Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Undercover: Covers & Remixes, Pt. 2

Calum Marsh

In an attempt to take a brief break from listening to Insistor on repeat (as I've been doing consistently since Friday afternoon), I've decided to build on my very first Mocking Music article, Duck And Cover: The Top Ten Best Cover Songs & Remixes . . . Ever!, by adding a number of other wonderful indie reworkings that I neglected the first time around. Besides, why should Geoff and Casey hog all the listing action? I feel the need for a little numerical lovin', too.

This edition features, once again, a fairly even mix of the good, the bad, and the DFA - and, also just like last time, I'm basically only including songs from the past year or so. Who knows, you may end up liking some of these more than the originals (but I doubt it).
Still, they're definitely worth a listen, so download away and enjoy.

Here it is - Fifteen More Interesting Indie Remixes And Cover Songs:

15. Phones - Romantic Rights (Death From Above 1979)
Romance Bloody Romance, Death From Above 1979's Bloc Party-ish album of remixes, had its fate sealed when Pitchfork called it "the worst release of 2005", but neglecting every track on this disc based purely on that deadly 0.5 rating would be a bit of a shame. The record, though far from perfect, still holds a handful of mix tape worthy reworkings, the exceptional Romantic Rights (Phones Remix) being the uncontentested stand-out. Though the frothy guitar opening gets dropped, the cut-up replacing sound is edgy enough that you don't really miss it.[Download]

14.Erlend Oye - I Need Your Love (The Rapture)
As you may well have gathered from reading my posts or profile, I'm quite the Rapture fan. The fact that I wasn't totally offended by this track, then, should probably be proof enough that it's on the level. Found right in the middle of Oye's DJ Kicks compilation, I Need Your Love isn't really a cover or a remix, in the truest sense of the word. As the song opens, nothing seems particularly out of place, until the vocal track pours in and you quickly realize what's going on: Erlend, with his unmistakable voice, has replaced the original Rapture vocals with his own. Okay, not a big deal - it's a cover, then. But no, it isn't: barely a verse into the song, Oye gives it up, allowing the original vocals to come back into control. The remainder of the song (which has been considerably shortened from the original's length), plays out with very, very slight instrumental changes, as if it were just a standard DJ remix. Fair enough. [Download]

13. Cajmere - Give Me Every Little Thing (The Juan Maclean)
Although this is a reasonably solid dance song, The Juan Maclean's famous single Give Me Every Little Thing is so flawless in its original form that any alterations at all will invariably be less spectacular. The lovable shout-along "Don't stop!" remains intact, and the backing music has been replaced with club-friendly beats which is fine, I guess, but all of this works to remind me that I'd rather be listening to the standard version. Bonus points for managing to work in the sound of a plane passing overhead without sounding completely out of place. [Download]

12. Cornelius - Banquet (Bloc Party)
People just won't leave Bloc Party alone, will they? This is one of the few remixes, though, that don't appear on the Silent Alarm Remixed album. Master Japanese artist Cornelius's take on Bloc Party's high-energy single is an interesting one, at least. Considerably slower than the majority of Bloc Party remixes, this version takes on a subdued, almost hypnotic pace and tone. The vocals haven't been altered and as a result they seem slightly out of place, but had they been dropped there wouldn't have been anything left of the original song at all. This basically just sounds like a Cornelius song with an extended Bloc Party sample (I wouldn't be surprised if this was indeed the case), but being that it's Cornelius it's still pretty swell. [Download]

11. Paul Banks - Narc (Interpol)
Part of Interpol's exciting waste-of-money 4 song remix EP (50 dollars on vinyl - what the hell?), Interpol vocalist Paul Banks's mix of Narc is easily my favourite track on the record. If you've been keeping up with Interpol's post-Antics tracks (such as Six Feet Under closer, Direction), you may have noticed the group's move back to the dark tones that made their debut so intriuging. Such is the case with this take on Narc, which slows things down to a crawl and relies heavily on haunting minimalism. The track is perhaps stronger in this form than it was in its original, though clearly it would not have fit on Antics as the slow ballad it is here. Still, I think if Interpol continues moving in this direction for their next LP, we could have another 'Bright Lights' on our hands. [Download]

10. Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes (Modest Mouse)
The first all-out cover song on the list, Sun Kil Moon's revision of a Modest Mouse favourite is easily the most controversial pick I've included. I enjoy the track a fair bit, truth be told - I know, I know, sacrelidge. But think about it, covering an amazing song from an equally amazing album by a likewise great band? You've got to be bold to attempt that, especially if you plan on changing the song as radically as Sun Kil Moon has. I'm sticking to my praise on this one, but I'm fully aware that many modest mice out there won't be so quick to agree. [Download]

9.DFA - The Hand That Feeds (Nine Inch Nails)
Okay, so let's get this out of the way now: I've never been a Nine Inch Nails fan. Sure, I recognize and appreciate The Downward Spiral as a great album and listen to it on occasion, but for the most part they just don't do it for me. Even most long-time NIN fans didn't much care for Reznor's latest offering so you can imagine how, as someone who isn't crazy about them at their best, I felt about the record. The Hand That Feeds, the record's lead single, was particularly unimpressive. Yeah, bite the hand that feeds (and other clichés), how angsty. What I have always liked about Nine Inch Nails, though, is their how they always manage to flirt with dance music without explicitly crossing over into it. Whenever Trent let his electronic side get the best of him, even for a brief moment on the occasional track, I was right into it. I want NIN to get completely electronic, to let their dance-music tendencies play a bigger role in their music, for them to sound like The Rapture (sarcasm?). Maybe's that why, then, with the addition the usual dance-music sounds and upbeat mood, the DFA's remix of that disenchanting single makes a whole lot of sense in my mind. [Download]

8. Death Cab For Cutie - The Saddest Story Ever Told (Magnetic Fields)
Apparently Magnetic Fields get a lot of cover-love, too. Once again we have a (once) great band covering an excellent Magnetic Fields song, and once again the result is very lovely. I don't like it nearly as much as other Magnetic Fields covers, but it's quite nice just the same. I've been a bit too harsh on Ben Gibbard in the past year, and sometimes all the Plans-insulting makes me forget why I liked Death Cab so much in the first place. This song brings it back. [Download]

7. Tortoise & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen)
Yet another Pitchfork-slammed album that wasn't nearly as bad as they claim, indie favourites Tortoise and Bonnie "Prince" Billy's The Bold And The Brave is one of my favourite albums of the past month or so. I know it's easy to shudder when you hear "cover album", but have these guys ever steered you wrong? I'm convinced Will Oldham can do no wrong, which is probably why his cover of Bruce Springsteen's classic Thunder Road manages to sound so damn good. It might not be everyone's cup o' tea, but something about that grandoise guitar and gruff-but-pretty voice really does it for me. [Download]

6. Xiu Xiu - Asleep (The Smiths)
Oh boy, Xiu Xiu covering The Smiths? Some credit him with "ruining" Tracy Chapman, so I can only imagine how they'll feel about his take on one of the most beloved groups of all time. I assure you, just the same, that Xiu Xiu not only manages to avoid ruining the song, but actually does an excellent job of making it his own while remaining true to the original. He wisely decides to keep things simple, slowly and softly speaking the words over some small guitar (the same formula as The Smiths', though Xiu Xiu's manages to sound even more lofi). As a bit of a surprise, too, Xiu Xiu opts to leave the song noiseless, choosing to leave out (for once) his trademark crashing and screams. [Download]

5. David Bowie & The Arcade Fire - Wake Up (Arcade Fire)
While the sheer thought of David Bowie performing this song with the Arcade Fire is, for many, awesome beyond human comprehension, the tangible recording of it is unfortunately disappointing. Bowie doesn't sing nearly as much as he should, and when he does it sounds cool, simply because you know you're listening to Bowie and The Arcade Fire together. Now, it's still a spectacular song, but this version isn't really any more (or any less) spectacular than the album recording. I imagine if you were witnessing it live things would seem a lot different, but from behind my computer desk, I just can't feel as ecstatic as I feel I should. Sadly disappointing, but still cool. Why didn't the Arcade Fire sing along to Life On Mars? Now that's mind-blowing. [Download]

4. Boards Of Canada - Broken Drum (Beck)
Some artists make music that is so instantly recognizable as their own that you never mistake it for another's. This is true, I find, of the Boards Of Canada. Maybe that's why their remix of Beck's recent track Broken Drum (available on both the extended version of Guero and Geurolito, his remix album - trend, anyone?) sounds so much like a Boards Of Canada song. The rich, blurry textures and evocative electronics make Broken Drum actually sound more like Boards Of Canada than any Boards Of Canada song, if that makes sense. Prepare to put this on any mix tape you ever make. [Download]

3. The Shins - We Will Become Sillhouttes (The Postal Service)
I remember being so excited by this combination that I scowered the music shops for the We Will Become Sillhouttes single, which I bought and listened to immediately, only to realize that this track was actually located on the Such Great Heights single, for some reason (right beside that infamous Iron & Wine cover). The thing about The Shins is, I never really want to listen to them, but once I do I can't stop. It seems too easy to forget why you love The Shins, which is just that they make really fun music. After listening to their cover of The Postal Service's cool beepy We Will Become Sillhouttes, you might get so caught up in the fun sound that you'll completely forget how electronic and spacey the original was. This track, though not necessarily the third best on my list, gets the bronze simply for being able to create a cover that seems to exist wholly independent of the original. [Download]

2. Ben Lee - Float On (Modest Mouse)
Why the hell do I like this song so much? It has absolutely everything going against it: an artist that ranges from so-so to just plain bad having the nerve to cover the song that debatably made Modest Mouse uncool; he transforms the quirky off-beat Mouse-sound into pretty pop, singing lightly over guitar and piano in a way that should be really cheesy but somehow . . . isn't. I can't explain it, but this cover is so charming that every reason I can think of to dislike it gets bypassed in my brain. In many ways, Ben Lee's take on Float On is not unlike the last list's hate-inducing cover of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea - I hate that cover with a fiery passion, so why do I love this one so damn much? Maybe what makes it so great is that it's so easy to attack but remains strong regardless; Lee's move here is even more bold than Sun Kil Moon's, and the result is arguable better. Even if you're preparing yourself to hate this, give it a chance, you might love it. [Download]

1. Broken Social Scene - Almost Crimes
Does it count if a band covers their own song? Does that even make sense? Either way, the acoustic version of Almost Crimes is so extraordinary that I'm willing to cheat in order to make it number one. You'll note that the album version of the song is called Almost Crimes (Radio Kills Remix) - hmm, maybe that should be the one to count, then - while this one is simply Almost Crimes. Stripped down to just Kevin and Feist singing over an accoustic guitar, the song is an understated masterpiece. Available exclusively on a rare Arts & Crafts label sampler titled 'Adventures In Advertising', this soft and slow version is very hard to come by but well worth searching; fortunately I managed to grab a copy at a concert in the summer, so feel free to download it here and give it a listen - it's sure to be in high rotation on your playlist soon enough. [Download]

Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights (Phones Remix)
The Rapture - I Need Your Love (Erland Oye Remix)
The Juan Maclean - Give Me Every Little Thing (Cajmere Remix)
Bloc Party - Banquet (Cornelius Remix)
Interpol - Narc (Paul Banks Remix)
Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes (Modest Mouse)
Nine Inch Nails - The Hand That Feeds (DFA Remix)
Death Cab For Cutie - The Saddest Story Ever Told (Magnetic Fields)
Tortoise & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen)
Xiu Xiu - Asleep (The Smiths)
David Bowie & The Arcade Fire - Wake Up
Beck - Broken Drum (Boards Of Canada Remix)
The Shins - We Will Become Sillhouttes (Postal Service)
Ben Lee - Float On (Modest Mouse)
Broken Social Scene - Almost Crimes

Death From Above 1979 - Romance Bloody Romance
Tortoise & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Brave & The Bold
Xiu Xiu - Fag Patrol
Beck - Guerolito
The Juan Maclean - Less Than Human
Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities

Duck and Cover: The Top Ten Best Cover Songs & Remixes . . . Ever!
Live from Manchester, The Trainors!

Comments on "Undercover: Covers & Remixes, Pt. 2"


Blogger dzusa said ... (8/2/06 1:31 am) : 

holy smokes, great post!


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (8/2/06 2:21 am) : 

Hey, that makes about 1 in 2000 people commenting!


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (8/2/06 2:58 am) : 

Love those statistics. Maybe we should be more encouraging: 2000th person to comment gets a free high-five from me.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (8/2/06 3:16 am) : 

You're eating into our profit margin - I had a whole mocking music high-fiving endorsement deal envisioned.


Anonymous Niall said ... (8/2/06 5:23 am) : 

Nice Post, I Like the Cornelius Remix. Any Cornelius is welcome and the Broken Social Scene


Anonymous Niall said ... (8/2/06 5:24 am) : 

version too. oops multiple posts!


Blogger Geoff Trainor said ... (8/2/06 12:26 pm) : 

Anything that makes it look like we have more coments is fine with us.


Anonymous Niall said ... (8/2/06 2:16 pm) : 



Anonymous Niall said ... (8/2/06 2:17 pm) : 



Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (8/2/06 2:44 pm) : 

Ooh! Thanks for putting that BSS Conan video up, Niall.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8/2/06 7:31 pm) : 

i'm really lovin that bss 'almost crimes' version. i can see (hear) why its number one on the list.


Blogger cindy hotpoint said ... (9/2/06 2:53 pm) : 

this is a great post, thank you!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9/2/06 10:46 pm) : 

great post. sounds like Emily on that BSS song, not Feist.


Blogger Katherine said ... (10/2/06 12:23 am) : 

It isn't Emily or Leslie... it's Amy Millan of Stars. I love that version, nice to see it here.


Anonymous keepitcomingster said ... (10/2/06 10:37 am) : 

Thanks, wonderful as ever, bloggers seldom commented upon should unite and comment each others!


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (10/2/06 3:54 pm) : 

Thank you all!


Anonymous ben said ... (12/2/06 9:32 pm) : 

Do you remember a while back, the Nine Inch Nails had a thing where you could download Bite the Hand that Feeds in Garageband format (apple's mulit track recording program) so that you could play around with all the different tracks and change it around and make remixes and stuff. Anyway, that was a run-on sentence, but I wonder if that was done with that download/program.


Blogger Chris said ... (21/2/06 7:47 pm) : 

Wow. Really great post, you really outdid yourself. Thanks man.




Blogger Jarret L Green said ... (21/4/06 4:55 am) : 

Some great tracks on here, thanks guys.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7/9/06 6:27 pm) : 

The Shins "We Will Become Sillouettes" was not a cover of the Postal Service version, it was the other way around. It was a rare b-side from the Shins back catalogue that the PS covered, giving web demand for the original, leading to the amount of posts that the Shins track has got recently.




Anonymous rona said ... (26/1/07 3:20 pm) : 

please please please put this version of almost crimes back up, i've been trying to find it for so long :( booo.



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