example of something good that came from that decade.

And if, after all of that, you need evidence that Bryan Ferry’s “still got it,” look no further than his many Bob Dylan covers, including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (performance is in the first two minutes or so of the clip, and the rest consists of him talking about his album of Dylan covers, which is also interesting):

Better than the original, I think (again, blasphemy in certain circles). But then again, I am one of those weirdos who really likes his cover of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” (link goes to an absolutely incredible short film of Ferry’s version that must be seen to be believed), mostly because that cover is so bizarre that it ends up being wildly entertaining.

That concludes part one of my Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry post; part two will be posted soon.

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