It’s the first post of 2012! And after a barrage of list-based posts at the end of last year, I’m returning to one of this blog’s classic features…the Song of the Day. (As usual, it’s posted at night. I really need to get to doing these in the morning…then they’ll actually be a true Song of the Day for once.) Today, take a listen to…
“The Daily Mail” by Radiohead!
This song, a B-side released by the band last month, is more of a side of Radiohead that we don’t often get to see, and it’s something they should try more often, I think. It kind of harks back to their earlier stuff (in fact, it’s a bit reminiscent of “OK Computer,” before they went in a completely different, experimental direction after that), starting with just a stark, arresting piano line and then having Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals enter in. (He’s rarely delivered a more effective, heartrending vocal in recent years than he does here.) Eventually the full sound kicks in towards the song’s second half, but it’s a controlled explosion, with a deeply melodic quality that you don’t always get in Radiohead’s work. The guitars, the horns, the lyrics…everything combines to make a truly terrific musical experience.
A small preview of what’s coming soon:
A new theme! I’ve grown quite fond of the one I’m using now, but it’s always fun to shake things up, and I think I’ve found a new blog theme that will work quite nicely. Look for it in the coming days (though knowing me, it will probably be much sooner than that…)
The first new Artist Spotlight of 2012. I’m still brainstorming who it will be (I’ve got a long list in mind, but I haven’t done this feature for a while), but it will be a good one.
A potential new feature…there’s one highlighting live performances that I think I want to try out.
As always, thanks for reading. 2012 is going to be a great year, and I hope to make the next few months on Harmony Avenue as jam-packed with good music as I can.
Remember when I said I was going to go all out for the Christmas season this year on Harmony Avenue? In fairness, I’ve done much more than I did last year. Still, it hasn’t been quite all I’ve hoped…but that’ s OK. Since it’s only two days before the big day (and I still haven’t wrapped any of my gifts for my family…hey, at least I’ve got them all in the first place…), my planned Christmas Cover Stories series will be condensed into one wild, crazy post. Basically it’s going to be me sharing some intriguing holiday covers, in a disorderly, unorganized, possibly rambling fashion. In other words…business as usual. Let the Christmas cover-sharing commence!
Andrew Belle — “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, so on paper it wouldn’t quite make sense that I love this cover so much, since it ends up changing a great deal of the melody and whatnot. However, Andrew Belle (the artist of a previous Song of the Day earlier this year) makes the right changes, in my opinion, and is a distinctive, talented enough singer that it really works. It’s both a subtly daring new reinvention of a classic tune, and a warm, heartfelt homage at the same time.
Feist — “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming”
With little more than a guitar (or two?), what sounds like a tambourine, and a small horn section, along with of course her delicate, gorgeous voice, Feist takes on a 16th century German Christmas carol and turns it into something altogether beautiful and new. It’s contemporary but traditional, soft but bold, and above all, peaceful and full of life. A chorus of humming and “ah”-ing atop a classy trumpet solo comes in in the last part of the song and ties it all up in a lovely, almost ethereal bow.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals — “Please Come Home For Christmas”
I’ve never quite been a fan of this song, mainly because every time someone covers it, it’s done in almost exactly the same style…an inauthentic blues template. Not to be a Scrooge or anything, but it always seems like whoever is singing it is totally phoning it in against a background accompaniment that’s been passed on through the years or something. This version is the first in years that I’ve been able to get behind…there’s something about the energy that firecracker vocalist Grace Potter brings to the song that helps it feel fresh and new, even if it indeed sticks pretty close to the original on the surface. She really digs deep into the song, it seems like, and it comes through in her vocal. It’s fresh, dynamic, and I really love it.
The Puppini Sisters — “Last Christmas”
This actually isn’t the first weird jazzy cover of “Last Christmas” (the cheesy but lovable 80s heartbreak-at-Christmas hit by Wham!) I have, to be honest with you. I also own a version by an obscure…Danish? (don’t quote me on that…) jazz vocalist named Anders Blichfeldt. (It’s highly recommended, but I could find no way whatsoever to embed it. Just search for a compilation called “A Sound of Christmas” on iTunes, in the dead of night under cover of darkness, on the fifth Monday of the second week of…OK, never mind, just search for that compilation and you should be good.) This year (to save me from tears?), however, I found a great cover by a group I’ve loved for a while now, the Puppini Sisters. They’re kind of a throwback act, in a way…they specialize in close-harmony style music (much like the Andrews Sisters in the 1940s…the group was actually named in honor of them, from what I understand), but as a modern twist, they usually apply said harmonies to more recent fare. This is a great example of that technique, and it’s a slowed-down, fun, and also fairly gorgeous cover of a song that you can’t help but love.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir — “Carol of the Bells”
It may be the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a group that’s been around since the mid-1800s, but this isn’t your mama’s “Carol of the Bells.” Well, I suppose it’s not THAT crazy. But it is a bit of a departure from many arrangements of the tune, in the most wonderful way. I had the great privilege of hearing this version of the tune (by Barlow Bradford, a former associate director of the Choir) for the first time live in the Conference Center, attending the Choir’s annual Christmas concert with special guest Renee Fleming back in 2005. I remember my mouth quite literally dropping open as the key changes kept coming, the piece kept growing, and it all just exploded into a beautiful crescendo at the end that took my breath away. Just when you think it’s going to calm down, it swells even more. Of course, this being the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, it’s all pulled off brilliantly. This is one version of “Carol of the Bells” that you simply have to hear.
Alice Smith — “Silver Bells”
This song, off the excellent “Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs” compilation from a few years ago, is stunning. There’s simply no other word to describe it. Alice Smith, a soul-influenced singer-songwriter with a jaw-dropping voice and songwriting skills to match, takes on this tune and makes you forget about anybody else who’s sung it. It’s that powerful, and that effortless.
Josh Groban — “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
Before Michael Buble’s outstanding piano-ballad version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” there was this similarly styled, but still quite unique take on the Christmas hymn “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” It’s a beautiful reworking of a timeless song, and it really brings a new angle to the song that’s very nice to hear. The gospel choir, and Josh’s excellent voice, really help anchor the cover and keep it moving, and even though it’s fairly radical a rearrangement, it feels natural, like this is the way it’s been done all along.
Pentatonix — “We Three Kings”
And to close it all off, it wouldn’t be a December post on Harmony Avenue without a subliminal “Sing-Off” reference. This track off the “Songs of the Season” collection released a month or two ago, by the Season 3 champions Pentatonix (you may have heard of them…), is both a fearlessly inventive resurrection of a Christmas carol I didn’t think could ever be this incredibly addicting to listen to, and proof positive of why Pentatonix has a bright recording future ahead of them. It’s the best of both worlds…the rock-solid a cappella sound that Pentatonix fans know and love, and the little additions that enhance the studio-recording experience. (I was delighted to find that this didn’t really fall into the overproduction trap…it’s certainly slickly produced, but in ways that bring out the a cappella element, rather than hinder it.) It’s a forward-thinking, infectious version of the unlikeliest of songs.
And…of course I end up closing my post with a thinly veiled manifestation of my Pentatonix love. Ah well. It’s only fitting. I’ll likely post one more Holiday Song of the Day before Christmas comes upon us, and after that, some end-of-the-year festivities await. I’ll make a “best songs” post much like I did last year (once again scientifically produced by way of iTunes play counts and the like), and also…I’m venturing into the “best albums” field as well! I’ve actually picked, all by myself without help of technology, 15 fine albums released this year that I’d like to proclaim my favorites of 2011. What will they be? Stay tuned in the final days of the year to find out. For now, thanks for reading, and in case this is the only post you get around to seeing while you’re here, a very Merry Christmas (or other lovely winter holiday) to you.
Alas, aside from the last lingering remnants of my “Sing-Off” recaps, I haven’t posted much else lately. Here’s a Song of the Day to whet your whistle (and for those of you who feel a bit oversaturated with holiday tunes, it’s a normal one this time around), and coming hopefully today or tomorrow, I’ll be making a Sketches post highlighting my all-time favorite Christmas albums. (This post will serve as a replacement for the round of holiday album reviews I had planned.) But for now, let me share with you…
“Robots” by Dan Mangan!
I was introduced to this song thanks to a coworker’s iPod that was playing at work. (This is the great place where I work, btw.) It’s a fairly enigmatic tune, but still incredibly emotionally resonant nonetheless. According to a comment on this song’s entry on my favorite lyrics site, SongMeanings, Dan once said in an interview that this song was inspired by having to live without a broken cell phone for a few days. Not sure if this is completely accurate, but it does make sense, and whatever this song was written about, it’s a gorgeous ride nonetheless. I especially love the last part, where the lines “Robots need love too/They want to be loved by you…” are repeated quite a few times, with a chorus joining in with Dan to sing the song out. It’s a beautiful mix of melancholy and celebration.
See you soon with more posts, both Christmas-themed and otherwise. Thanks for reading!
Here comes a Song of the Day…and this time around, it’s in Spanish! Take a look at this great salsa jam (yes, I just used the word “jam”)…
“Estupida” by India!
As is the case with a lot of songs I have, I found out about this one by a curious iTunes search. However, iTunes isn’t where I found out about India in the first place. My mom actually introduced me to her music…she’s a huge salsa fan (I am too at this point, but I wasn’t when I was younger), and one of the albums she had was a live recording of a concert (it was a 10th anniversary celebration for music label RMM), and that concert featured a great song by India (known as “La Princesa de la Salsa,” or the “Princess of Salsa,” by the way) and legendary artist Oscar d’Leon. Anyways, long story short, years later I wanted to listen to more of her stuff (this actually isn’t the first time I’ve checked out more of her music), discovered this gem (and a few others) off her most recent album, and there we go. It’s a stunning combo of devastatingly delivered heartbreak (La India has a powerful voice, and it’s full of emotion here) and a dazzling salsa setting, and if you’re anything of a Latin music fan, it will probably get your finger stuck on the repeat button.
Hey, a post that’s not about “The Sing-Off”! Those are becoming increasingly rare on this blog. My apologies to the non-”Sing-Off”-initiated. Anyways, here’s a new feature I’ve kind of spontaneously decided to introduce, called “Reprise.” I’m not sure if it will be recurring too often or not, but basically it’s an opportunity for me to share more music from those I’ve done Artist Spotlights (or other assorted posts that I’m not planning to formally follow up on) for. Either it came out after I posted, I didn’t know about it when I posted, or I was crazy enough to exclude it when I posted. Starting off, here’s three gems from Lucy Schwartz. One is a stunning track from her new EP, “Keep Me,” called “You Are You Are.” It’ll break your heart, pretty much. The next is an equally gorgeous cut from, of all places, the “Breaking Dawn” soundtrack. (Those Twilight movies may be awful, but Alexandra Patsavas, the music supervisor, picks some TERRIFIC music.) It’s a duet called “Cold” featuring terrific British musician Aqualung (stage name for Matthew Hales), who I will probably end up making the focus of his own Artist Spotlight sooner or later. The harmonies in this song are just devastatingly beautiful, especially in the last part of the song. The third song is Aqualung and Lucy’s previous collaboration (a bonus track on her “Life In Letters” album), a heartbreaking yet energetic piano-driven ballad called “Seven Hours.”
Now here’s the rest of Jamie Cullum’s music! Just kidding. I wish I had space to do that. Instead, I’ll share three great songs I hadn’t heard until a week or two ago. The first is an incredibly lovely, thought-provoking waltz-like ballad (in 5/4, no less) called “Oh God.” Jamie reportedly wrote it while watching coverage of the 2005 tsunami disaster on CNN. (This song is from his major-label sophomore effort, “Catching Tales.”) The second song is the emotional title theme from Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film “Gran Torino.” (It was co-written by Eastwood himself as well as his musician/composer son Kyle, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.) The third number? A rollicking party of a tune, and a bonus track off his latest album “The Pursuit,” called “I Love This.” (I certainly love this, indeed. )
Finally, some more music from Sondre Lerche, who released a new album (titled simply “Sondre Lerche,” perhaps a nod to the fact that it’s much more organic and acoustically driven than his previous recordings) after I made him the subject of an Artist Spotlight. The following tunes are the expansive, intoxicating “Domino,” peppy but deep “Private Caller,” and gorgeous opening track “Ricochet” (I love the outro).
OK, I might not be using this feature too often, seeing as I started it yesterday morning, and it took me until now to get it up because Jamie Cullum’s songs were particularly difficult to find. Also, I have no idea how well this page will load for most of you, seeing as it has 9 media items embedded on it. (Of course, I did have work, sleep, and other assorted activities in between. It’s not like it took me more than 24 hours to find them. ) Thanks, as always, for reading, and I’d love to hear your feedback about Reprise, or any other posts I’ve made.
Here’s a quick Song of the Day…but first, the moment all of you (or most likely, 6 of you) have been waiting for…the winner of the $15 iTunes gift card giveaway! The numbers have been crunched, and here’s a photo of the result:
That means shantay, you’re our winner! Come on down, you’re a contestant on…oops, got carried away there. Sorry. But yes, you do win. I’ll be contacting you soon to arrange the delivery of your gift card.
Now, to the Song of the Day…
“Don’t Stop” by Gin Wigmore!
This is a cheerful, addicting song with a unique spin, hit home by the charmingly intriguing vocals of Gin Wigmore (a singer-songwriter by way of New Zealand). The answer to how I found out about this song is pretty easy…from the Lowe’s ad that aired on TV, embedded below (not only does it utilize great music, but it has FANTASTIC art direction and a great hook…it’s one of the best commercials I’ve seen in years). Lowe’s was kind enough to put the artist and song at the end of the commercial, and unlike most cases where that happens and the song ends up being underwhelming (and then when I love the song, they don’t list it at the end of the commercial…sigh…), in this case I was head over heels in love with the music they chose. It goes perfectly with the commercial (and brings it a very fresh, innovative vibe that really sells it, if you’ll pardon the pun…), and what’s even better, it’s a bright, outstanding song on its own.
Thanks for reading! And thanks for all who commented for the giveaway. (Even though it’s over…comments are ALWAYS welcomed. )
Since, as usual, I haven’t posted in a while, here’s not one Song of the Day…but two! They’re very nicely contrasting in style, and they’ve been on my mind (and in my ears) for a while. The first song? How about a little…
“Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer!
A good friend, who’s now living and working as a sound engineer in the very entertainment-filled city of Branson, Missouri, actually tipped me off to this song, and Andy Grammer’s music in general. (He also was lucky enough to be able to attend an Andy Grammer/Natasha Bedingfield/Kate Voegele concert a month or two ago.) This song is very upbeat and positive, but what I really love about it, and a lot of Andy’s music that I’ve heard, is that it balances that positivity and catchiness with a nice sense of depth and maturity. It’s a very happy song that will most likely get stuck in your head (and keep your finger glued to the repeat button), but it has substance and a little something that keeps it from being too sticky-sweet, like some upbeat songs can tend to be. It also helps that Andy’s voice is soaring and very easy on the ears…it’s a great balance of textures, and it works very nicely for this song.
Now, for a more introspective offering…
“Landfill” by Daughter!
This was the Indie Spotlight Free Download on iTunes a week or two ago, and even though I got it for free (you can too…this SoundCloud widget includes a download link), I would have gladly paid quite a bit of money for it. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking, beautifully fragile song, full of warmth, longing, and soul. (Enough descriptors there for you? Whew.) The lyrics are very powerful…the crux of the song comes at the end of each chorus, when Daughter (AKA Elena Tonra) sings the very relatable line, “I want you so much…but I hate your guts.” The duality of desire and bitterness over a love lost is a very striking one, and it, along with Elena’s stunningly pure, expressive voice, and the beautifully stark instrumentation, makes for an unforgettable listening experience.
See y’all soon with some more new posts (in fact, if all goes to plan I should be introducing an intriguing new weekly feature tomorrow), and quite possibly, a new blog theme. Stay tuned for more musical goodness here at Harmony Avenue.
Hey, I’m back with a new Artist Spotlight. Alas, as always, it has been too long. This post is a milestone for Harmony Avenue…it’s this blog’s 50th post. More celebration of that to come…but first, let’s jump right into talking about an artist I’ve been wanting to spotlight for quite a while now, the amazing…
Alyse is a dynamic indie singer-songwriter with a very engaging, interesting artistic vibe. Her music is warm, playful, passionate, unique, alluring…sometimes all at once. I stumbled upon her music while on a road trip with my family through California and Washington up to Spokane (where I lived when I was little for about 4 years, and where a good portion of my family still lives). I was in our hotel room in Spokane, after a long day which included a whirlwind 2-hour visit to Seattle. (Not. Enough. Time. City. So. Awesome.) (Oh, and trying to get out of Seattle traffic when you’re in a hurry? NOT fun.) Since I’m the Wikipedia-browsing fiend that I am, I was looking at the article for Pike Place Market, and since I had seen a few really cool buskers on the street while we were walking to Pike Place, I took special interest in that section. Alyse’s name was mentioned among the many performers that have graced Pike Place, and for some reason (maybe the description of her of “alternative jazz-pop singer-songwriter,” AKA “a combo of genres that Brandon adores”?), I clicked through to her own Wikipedia article, and subsequently started dipping my toes into her music. (There’s also some interesting biographical info on her Wikipedia page…such as the fact that Alyse actually worked in the corporate world before deciding to pursue her passion, music.) Thanks to the fact that the article mentions it “won the 2007 Billboard World Song Contest in the jazz category,” this was the first song of hers I listened to (seen here in a live version, as the studio version isn’t quite embeddable here):
That was the only interaction I had with Alyse’s music for a bit, until late in the fall of 2009, when I was starting out my freshman year at BYU, she came up with a special offer for her fans…to buy one or both of her CDs (“Too Much and Too Lovely” and “Hold Onto This”) for any price. Being a college freshman at the time (I rarely had any money to buy new music), I jumped on this, wanting to hear more of Alyse, and soon I was hearing her two albums for the first time. I really loved what I heard, and as always, the rest is history.
Alyse counts the likes of Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, and Norah Jones among her influences, and while you can certainly hear that sort of atmosphere in her work, she’s created a sound that’s really all her own. Her rich voice is full of character and charm, and it’s a key to bringing her music to life. “Mesmerizing” would be a great word to describe her music…it’s captivating and Alyse really puts her all into every song she creates, even when it’s something more upbeat, such as this fun little number from her debut album, called “Complete With Sound Effects” (sorry for the pictures of random people…you don’t really need to watch the video, per se…but this was the only way I could embed this song):
One of the press quotes on Alyse’s homepage says, “Boy, she’s got a sexy voice” (that would be courtesy of Back Beat Seattle). She uses it to devastating effect on the very slow-burning, breathlessly inviting “Willowing.” (Alyse herself has described it as a song that requires a shower afterwards. )
Some of her other ballads take a different kind of flavor…they’re similarly stripped-down, but they’re also very vulnerable and introspective as well. Take this beauty from her second album, a song called “B-17 Bomber Girl”:
Here’s another example of that captivating sense of vulnerability and honesty, taken from (naturally) her recent extended-play called “The Honesty EP.” (It’s so named partly because of the concept behind its production…Alyse essentially went back to basics and often sings on it with little more than a piano backing her.) The song is “Dim The Lights.”
One of the many reasons that I love Alyse’s music is that her whole artistic sensibility is very uplifting and positive. Her song aren’t always “happy” songs, per se…but they bring a smile to my face (or heart) in some way. Here’s two songs that embody that quality very well…”Wild Child” from her second album, and “Watch Me Jump,” the opening track off “The Honesty EP.”
Finally, even when she’s taking on others’ songs, Alyse’s passion and love for music, as well as her top-notch, authentic artistry, really shines through. Last year she did a little covers series on her YouTube page, and here’s her stunning version of a Regina Spektor tune you may be familiar with:
Alyse is that special kind of artist with the type of music that just begs to be explored and listened to again and again. It’s very individual and unique, and it’s definitely not like much out there in the music world right now, but it speaks to the listener in a very profound way, and that’s a quality that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I highly urge you to check out more of her music, and you can find her website here.
So this is my 50th post on Harmony Avenue. Months ago back in October, when I was starting this little experiment off, I never could have imagined I’d make it all the way to 50. Being the small operation this is (it’s just me, blogging, whenever I feel the fancy to), and looking at my past blogging activities (none of my previous blogs have ever had this many posts or been updated this regularly, at least for this amount of time), that’s a huge milestone for me. It’s been a terrific experience running this site, and although I’m planning to leave on a mission before the year is out, I hope to continue sharing music (and my thoughts on it) for a long time to come. A special thanks to those who have helped get me to this point:
The good folks at WordPress, who of course host this blog (for free!), and make it as easy as pie to post, share, and shape this blog into exactly what I want it to be.
Sites like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Grooveshark, that help make sharing music simple, universal, and incredibly accessible. Harmony Avenue wouldn’t be the same without them.
Although I thanked her at the end of last year (in my end of 2010 spiel), I’d like to take another opportunity to give a shout-out to the amazing Julia Barry, who helped set up an interview AND give-away here on Harmony Avenue (as well as inspiring an album review I did of her last album, “Once, or Twice”). That was back when this blog was still in its infancy (well, even more infant than it is now ), and it really gave me a boost of confidence, and a feeling that this music blog endeavor could actually be worthwhile. Thank you, Julia, for the terrific music you create, and for seeking me out on Twitter in the first place.
Any of you who have ever read this blog, even if it’s just been a post, a paragraph, or a sentence. I harbor no illusions about my readership…it’s rather small, spotty, and potentially nonexistent, and I’m pretty sure at least half of the views I get are by spammers and the like…but I know at least some of you reading this are humans, and I’d like to thank you for taking your time to read what I have to say (and share, music-wise). It means a lot to me.
Making it to 50 posts is great, but I won’t stop here. I hope to continue making this blog better, and finding lots of new artists, songs, and music to share. As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for listening. See y’all soon with a new post, and for now, Happy 50!
I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July. I really need to get back to regular posting…anyways, here’s a gorgeous Song of the Day…
“Hoppípolla” by Sigur Rós!
So about a year ago or so, thanks to a viewing of “How To Train Your Dragon” (an excellent film, by the way) with my family, I fell madly in love with the music of Jónsi, the lead singer of (you guessed it) Icelandic band Sigur Rós. He had contributed a song to the movie, which played during the end credits, called “Sticks and Stones,” and while the rest of my posse didn’t pay it much mind at the time, I was hooked. I checked out his recently released solo album (called “Go”), and from then on it was musical love.
Except I forgot one thing. As I said before, Jónsi is the lead singer of a band…and I had neglected to check out any of said band’s music. Sigur Rós had actually caught my eye in a somewhat unusual way a few years prior…their most recent album, “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust,” features a rather revealing cover, and while seeing it on the iTunes front page, and recognizing the name of Sigur Rós, I decided to briefly check their music out, mainly due to curiosity. I must not have stayed long, because I didn’t end up downloading or searching out anything else of theirs.
That all changed, though, a few days ago. After seeing a random song of theirs in passing on my iTunes sidebar (iTunes seems to be the key to a lot of my music discovery lately…), and taking a brief listen to it, a few nights ago I decided to take another look at their music, spurred by my admiration of Jónsi’s work. I don’t know how it came to be the first song I listened to, but “Hoppípolla” was my official introduction to Sigur Rós (I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I looked up the band on a favorite sheet music website of mine, and the song was one of only two the site had for sale), and it grabbed me almost instantly. It starts off with a simple piano line, then grows with guitars and strings…and takes off into something truly special. About halfway through the song, it starts to build even more, and after a sweeping orchestra melody kicks in…it’s pretty much musical heaven. Full disclosure: I started crying while listening to this song for the first time. That’s certainly not something that happens often with me, and when it happens, it’s something to be excited about. Even though the lyrics are in Icelandic (and, for the latter, part, “Hopelandic,” the ethereal made-up language that Sigur Rós utilizes very often), this song touched me in a deeper, almost unexplainable way than just any normal tune does. It’s music of intense beauty, creativity, and happiness, and it’s something that most certainly should be shared.
As always, thanks for reading! Up next on my writing queue is a new Artist Spotlight, on indie songstress Alyse Black. See you soon with that (hopefully “soon” this time will actually be “soon”), and keep on the lookout for some new posts, new features, and new ways to help make this blog better.
How about I skip the usual “aaah, I haven’t posted in a long time” nonsense and just skip to a new feature I’ve been meaning to debut? Yeah? Here we go.
I’m calling this one “Cover Stories”…every so often, I’ll highlight a well-known song, and share a few choice covers of said song. I’ve always been a huge fan of well-done cover songs–and thus they populate my iPod and listening habits quite heavily. And I’ll probably write about them a bit. And that’s pretty much it…if you guys have any suggestions of how I can spice this up, let me know, but hopefully the beauty lies in its simplicity. The first song? Let’s go with a gem originally by Bonnie Raitt…
“I Can’t Make You Love Me”
In case you haven’t heard it, its music video is embedded above. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking song about the end of a romance…but rather than being simply being something depressing and sad, it’s completely powerful and riveting. Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article about the song, explaining some of its early origins:
“The idea for the song came to Reid while reading an article about a man arrested for getting drunk and shooting at his girlfriend’s car. The judge asked him if he had learned anything, to which he replied, “I learned, Your Honor, that you can’t make a woman love you if she don’t.” Reid and Shamblin were both country music songwriters, who according to some accounts originally wrote the song as a fast, bluegrass number. Upon slowing down the tempo considerably, they realized the song gained considerable power. It then made its way to Raitt.”
Bonnie also reportedly recorded the song in just one take, saying that she couldn’t recapture the emotion in the song again in the studio.
With such a singular, almost magical song, how could any other artist add on it? Jazz vocalist Sophie Milman did just that, with an absolutely gorgeous take on the song on her most recent album, “Take Love Easy.” The arrangement is stunning, her vocal is passionate and beautiful, and a few terrific reharmonizations within the chords bring the song to even more life:
Another great cover I’ve heard of the song is from a somewhat unlikely source…a contestant on “American Idol.” And in this case, someone who in my opinion is one of the best the show has ever had…season 8′s Allison Iraheta. She injects the song with tons of raw fire, and almost an effortless-sounding sense of the emotional core of it all. Add to that the fact that at the time she performed this, she was only 16 years old, and prepare to be impressed. The studio version of her live performance is embedded here (a quick YouTube search should turn up the just-as-terrific live version, which I wasn’t able to embed):
Finally, here’s probably one of the most unconventional takes of the song I’ve heard…a version by indie artist Bon Iver (the stage name of Justin Vernon), performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” that mashes up a bit of the song with the classic Donny Hathaway tune “A Song For You,” and another Bonnie Raitt hit, “Nick of Time.” It’s something that seems like it wouldn’t work on paper…but thanks to the stark, lovely piano backing, and Justin’s committed, wonderfully unique vocal, it all clicks together very nicely.
So there we go. The test drive of the new Cover Stories feature is complete. Let me know your thoughts about it. I’ll see y’all soon with a new Artist Spotlight, on the amazing singer-songwriter Alyse Black. Thanks for reading!