June 5, 2012

i took no time with the fall

Before the leader of the free world sort of sang this little ditty, Britain’s marvelous Ben Howard took on a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s apparent summer smash hit “Call Me Maybe” on the BBC Lounge. Ben Howard was one of my favorite new artists that I featured on my Springtime mix with that stunner “Old Pine” (thanks Rinker), and Ben’s whole debut album Every Kingdom is a slow-building phenom of deeply-seated goodness.

Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen) – Ben Howard

Ben Howard got his footing as part of the Communion Records family, one of my favorite folk labels in the U.K. right now (um, because of their ability to casually make things like this happen). I got to have beers with one of the founding dudes when I was in London in November, and I was deeply inspired by the slow, community-focused growth of the collective and the consistently terrific sound that they have curated through their Sunday night shows and carefully-signed roster.

I also got word the other day that they’re also opening a Nashville offshoot of Communion Records this Thursday, which, when combined with Third Man, will increase Nashville’s allure to me even more, if that’s possible.

This cover came to me via the laser-eared Adam Sharp, the final track off his new summer(days) 2012 mix. You’re just killing it lately, Sharp.

[if you like world leaders singing The Pop Hits that the kids dig, I still get a kick from these]

April 22, 2012

and even though it all went wrong, i’ll stand before the lord of song

I’ve heard this song, and covers of this song, roughly 847 times. It hasn’t made me feel the way this video does in a very long time. I love Daniel Blue, I love Motopony, and I will never tire of honesty in a church.

This is ab.so.lutely stunning, and penetrating all the way to the little crackly-lightning neuron connectors along the base of my spine, and the scattered hardened-black corroded outputs around my heart.

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) – Daniel Blue with Hannalee

[video from the Fremont Abbey series, shot by the talented wild-haired Eratosthenes Fackenthall]

February 15, 2012

and if you return to me

One of my favorite songs off one of the albums I’ve listened to the most in the last year, this new cover of Damien Jurado’s “Beacon Hill” is suffused through the warmed-up, knowing rasp of Jon Russell (of The Head and The Heart). It’s been on constant repeat for me this week, since it was unveiled as part of an extremely cool mini-series of covers over on Andrew Matson’s music column in the Seattle Times.

Beacon Hill (Damien Jurado) – Jon Russell

Jon takes an icy, somber song that originally aches of that echoey sort of desperation, and infuses it with his own glowing embers. The harmonies of Brenna Carlson are enveloping, and perfect.

Beacon Hill – Damien Jurado

Get Saint Bartlett if you never did, and stream Damien’s entire new forthcoming record, Maraqopa, here. Highly recommended — is anyone else also hung up on “Life Away From The Garden” (in addition to “Working Titles,” of course) like I am?

Keep your ears tuned to Matson’s column for the Seattle Times (check out Pickwick’s!). I don’t know what covers are coming next, but they can’t help but be amazing if this is the magnetic songwriting fodder we have to work with.

UPDATE: JUST GET RIGHT ON OUT OF TOWN. Magic will do what magic does.

[photo by Marcelle Davidse]

January 16, 2012

I told myself it was all something in her / but as we drove I knew it was something in me

This happened tonight not far from my home in Colorado. Gregory Alan Isakov is a state treasure, and I am a sucker for Springsteen covers that make me take in my breath sharply when I really should be sleeping.

October 15, 2011

have i come here to play jesus to the lepers in my head?

So all I could do was lay on my living room floor and listen to this version over and over. Hearing the way Damien Rice softly and darkly teases this song into something shatteringly his own, there’s not really other appropriate responses or actions while listening.

One (U2) – Damien Rice

From the forthcoming Q magazine compilation covering my favorite U2 album, I found it especially amazing how Damien totally changes this song just through switching a few pronouns from “you” to “me,” and the hesitancy in his voice, the inhalation of breath. With a few twists of vocabulary, he shifts all the blame and redemption woven through this song squarely onto his shoulders. I heard it in a way I haven’t heard this song in a long time.

i asked you to enter, and then i made you crawl
and you can’t be holding on
to what i’ve got

when all i’ve got is hurt

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October 14, 2011

when you were mine / you were kinda sorta my best friend

Portland’s John Heart Jackie (along with Justin Harris from Menomena) take on Prince’s 1980 lovesick ballad, weaving a swanky little few minutes of atmosphere, in the middle of a tour no less. Impressive.

When You Were Mine (Prince) – John Heart Jackie

GO SEE: John Heart Jackie play Boulder’s Laughing Goat on Sunday, Denver’s Walnut Room on Monday, and Fort Collins’ Everyday Joe’s on Tuesday.

Oh, I also still love the version Crooked Fingers did on that ace EP.

October 12, 2011

my pourin’ tears are running wild

I’ve been told by a few friends to keep my ears open for Caroline Smith & The Goodnight Sleeps, but I hadn’t really listened until I came across this blues cover today (originally made popular by our good soul-soother/breaker, Ray Charles). It gives me all sorts of chills. Listen to her wail — I love it when musicians surprise me.

Drown In My Own Tears
live at Rock Shop, Brooklyn (Oct 11, 2011)

Caroline’s from Minneapolis, and her sophomore album Little Wind is out now on United Interests. Two songs from that:


[video via the lovely Sarahana]

September 23, 2011

Eef Barzelay (Clem Snide) can cover for me any old time

I’ve said before that I honestly think Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide is one of the most piercing, insightful, weirdly-perfect songwriters making music right now. I saw him live a few years ago in support of his 2009 release Hungry Bird, and his literacy and ability to emotionally incise caught me in an ambush. I commented that it was like an SAT study party, and we could invite John Darnielle and Colin Meloy and I would die happy. Around that time, this was one of my most-listened to songs, with its bluesy melody that somehow manages to feel effervescent through the weight. When Eef repeated the line over and over again – “We are just bracing for the impact by loosening our limbs…” something in my chest still tightens. “Every single one of us has a kitten up a tree.”

Born A Man – Clem Snide

Eef also has this superhuman knack for covering songs in the best possible way, where you stop and hear something in a way you never did before. It’s like when you are washing dishes at the kitchen sink and pause to look up out the window because you hear a thunder crash with the approaching storm, and suddenly your whole yard is bathed in this eerie greenish light. It’s still your yard, the one you’ve sat in a hundred times, but all of a sudden it is foreign and strangely beautiful.

After releasing a startlingly seriously-pretty EP of Journey covers in June, this week Eef released a new cover songs album of selections suggested by fans. The most surprising has got to be his take on Nine Inch Nails’ “The Becoming,” and the purest the rendition of “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea.” Take a listen:

And this remains my all-time favorite cover I think he could ever do – instead of Nico’s halting German alienation, we get a warm hymn, laced with that gorgeous, sad, knowing cello:

I’ll Be Your Mirror (Velvet Underground) – Clem Snide

SHOW ALERT: Eef plays this weekend in Armstrong Hall on the Colorado College campus, opening for Minnesota slowcore pioneers Low (Sunday night, 7pm). It is interesting to note that Armstrong Hall is so very close to Shove Chapel, home of the chapel sessions.

June 28, 2011

we chase misprinted lies

The 1994 Jar of Flies EP from Alice in Chains was a favorite of wee 15-year-old Heather, an alt-country twanged collection of seven songs that melded the moodiness of AIC with occasional pop flourishes (witness “No Excuses”). That album is one of the few from my collection during those high school years that still holds up relatively well (also, my unparalleled artistic skills in drawing the AIC logo in pencil on my binders).

I’m pretty excited to hear Ryan Adams take on “Nutshell” from that EP, the b-side to the tour-only 7″ he is selling on his current European dates. This cover reminds me of some of his haunted 29-era songs. The other side of the single is “Empty Room,” a new tune that finds Ryan and wife Mandy Moore harmonizing.

Nutshell (Alice in Chains) – Ryan Adams

This is also not the first time Ryan has taken on the songs of Staley & Co. He’s a fan.

June 12, 2011

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #4 :: Strand of Oaks

I try real hard not to peg musicians based on appearance, but when you meet Strand Of Oaks for the first time (aka Tim Showalter) you can’t help feel that he should maybe have a CB radio handle and/or make music that sounds like The Allman Brothers. But then he wraps you in a big bear hug and you learn that he used to be a second-grade teacher, and you realize he is a study in contrasts.

His music made my jaw drop the first time he heard it live, there in the church. It was completely unexpected. I am not savvy in the use of pedals and effects in music; as far as I am concerned, it may as well be magic. From the first song “Kill Dragon” that Tim played in the big gorgeous church, there was this polyphonic, shimmering wall of sound that he created with just him and his guitar. It sounded like a thousand pipe organs, or angels, or something extraordinary.

As I interpret it, this first song is about wrestling with talking to a God that seems to have vanished: “Lately he hasn’t been listening to me / I guess he’s a man and he’s meant to leave.” In the void he’s left, Tim traces the litany of things that have gone awry in his life (deaths, sickness) and says he is coming up with an interesting new prayer – to run away with Mary. A little surprised the walls of the church didn’t like, you know, crumble all around us.

Tim writes thoughtful, piercing songs about sleeplessness, faith, and that which we’ve lost. This music is mesmerizing.

Kill Dragon
End in Flames
The Golden Age (Beck)


If you like this music, check out Strand of Oaks’ haunting, gorgeously wrought album Pope Killdragon, and his cover of Joe Pug’s “Hymn #101.” Tim also sang on that cover of “Hard Life” with Joe Pug in this same chapel session.

ALSO: That Beck cover he did reminds me of the version that Beck himself did, also in a chapel – Union Chapel in London.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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