I have always enjoyed listening to covers - not only is it fun to hear one artist’s interpretation of another, but I find it interesting to see what songs and artists they choose to cover. From these choices we can learn who their influences are and what kinds of music they listen to.
Here’s St. Vincent doing “She is Beyond Good and Evil” by avant-garde post-punkers The Pop Group (who were anything but pop!). This 2011 performance was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and was in support of her then new LP, Strange Mercy - because of course it makes perfect sense to play a cover of a relatively obscure British band rather than a single off your own new record!!
Here’s a live-in-the-studio version of the first song off of the Cincinnati, OH band’s excellent new album Attica! Of course this is not a cover of the Who’s famous song - since there is no Who song with this title (it’s “Baba O’Reilly”). Wussy is a throwback to the glory days of late 80’s-early 90’s college/indie/alt rock though they aren’t remotely derivative and their sound is too expansive and varied for them to be hemmed in by one genre.
This song features the group’s 3 guitar attack (lead, rhythm and pedal steel) and is a slow burning, melodic and ultimately fierce ode to why we care so much about music, bands and songs. With lyrics like, “Do you remember the moment you finally did something about it? When the kick of the drum lined up with the beat of your heart?”, Lisa Walker reminds us what it was like to find a song that we feel in our core. Like the kids of 1971 must have felt the first time they heard “Baba O’Reilly”.
I was out of town and couldn’t go to this concert, so here’s a guest review by my daughter minneral!
Wye Oak - San Diego - July 9, 2014
Last time I saw Wye Oak, I didn’t really know anything about them, just that we had heard their song “Civilian” and wanted to check them out. Between then and now, they’ve become one of my favorite groups, so it was a very different experience seeing them on Wednesday at the Belly Up, playing with the Philadelphia duo Pattern is Movement.
Because I’m now familiar with Wye Oak’s songs, it was clear how strong their live performance is. Jenn Wasner alternated between two guitars, a bass, and a keyboard throughout the set, and drummer Andy Stack took a few turns at the keyboard, too. They started out strong with the first three songs off their excellent new album Shriek. After that they played a mix of old and new songs; I was particularly impressed with “The Tower,” “Holy Holy,” and my current favorite, the floaty, melodic “Shriek.”
Wasner’s vocals really give their music a unique character that keeps it fresh and exciting, and although there seems to be a St. Vincent-esque influence in the new album (and I even saw Wasner throw in a jerky head tilt at one point), Wye Oak still makes the style their own. They finished off, of course, with “Civilian,” leaving me reflecting on how that one song had brought me to such an amazing group.
Who is this terrific guy writing such a great review? I need to read more of your reviews. You are a lot like me, almost the same age, huge Queen fan and in awe of Adam Lambert's song renditions. I agree that we need to hear these great songs live by a great singer since we can't have our Freddie. I think he'd want the show to go on. I saw the show in Chicago and I'm going to Detroit. I must see this again.
Thank you anon for the kind words. I am just an avid music fan, record collector and concert goer. I follow a lot of artists in a variety of genres - but through it all Queen has always been my favorite group. Keep coming back - there’s plenty of new music out there for us old guys!
Queen + Adam Lambert at the LA Forum – July 3, 2014
I was 13 years old in 1973 when my parents bought me an AM/FM radio. I used to stay up for hours listening to the hits of the day: Elton John (“Crocodile Rock”), Grand Funk Railroad (“We’re An American Band”), Edgar Winter Group (“Frankenstein”), Carly Simon (“You’re So Vain”), George Harrison (“Give Me Love”), Albert Hammond (“It Never Rains in California”) and many, many more. I recall being a fan of practically anything that was played, from the folk rock of Gordon Lightfoot and Simon & Garfunkel, to the early funk of War and Ohio Players, to the pop of Three Dog Night and Harry Nilsson. I would listen to “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues and “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.
Sometime during the next year I joined the Columbia Record Club, which was a great way to discover new music when you weren’t old enough to drive to the record store. Every month I received a catalog and chose records from a variety of genres. I remember getting records (and 8-tracks!) by groups like Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears and Cat Stevens.
And then it happened - Queen IIwas released. I had never heard of Queen but the album cover got my attention so I ordered it. About a week later the record arrived and I remember thinking how cool the cover was with the group in black on the outside of the gate-fold and in white on the inside. This band, and that album in particular sent me diving head first into the realm of arena rock and it would be a long time before I would come up for air. It was all about KISS, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Aerosmith etc etc. Since the day it arrived Queen II has been my favorite album. This record is equally melodic, dark, angelic, vicious, grandiose and really, really heavy. Queen was massively popular throughout the mid-70’s through the late 80’s, but most of those fans would be surprised to hear how menacing and pummeling this record was.
Sometimes it seems that half the entertainment I consume comes from Canadians. TV shows, movies, records - everything is from Canada these days. What’s going on up there?
Anyway - check out this slice of crazy from Pink Mountaintops, the solo project from Vancouver’s Stephen McBean from the mighty Black Mountain. The song and video feature Annie Hardy from LA indie rockers, Giant Drag. I’m not even going to try describing it.
Pink Mountaintops’ new album, Get Back, came out on April 29. You can check it out and buy it via LP, CD or download from the Jagjaguwar site: Jagjaguwar: Pink Mountaintops
What are the chances, in the pre-internet age, that we would have ever heard of a duo comprised of two Swedish sisters with a penchant for folk and Americana?
A group like this shows how it is simultaneously easier than ever to reach a worldwide audience yet nearly impossible to break through so that enough people pay attention (and money) for a career to start.
First Aid kit, who began composing in 2007 as young teenagers, are set to release their 4th full length, Stay Gold, on June 10th. Check it out!
For further listening, check out these excellent performances on KCRW:
The idea of combining elements of classical music with EDM is not new but this debut byDark Model(akaTatsuya Oe) represents some of the best new music in this field. The songs are alternately sweeping, pounding, majestic, cinematic, powerful and relentless. Sometimes all at once. While there are many standout cuts, a few tracks really drew me in: "Close to Infinity", with its tribal rhythms,"Ran (Resistance)", which sounds like the soundtrack to the apocalypse, and"Double Cross"with its industrial soundscape.
Most popular electronic music can be traced back toKraftwerk(whom Oe has toured with) andTangerine Dream; Dark Model is no exception. Except that Dark Model is an alpha predator, likeGodzilla, compared to the earlier efforts of its forebears. In fact much of the album sounds like the soundtrack to some epic movie you just haven’t seen yet.
While I am sure this album will be appreciated by fans of the EDM genre, it also has crossover appeal. It reminds me a lot of the Swiss electronic duoYello,who were also protégées of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. While Yello (who are still active by the way) took that original sound and incorporated elements of dance like the samba, rumba and cha cha (trust me, Yello is way cooler than I just made that sound), Dark Model has adapted the form to fit the throbbing beats and lights of a modern dance club.
The Burning of Rome - Live at Lou’s Records - May 23, 2014
The Burning of Rome did a short acoustic set in front of Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA to celebrate the release of their new LP, The Year of the Ox. They played a full set later that night at The Casbah but it was fun to see the stripped down versions of songs from their new record, plus a few off their previous efforts. A standout track was “Sister Francis” which really revved up the guitars live.
The Burning of Rome is a San Diego group that has broken out of the local scene on the strength of tracks like “Little Piranhas” and "Norman Bates" off of their previous LP, With Us, and with their frenetic, compelling live shows.