Were it not for a multitude of varied reasons, I might still be subscribed to SiriusXM radio. In the intervening months and weeks since the initial three month trial I received upon purchasing the car equipped for the service, I’ve had more free trials to sample the wares, and when it’s available I’m certainly liable to listen. Specifically I’ll listen to the station XMU, especially the weekday afternoon blog radio shows from top music bloggers (and Carles). Since it has been some time since the event I can’t recall which show it was on, though I believe it to be the Gorilla vs. Bear program in which I first heard Donnie and Joe Emerson’s “Baby.” I’ve had an mp3 of the song for a few years now and it has become a mix staple of mine.
Interesting then, that an older song revitalized by music blogs has been covered by a band that exists almost entirely because of those same music shilling internet entities. I’m not saying Ariel Pink wouldn’t be making music without blogs, I’m simply stating the majority of the people who actually listen to APHG are already likely writing one, and/or is an avid reader of them. Take from that what you will. As for the cover, it is very true to its inspiration; languid and sexy in a retro, incredibly smooth manner. Stream it below.
Somewhat related to this, I had great difficulty embedding 4AD’s widget for the song, something other bloggers didn’t seem to have difficulty with. Luckily another stream was found, but it got me rethinking something I’ve pondered a bit lately, something I certainly can’t have been the only person to notice. Namely, that free mp3’s are going the way of the dodo. Videos and streams are the majority of what I see these days, both on blogs and on bigger sites, and I have to believe the music industry – at least the mids and majors – have stopped making mpfree’s of singles available. The streaming technology has gotten to a point where it is likely unnecessary to make free music files available for download, so I’m afraid we should all get used to streaming new music until we buy it (or some of you illegally obtain it). Is this good or bad? Just a thing?
A quick trip around Hype Machine reveals no less than a dozen different artists covering Chris Isaak’s seminal “Wicked Game.” That doesn’t include Rochester’s own Old Tapes, who gave the track a nice gender twist on their EP from this past fall, and there are certainly more to be found that aren’t aggregated at the moment. Some might consider that proof of the homogenous nature of the indie rock scene, but I’d chalk it up to the fact that it’s a universally beloved and universally identifiable song.
Toronto’s These Electric Lives are the latest to cover the song, and easily the ones who sound most like Mr. Isaak when doing it – at least vocally. Mark Stanfield barely sounds like the singer we’ve come to know at the start of the track, singing in his lower registers for the first half of the song before putting his signature, soaring chutzpah into it. Working with Juno Award-nominated producer Joao Carvahlo at his new studio – Revolution Recording – in Toronto, the producer encouraged Stanfield to channel Isaak’s familiar moan and wail, and the result is one that does the original vocal justice.
Where the band parts ways with the original is in giving it their own dance-centric flair, lifting it out of the mire that it was created in and turning it into a song that makes the listener want to move, rather than finish that bottle of Jack they started on their couch.
It’s great to hear These Electric Lives back at it again. No word if this precedes a new EP or album, or if it’s simply a single unto itself, but regardless, it’s still nice to have something new from the guys. If you’re going to be in Toronto next week, you can catch the band playing at Canadian Music Week, with a showcase next Thursday, the 22nd at The Drake. There’s a quick promo video available for the show which features some quick footage of Mark recording his vocals, which is viewable below, along with an mp3 of the cover for repeat on your iPod.
I’m beside myself with joy right now. Sheer joy. Cuff the Duke is an amazing band from Toronto, and as is the case with too many great Canadian bands, they are quite often overlooked by American blogs. Cuff the Duke has released 5 albums since 2002, each increasingly better than the last. The most recent, Morning Comes, is the first part of a 2 part album, and was released in October of 2011. Produced by Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor, the album delivers all of their tuneful songwriting that finds the perfect balance of rock crunch and country twang, not to mention the soulful singing of Wayne Petti.
I would highly recommend checking out all of their albums, especially the newest one and their 2010 album Way Down Here (my pick that year for best album).
Their cover of Sonic Youth’s “Diamond Sea” has recently surfaced on Soundcloud, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the results are simple stunning. The band manages to capture the affecting atmosphere of the famous Washing Machine closing track while sanding down the edges and making it all their own. They don’t change anything drastically, instead great care is taken to delicately insert their own unique sound while still managing to sound surprisingly like the original. You can listen to the track and download it below.
Despite what some of my family may believe to the contrary, I pride myself on being fairly open-minded when it comes to music. I’ll give most anything a chance at least cursorily, but I’ll admit some music has the odds stacked against it and needs to be on its game from the word go (i.e. vapid garbage like Katy Perry). Dan Bejar’s 2011 effort with Destroyer, entitled Kaputt, likely earned the harshest negative reviews I assigned to an album without many preconceived notions. My perception of the record was that Bejar was pulling an elaborate joke on the many hipsters who did not think the effort a total turd, coyly repackaging a shitty Kenny G. record with a bright new retro sheen.
As a testament to my open-mindedness, despite reviling his most recent work, I still approached Bejar’s recent cover of New Order’s “Leave Me Alone.” I am certainly happy I did. From the prominent opening bass strums and the powerful guitar chords interwoven, the melodies remind me of what I so often adored in early Interpol. Once the snappy drums induce your head to bounce before Bejar’s soft vocals enter, it brings the song to a place impossible to imagine any differently, rendering the also excellent original almost (but not really) moot. Bejar completely owns this track, and it’s one that gets better with each listen. It’s even almost enough to make me rethink the steaming pile of shit that was his smooth-jazz ode to elevator music in Kaputt. But mostly it solidifies my previously held belief that it was an elaborate joke to get people to like shitty music solely due to his skill and the accompanying expectation of greatness, though I must admit an extremely competent one at that.
Since the 2010 Foxes in Fiction full-length effort, Swung from The Branches, we have seen a number of small releases from the Toronto solo artist. The EP Alberto was the most notable, as it was a significant progression for Warren Hildebrand under his band’s moniker. Showcasing his ability to experiment with atmospheric, lofty synths and guitars overlaid with his reverb-laden vocals, Hildebrand created coherent, memorable songs.
Late in 2011, Hildebrand put his trademark dreamy spin on the Felt track “The World is as Soft as Lace.” All too often we hear covers that remove elements of an original that made it great to begin with, but on this track we hear the complete opposite. Hildebrand somehow accentuates the slow, romantic, whispery feel of the original, making his attempt arguably better. At this time it’s not clear whether this is a stand-alone track or if it will be included on an official release, but never the less it is a sign of great things to come for Foxes in Fiction in 2012.