Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beneath the Covers of New Music

In the marketplace of shared music on the millions of music blogs, cover songs are the fastest growing franchise. Former denizens of grainy bootlegs and B-sides, the number of cover songs has exponentially grown in a fracturing music industry.

With a little more time than to record the track, any artist or wannabee can digitally send that cover around the globe. If the artist is big enough, the release becomes an EVENT. If you don't even have that time, just play it live and leave the distribution and buzz-generating efforts to others. Or be a fortunate by-stander when someone (good, hopefully) remixes your song.

Look at the most popular searches at Hype Machine, covers and remixes consistently cast a large shadow over the list. However, that should not be surprising. Technology is catching up with something primitive. The nature of the cover song is to go back to the basics of performance. That's playing in an empty bar with three sets to do with a handful of original songs, and two of those are sketchy.

Right now, there is a torrent of cover songs in the ether from artist-driven albums and EPs to marketing releases and leaks to radio show performances to an evening playing a guitar to your computer. In a net quickly filling with chaff, here are three examples of the good stuff.

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (Vampire Weekend) by Peter Gabriel & Hot Chip
The "leak" of the cover of the Vampire Weekend hipster tune by Peter Gabriel and electropop group Hot Chip is fun and delicious. Gabriel's take on "singing his own name" is worth the listen itself.

All I Need (Marvin Gaye) by My Morning Jacket (Live at MSG 12/31/08)
My Morning Jacket ended a year of ravingly good shows and a successful album with a rousing New Year's Eve show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Frontman Jim James' duet with Nicole Atkins on this Marvin Gaye classic exemplifies the quality of the concert. The whole show is classic.

Crazy In Love (Beyonce) by The Magic Numbers
In what sounds like a recording of a radio performance, the English sibling duo quarter The Magic Numbers turn out a very enjoyable version of this Beyonce classic.

No comments: