Judging By The Cover: Nothing Plays Low

Nothing plays at Glasslands in Brooklyn, NY on April 4, 2014. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)
Nothing plays at Glasslands in Brooklyn, NY on April 4, 2014. (© Michael Katzif – Do not use or republish without prior consent.)

I don’t think anyone would confuse me for being a true metal or hardcore guy. Though, I do dabble: So much of the music I listen to and see live in concert borders into those worlds, and every day I find a new band that takes me further into this realm of music. I’m attracted to the in-your-face assault of droning feedback and screaming guitar distortion. Maybe it’s the immediacy of a band filling a room with noisy bliss, and seeing them thrash around on stage (and sometimes in the crowd) with furious, fist-pumping anthems. Or maybe there’s been a boom lately of new young bands doing this stuff in a new way. Who knows. Column A. Meet Column B.

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Judging By The Cover: Six Great Cover Songs I Heard In Concert In 2013

All too often, bands you’re dying to check out — especially new ones — play shortened sets due to only having like ten songs to pull from — and you tend to walk away feeling a tad unsatisfied. I’ve always thought this is the perfect excuse to work up a cover song: It not only fleshes out the set, but, in many ways, introduces the audience to a band’s influences and own songs, and ultimately wins over fans. If a young band pulls out a great cover song, it actually makes me want to delve into its original music more. Go figure. So yeah, I love a well-chosen cover song, and especially one pulled off live in concert.

And this year, I was lucky enough to hear a bunch of them. Here’s a few:

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Best Cover Songs Of 2009

Over at NPR Music, we’re wading through 2009’s best music: the best albums, songs and miscellanea from the past year. It’s admittedly obsessive and music geeky, but hey, that’s what it’s all about.

My main contribution to our coverage is a round-up of the year’s best cover songs, a genre that I can safely say is one of my favorites. This year seemed better than most with an outstanding number of great compilation and tribute albums featuring a wide array of cover songs. Take a look at the list — including my favorite ongoing project, Beck’s Record Club — and see Youtube videos of all my song choices here:

Judging By The Cover: The Best Cover Songs Of 2009

Best Song I’ve Heard All Day: Unlikely Cover Song Edition

(parts 792 in a 1001 part series)

Lately I feel like this has become some sappy Flaming Lips fan blog, but this one was too good to pass up, and what can I say? I am fan.

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I love a great cover song. One that’s not only a great performance, but one that makes you hear the original in a new light. One of my favorites from this year so far is The Flaming Lips’ cover of Madonna’s “Borderline.”

I first heard The Lips play this song at that pretty mediocre Earth Day concert earlier this year and it was fun to hear, but much like the rest of the set, underwhelming.

What I didn’t know was that the band not only has incorporated the song into their live set, but recorded it for a Warner compilation, Covered, A Revolution in Sound: Warner Bros Records with members of Stardeath and White Dwarfs. But judging from the rest of the music included, “Borderline” looks to be the standout.

The Flaming Lips’ version starts as a mellower approach to the song, dreamy and full of computerized glitches and chiming tones. But soon that epic noise rock side of the band really explodes, transforming it into a fantastic shoegazey stadium anthem. What I love about it is that it truly reinvents the song, peeling away the sheen and gauzey production of Madonna’s original and finding the nugget of a great pop song. Like most Madonna songs, this one is fully of great melodic hooks and really makes you appreciate the songcraft with fresh ears.

Take a listen here, and watch the great video that they made for it:

Reblogging: Fiona Apple Plays Piano Bar Tune And It’s Good!

Wrote another piece for the NPR jazz blog, A Blog Supreme today (well I wrote a few weeks back, but finally published for the fans).

This week, a look at Fiona Apple’s glorious cover the Cy Coleman-by way of- Frank Sinatra standard “Why Try To Change Me Now.” Read that piece here.

NPR Song of the Day: The Dirty Projectors, ‘Rise Above’

Dirty Projectors' Rise Above is out now.
Dirty Projectors’ Rise Above is out now.

Here’s a piece I wrote about Dirty Projectors’ completely reinvented cover of “Rise Above” — the classic punk anthem by Black Flag — for NPR’s Song of the Day. Check out the song here.

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