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]

September 10, 2010

Elizabeth and The Catapult + Leonard Cohen


I spent last night listening to a new song cycle from Brooklyn’s Elizabeth & The Catapult, commissioned by NPR and inspired by the challenging, incandescent Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen.

Fittingly, I first heard Elizabeth & The Catapult when I added their rousing cover of Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” to my Stomp Clap Mix at the beginning of the summer. This girl can compose and sing with an immensely strong voice, and loves whistles and claps and stomps as much as I do, so anytime she wants to also be inspired by the genius of Cohen and his words, I can get down with that.

These two songs are fantastic, and each so different. The first one I really loved is called “Go Away My Love” (at about the 38 minute mark), and sounds like it rises up from some riverside bank in the deep South, all feet stomping and hands clapping. The title track “The Other Side of Zero” is right after that one, and reminds me some of the harmonies of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

The full album The Other Side of Zero is out on Verve Forecast October 26th, and you can hear selections from last year’s Taller Children on Daytrotter.

elizabeth and leonard

There’s also a page of full “liner notes” for the song cycle, dotted with Cohen’s poems and drawings here. I bought Cohen’s Book of Longing last year on a particularly gratifying afternoon browsing trip lost amidst the stacks of Denver’s Tattered Cover bookstore. So many of the poems in there have resonated with me this last year, including this, one of my favorites in the collection (or, one of my few G-rated favorites in the largely NC-17 collection, I should say):

You’d Sing Too
You’d sing too
if you found yourself
in a place like this
You wouldn’t worry about
whether you were as good
as Ray Charles or Edith Piaf
You’d sing
You’d sing
not for yourself
but to make a self
out of the old food
rotting in the astral bowel
and the loveless thud
of your own breathing
You’d become a singer
faster than it takes
to hate a rival’s charm
and you’d sing, darling
you’d sing too

April 13, 2009

Monday Music Roundup


I hope that your Easter looked as good as that one. We got heavy wet snow and I wore my Easter dress anyways, out of defiance (yes, I still try and get a new Spring-y dress every Easter). I am glad to report the usual arsenal of Cadbury Creme Eggs and no Peeps.

Several songs in these past days have set my blogger heart ablaze in the best way. My friend Dainon pointed out that I am on a sky kick lately when it comes to song lyrics, and I was surprised to realize that he is absolutely correct. Lately I can’t get enough of the clouds, the stars, and the atmospheric explosions.

Something in the endlessness, I think.

scoreSleep All Summer
(Crooked Fingers cover)
The National & St. Vincent

Start with the song that I’ve listened to the most these past few days, probably close to a billion times. Matt Berninger opens with the lyrics, “Weary sun, sleep tonight, go crashing into the ocean… Cut the line that ties the tide and moon, ancient and blue,” his voice vulnerably cracking just a little on the high notes. The National and St. Vincent pair up to cover Denver’s Crooked Fingers (of Eric Bachmann, Archers of Loaf), and wistfully wrench at my heart in the best way. The songwriting here made me run immediately to go research Crooked Fingers. I am thoroughly impressed with how much exceptional material Merge crammed onto their newest 20th anniversary covers bacchanalia SCORE! (and oh, it is). You can stream the full album here for a limited time, featuring folks like Ryan Adams, The Shins, Mountain Goats, Okkervil River and Bright Eyes.

I Won’t Be Found
tallestThe Tallest Man On Earth

The influence of Bob Dylan on countless young American musicians is well-worn, and almost genetically hotwired into entire generations by this point, but to find a young Swede who sounds so convincingly authentic in his folk howls and sweeping lyrical songscapes — that’s something that excites me. Kristian Matsson performs as The Tallest Man On Earth and grew up listening to rock and punk in faraway Scandinavian lands, but through Dylan he “just fell into the ocean of American folk-blues.” On this song he sings about the Serengeti, levees of stars, and growing diamonds in his chest. His album Shallow Grave is out now, and also check the twangy theme song he created for the excellent Yellow Bird Project t-shirt site for charity (I’m a happy owner of that National one).

moodyThe Sound
Human Highway

There is an effervescence and simple joy in this number from Nick Thorburn (of Islands & The Unicorns) and Jim Guthrie (Canadian musician who was also in Islands, and is Woody’s grandson). Human Highway was named after the Neil Young song (or maybe the movie), and their album Moody Motorcycle was recorded in Guthrie’s Toronto apartment over a span of two weeks. It has a spontaneous feel to it, full of humble guitar picking and familiar-feeling harmonies that would make the Everly Brothers turn their heads. It was released last summer on my birthday, but I am just discovering it now — a little burst of last summer in the final gasps of winter.

Hallie and Henry (unreleased demo)
say-hiSay Hi

There are several reasons that I can deconstruct liking this unpolished demo from Say Hi‘s Eric Elbogen, ranging from the way his slightly ragged, earnest voice reminds me here of Pete Yorn, or that restrained pulse of the guitar. But mostly? If we’re gonna be honest, I think I like this song because the intro practically begs you to bust out with “Josie’s on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over.” TRY it. Say Hi has released a fabulous album called Oohs and Aahs on Barsuk, and is currently on tour with Cloud Cult.

Layout 1Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen cover)
Lemonheads & Liv Tyler

This vocal pairing is something I can totally picture occurring in the break room of Empire Records after Rex Manning leaves, Evan’s golden hair falling over his eye as Liv puts aside her studying for a few minutes. Harvard can wait. Starlets who sing can be a very bad idea, but Liv Tyler actually has a dusky, delicate singing voice she can be proud of. Here she joins with Evan Dando’s golden, malleable croon to cover one of Leonard Cohen’s bittersweet gems of a relationship’s twilight (“let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie”). The results join covers of artists like Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Linda Perry on the forthcoming Lemonheads covers album Varshons (due June 23 on The End Records). Kate Moss also sings. The concept could go terribly awry, but I enjoyed the last Lemonheads album so much that I hold out hope.

April 17, 2007

Oakland’s Street To Nowhere covers Leonard Cohen

Last Tuesday I saw Street To Nowhere again, opening for Rocky Votolato. Turns out this was kind of the third time I saw them because they opened for that awesome Format show I was at last year at the Cervantes. But I was either late or not paying attention that night, so my loss. They put on a really good set this time around, showing more of their “singer-songwriter” side due to the nature of the following acts, and less of the Weezer-meets-Bright-Eyes rock. Drummer Joey still broke both snare drum and drumstick by song #3, a foreseeable mishap if you were watching the pounding he was giving to those bad boys. Sweet.

In any case, one of the songs that STN included in their set was a surprising Leonard Cohen cover of Chelsea Hotel #2 (I mean, what are the kids covering nowadays from Cohen other than Hallelujah?). After the show, leadman Dave Smallen told me that at the above-mentioned Denver show last year they were kind of off, partly because Dave’s entire extended family was there to distract him. I asked if he was embarrassed or otherwise discomfited by singing Cohen’s lyrics about “giving me head on the unmade bed” in front of his mom and family. He just shrugged — and tells me that his cool mom is actually the one who introduced him to the music of Leonard Cohen. Props to Dave’s mom. My mom introduced me to hippie folk and countless lullabies with three-part harmonies, but no Cohen.

Chelsea Hotel #2 (Leonard Cohen cover) – Street To Nowhere

This version was recorded in bassist Bryce Freeman’s basement in Oakland. And a word of correction: In my previous post, Dave says I called him a 17-year-old. Ladies, let it be noted that he is actually 22.

Check out their album Charmingly Awkward, out now on Capitol. All the kids love it, ’twas selling like hotcakes at the show last week. And look who wrote something nice about them way back when. Chris posted “Boxcars Boxcars Boxcars” [listen], but they did a smashing job on this one Tuesday night, a real crowd-pleaser that’s fun to sing along with:

Tipsy – Street To Nowhere

And completely random side note, but don’t you wish every club you went to had one of these pinball machines?

The King sits there brooding, giving his blessing over your music scene as you feed him quarters.

April 16, 2006

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah

Perhaps this is some form of sacrilege to post this on Easter, but if you aren’t going to church today, maybe you can spend some time with Bono as he ruminates about Hallelujah (with the help of Leonard Cohen, of course).

I recently came across this most excellent cover that Bono contributed to the Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen compilation in 1995.

At this moment in the evolution of U2 we were right smack-dab between Zooropa and Pop. While it is hard for me to nail down one era of U2 that is my “favorite,” I really liked both of those albums, as well as the pop-modernism of Achtung Baby (ok, that’s actually probably my favorite).

This song is a hybrid of the swanky falsetto of “Numb” and the smoooooth spoken word portions of “If You Wear That Velvet Dress.” It’s awesome.

Take a close listen and tell me how come it sounds soooo dirty the way he enunciates the last word of this line: “And from your lips she drew the hallelujah.” Makes me kind of guffaw and say “Ha haaaa!” in that delighted naughty way. Also, you practically have to wear your wraparound Bono shades when you listen to this. It’s THAT cool.

Hallelujah – Bono

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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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