Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year

Here's a belated, much belaboured year-end round-up post. Phew.

Top covers:
I'm not going to bother ranking these or anything, but these are some of the notable highlights of last year for me in the cover world.

Harvey Danger - Oh! You Pretty Things [originally by David Bowie]
One of my favourite bands covering one of my favourite Bowie tracks? Most excellent. I don't know what I was expecting when I first heard it, but I was vaguely underwhelmed. This may have to do with the piano being replaced by an organ. I quickly got over that minor quibble and by the second time I gave it a listen, it had suddenly become a delayed instant classic. Go figure. If you're looking for something to spend $0.99 at the iTunes store, I'd have to recommend this above all others.

Corinne Bailey Rae - Since I've Been Loving You (live AOL session) [originally by Led Zeppelin]
I was blown away when I heard this cover. This is the 2nd cover I've heard from her and now I'm starting to take notice. Despite being one of the greatest and most successful rock bands ever, I still feel that Led Zeppelin is somehow underrated (if that is even remotely possible). Um, I was about to go into a big rant about it, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Apparently, Bailey Rae will have an album version of this next year... or rather, this year (still not used to 2007 yet).

Chris Thile - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground [originally by The White Stripes]
I love The White Stripes. I love covers. And Chris Thile of Nickel Creek hit this one out of the ballpark. The version I posted is not actually the cut from the album, but a truly solo live version from Reg's Coffee House, which is incidentally fantastic. Also go here for video of another live version and a great cover of The Band's Ophelia.

Nickel Creek - Just (live at the Largo) [originally by Radiohead]
Last year Mark Ronson released a cover of Radiohead's Just, which was superb to say the least. While there are billions of Creep covers, it was the first Just cover I had heard and I welcomed it with open arms. Then Nickel Creek had to come along and cover it too. Now there are two superb Just covers. I nicked this from the Largo website, which I had stumbled upon while scouring the net for Jon Brion material. For a while there, he was performing at the Largo once a week. How sweet would that have been? Answer: pretty damn sweet. Now I hear The Watkins Family Hour (aka two-thirds of Nickel Creek) are performing at the Largo almost every Thursday until the spring (contrary to the online Largo calendar). Very cool, if you live in LA.

Lulu Hughes - Time [originally by Pink Floyd]
So I borrowed this album from the library called Pink Floyd Redux. I wasn't expecting much seeing how I'm just a casual Pink Floyd fan, but damn if this isn't one of the best covers of the year.

Devo 2.0 - Monkey's Uncle [originally by Annette Funicello with the Beach Boys]
My musical knowledge of the original Devo is limited, so I haven't really formed an opinion as to whether an all-children's update of the new age group is a good idea or instant sacrilege. I have also never heard the original of this 1965 Disney song (from the movie of the same name), which was apparently sung by Annette Funicello with the Beach Boys (?!). Somehow none of this mattered as I was sucked into this song unawares and learned the following things: A) Songs about monkeys are cool; B) Children singing like robots is strange (but fun!); C) Corporate Disney channel cash-ins aren't ALL bad; D) Devo for kids is WAY better than kidz bop... ugh.

Natalie Cole - Criminal [originally by Fiona Apple]
Fiona Apple in the style of Aretha Franklin is unexpected. Unexpectedly awesome, that is.

Fall Out Boy - What's This? [originally by Danny Elfman from The Nightmare Before Christmas]
This had all the makings of disaster... Fall Out Boy? Covering beloved animated classic? And yet, it's addictive. Not surprisingly amped up, but surprisingly faithful and the lead singer has a flair for theatrics, which is advantageous in this case. Other covers on the Nightmare soundtrack re-release, not so successful (with the exception of Fiona Apple). Why wasn't the 3D re-release of the film shown seemingly anywhere in Canada?


Catchiest song of the year:
Jason Webley - Eleven Saints [via Fabulist]
This year's War Photographer award (for an insanely catchy tune attached to online animated music video) goes to Jason Webley's Eleven Saints. About a month ago Neil Gaiman posted on his journal "And just so you know, I cannot get this song and video out of my head". Naturally I had to check out the link and he was absolutely right, it's damn catchy. Since then I've been listening to it incessantly and then a couple days ago I finally decided to check out Jason Webley's website where I discovered in the forums that he had just finished touring with the Dresden Dolls. What the deuce?!? My musical tastes once again converge in strange and unexpected ways (see: Ben Folds calls up the Dresden Dolls). In this recent interview with Fabulist, Jason Webley's story of how the tour with the Dolls came about is equally strange.


Favourite albums of 2006:
The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia

Analyzing my iTunes play counts by 2006 albums, The Dresden Dolls take 5 of the top 6 most played tracks. Four songs from this album and a b-side. It's hard to argue that any other album released last year topped this one in my books.
Mrs. O
Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner (B-side)
When I hear the latter song, I'm reminded of a French film I saw this year at the Edmonton film fest called La Tourneuse de Pages and specifically a scene where the lonesome cello player attempts to take advantage of the page turner (this does not end well for him). Previously I had never heard of a page turner as a vocation, let alone the subject of a film or song. If cold, calculated revenge is your thing, I recommend this film. Although when it ended, the woman seated in front of me promptly stood up and declared that she hated it. You can listen to me or that woman.

Rodrigo y Gabriela (self-titled)
First of two artists I "discovered" this past summer while in the FOPP record store in Bath, UK. A friend and I were perusing the CD racks and just couldn't NOT ask what was playing over the speakers. We were told Rodrigo y Gabriela. OK, mental note to self: remember those names and look into it when I get back home in a month or so. I later learned their latest album was produced in Bath, so it made sense that they were promoting it. The duo themselves are from Mexico and based in Dublin (!). I would later have the obscene good fortune of seeing them when they inexplicably made a stop at the Edmonton Folk Festival (to the neglect of the rest of Canada). Here's a Metallica cover:
Orion [originally by Metallica]

Wolfmother (self-titled)
Wolfmother is the other band I heard for the first time while in FOPP in Bath. It was this first track Dimension blaring over the speakers that was irresistably rockin'. Later in my summer travels, I bought their CD in New York City. First impressions: Jet spliced with White Stripes. To some, that would be a bad thing. But I like it, so there.

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
I am of the opinion that nearly everything Jack White is involved with is exceptional and The Raconteurs is no exception. Looking at that sentence I just wrote, I'm starting to doubt its logicality. . . Um, The Raconteurs rule!
The Bane Rendition (b-side to Steady as She Goes)

Hawksley Worksman - Treeful of Starling
Seeing Hawksley Workman at the Folk Fest made me regret not checking out his music earlier. His long delayed, rain-soaked Friday evening performance on the Main Stage was mesmerizing even though it was only him and his piano player Mr. Lonely. I became an instant fan and thoroughly enjoyed his subsequent workshops on the side stages. This makes a nice post-apocalyptic companion piece to We Will Become Silhouettes.
You and the Candles


My Year in Concerts (click the links to revisit old concert posts):
02/18 - Edmonton - The Philosopher Kings
04/25 - Edmonton - Franz Ferdinand/Death Cab for Cutie
06/24 - Dores, Scotland - The Loch Ness Monster: Fatboy Slim & guests
06/30 - Toronto - Seu Jorge
07/15 - Toronto - The Dresden Dolls
08/01 - Toronto - The Living End
08/10 - 08/13 - Edmonton - Edmonton Folk Music Festival (Hawksley Workman, Rodrigo y Gabriela, K'Naan, Bedouin Soundclash, Feist, Chumbawamba, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Sarah Harmer, and many many more...)
08/24 - Edmonton - Ben Lee
09/22 - Edmonton - Danny Michel
10/06 - Edmonton - The Who
10/17 - Edmonton - The New Pornographers, Immaculate Machine, and Novillero
10/22 - Edmonton - Ellen McIlwaine with Cassius Khan

About 75% of those shows were brilliant. Let's just say that with the exception of The Who, larger venue concerts are not ideal. The tantalizingly short 30-minute set by Rodrigo y Gabriela was unreal and unarguably the best gig out of 4 days of solid music at the Edmonton Folk Fest (read more here). At the other end of the gig spectrum, The Dresden Dolls' night of entertainment, which spanned nearly 5 hours for $10 in an old movie theatre was amazing and was one of those rare occasions of quantity AND quality (see above link).

The Who - See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You (live in Edmonton 10/06/06)
Roger Daltrey's parting words after a night of technical difficulties: "Never give up!"

The Living End - 10:15 Saturday Night [originally by The Cure]
Danny Michel - Moonage Daydream [originally by David Bowie]
Death Cab for Cutie - Little Boxes [originally by Malvina Reynolds]
Ellen McIlwaine with Cassius Khan - R&B Medley (live in Edmonton) [various covers]
The Dresden Dolls - Tout les gar├žons et les filles (live in Lyon) [originally by Fran├žoise Hardy]

I'm kicking this melting popsicle stand and jetting to San Francisco next week with the fam'. Stay frosty.


KiDG said...

Any chance of using some other file-sharing site other than Savefile? I have a hard time downloading the tracks as they're incomplete (eg. Corrine May's track at only 1:31?)...

Thanks! Other than that, you've got a great site!

Tabby Rabbit said...

Hi - great blog/list. I have just seen the Dresden Dolls in Boston - I'd never heard of them and they were fabulous. Am going to look at some of the other music you recommend... thanks!

Fongolia said...

You're right, I just tried a savefile link and it was god-awful slow (to the point of failing). Looking into alternatives...

Thanks for the heads-up! I don't know these things unless someone lets me know.