Friday, February 29, 2008

Blowin' Your Cover

We got another new neighbour in the cover blog community: blowin' your cover. The blog has been up since November, but what's new to me may be new to you. We welcome new sources for covers... a little cover diversity, if you will. Some of the last few posts include features on The Mountain Goats, Ida, Buzzcocks, and The Magnetic Fields. So if that sounds like your thing, definitely keep your ears on blowin' your cover because you probably won't find that stuff on Fong Songs, simply due to my relative unfamiliarity with those artists. Plus, the site is much more aesthetically pleasing than mine. It almost makes me want to revamp (almost).

As per Fong Songs tradition with new cover blogs, we welcome you with a cover:
Bree Sharp - We're Going to Be Friends [originally by The White Stripes]
Previously this spot has been occupied by a cover of Randy Newman's You've Got a Friend in Me, but I'm running low on those and don't really like what's remaining. Plus, I always feel a little guilty posting a Disney cover when all your Disney cover needs are nicely handled by Kurtis.

Some other blogworthy news:

  • Neil Gaiman's American Gods is available to be read online for the next month. You know, if books and libraries ain't your thing.
  • I'm going to keep directing your attention to stuff I find on Amie Street... this is US only, but all their Bauhaus albums are free, which includes covers of Bowie and the Velvet Underground in there. Dick "Misirlou" Dale also has a free album with covers of Fever and Jimi's Third Stone From the Sun.
  • This Sunday as part of the WFMU fundraising marathon, Yo La Tengo takes your cover requests! I somehow always seem to miss this every year, but this time for sure I'm making a effort to tune in online.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BBC Loves Covers
...thus I love the BBC

The folks at the BBC Radio love cover songs just as much as we do, except they have the power to command covers. Whether it's assembling artists to recreate Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, celebrating their 40 year history with 40 cover songs, or simply demanding their musical guests to perform covers. While I've long been aware of Jo Whiley's Live Lounge show on BBC Radio 1 as a source for unlikely covers, a reader told me last month that musical guests on BBC Radio 2's Dermot O'Leary show are usually asked to perform covers as well. Since I found out, I've been keeping an ear on the online broadcast and sure enough have caught some gems. In the past couple years the BBC has released two Live Lounge CD compilations and a Saturday Sessions CD from the Dermot O'Leary show. But they produce so many covers on a weekly basis, the CD compilations just don't cut it so we've also had to rely on plucky Brits to rip and share the radio streams. Luckily with online feeds and archives, this is also fairly simple for someone in, say, Vancouver to hear these songs without having the slight disadvantage of tuning in live during the wee hours of the morning. Of course with that many covers they're not all winners, but it's worth it just for the potential of a great one.

Here are some random Live Lounge, Dermot O'Leary, and other BBC session covers from over the years. But first we kick it off proper with some help from Fong Songs favourite Moxy Früvous:

"BBC 1! BBC 2! BBC 3! BBC 4! BBC 5! BBC 6! BBC 7! BBC HEAVEN!"

Moxy Früvous - BBC [originally by Ming Tea]
They weren't exactly singing about BBC's penchant for cover songs (or even the radio for that matter), but it serves our purposes well. The song was written for the first Austin Powers movie and performed over the end credits by Ming Tea, a band featuring Mike Myers (Austin Powers himself), Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, Stuart Johnson, and Christopher Ward. Susanna Hoffs, formerly of the Bangles, also re-teamed with Matthew Sweet for the 2006 cover album Under the Covers, Vol. 1, but you knew that already. This Moxy Früvous cover is pinched from the Internet Live Archive, host to lots and lots of fabulous Frütlegs including an all-covers show. When you're feeling sad about the lack of new Moxy Früvous material (8 years and counting), it's comforting to wallow in the amazing efforts of some dedicated tapers from back in the day.

The Feeling - Walk Like an Egyptian [originally by The Bangles]
This is from The Saturday Sessions compilation of D. O'Leary's show. Lots of great stuff on that 2-disc set including last year's cover of Breathe by The Shins and a good KT Tunstall cover of I Want You Back.

Doug Walker - Kids in America [originally by Kim Wilde]
From last week's Dermot O'Leary show, British artist Doug Walker performed this excellent version of the oft-covered Kids in America. He has an great BBC success story. Hanging outside Radio 1 HQ, he handed his single The Mystery to Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles, who proceeded to play it on his breakfast show. An outpouring of positive listener feedback led to the song being played several more times throughout the week and soon he was talking to record label people, eventually signing with Warner Brothers Records. His first single comes out next week as a digital download and his debut album is due in April!

Ash - The Boys Are Back in Town [originally by Thin Lizzy]
From Zane Lowe's show on BBC Radio 1.

Scissor Sisters - Take Me Out [originally by Franz Ferdinand]
One of the all-time great Live Lounge covers.

Muse - Feeling Good [originally written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse]
From a Live Lounge session. I didn't realize until having to check the original credit, but this oft-covered standard is from the 1960's musical The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd. Wow, that's news to me!

Kate Nash - Seven Nation Army [originally by The White Stripes]
The Fratellis - Hotel Yorba [originally by The White Stripes]
Jack Johnson - My Doorbell [originally by The White Stripes]
Fortunately for me, the BBC radio DJs and their guests are fans of the White Stripes so we get our fair share of their covers. I think all three of these are from Jo Whiley's Live Lounge show.

Supergrass - Beat It [originally by Michael Jackson]
Once I was alerted to the Dermot O'Leary show, I was excited to learn Supergrass would be an upcoming guest. They did not disappoint, unleashing a heavy fuzz-induced cover of Beat It. I Should Coco is so good it's a little ridiculous and next month we'll see their new album Diamond Hoo Ha released.

Supergrass - Stone Free [originally by The Jimi Hendrix Experience]
It'd be remiss to talk about BBC Radio without once mentioning influential DJ John Peel whose eclectic music tastes were served up on BBC Radio 1 from its inception in 1967 to his death in 2004. Known for championing artists before they hit it big, his legendary Peel Sessions featured in-studio performances specifically recorded for the BBC. He's cited as giving career boosts to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, T. Rex, The Sex Pistols, Billy Bragg, Pulp, The Smiths, Nirvana, Blur, Supergrass, The White Stripes... the list goes on and on, never losing relevance as the decades passed. By getting artists to record exclusive content, this got around a BBC restriction (i.e. needle time) regarding the amount of commercial recordings played on air. Though this blessing-in-disguise restriction was lifted in the late 80's, I imagine this paved the way for the various BBC in-studio live performances that continue to this day. Ironically, browsing the Peel archives I'm fairly convinced that this Supergrass cover is not from a Peel Session as originally thought or even from a BBC broadcast, but I love this cover and already wrote up the preceding paragraph.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Radio One
Not a cover, but Jimi made up this goofy radio jingle for Radio 1, which appears on his compilation of BBC Sessions.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Sunshine of Your Love [originally by Cream]
This Hendrix cover is wicked and has a legendary story to go along with it. Forgive me if I fudge the details here... the band was performing on BBC's Lulu Show (yeah, that Lulu) and was expected by the producers to play their hit Hey Joe. Barely half-way through the song, they stopped and Jimi said "We'd like to stop playing this rubbish," then dedicated the next song to Cream who had recently broken up. Jimi & Co. ripped through an impromptu instrumental cover of Sunshine of Your Love, but it wasn't long before they started to get the axe from pissed off producers. At the 0:45 second mark, you can hear Jimi say "We're being put off the air." and the BBC pulled the plug. This inspired Elvis Costello to pull a similar stunt on Saturday Night Live in 1977 when label reps pressured him to play Less Than Zero, which he unceremoniously cut off saying "Ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here". The band then launched into Radio, Radio after which he was supposedly banned from the show for 12 years. In 1999 as SNL musical guests the Beastie Boys started playing Sabotage, Costello burst in with his guitar re-uttering his famous line and together they played Radio, Radio. Oddly enough, Weird Al Yankovic performs this at live shows occasionally when his band runs into technical difficulties (though these glitches are possibly deliberate), so it's actually one of the few legitimate covers he plays.

Matt Willis - All These Things That I've Done [originally by The Killers]
David Gray - Smile Like You Mean It [originally by The Killers]
Daniel Bedingfield - Somebody Told Me [originally by The Killers]
Simon Webbe - When You Were Young [originally by The Killers]
The Killers are also popular BBC cover subjects...

Zen Guerrilla - Moonage Daydream [originally by David Bowie]
The Polyphonic Spree - Five Years [originally by David Bowie]
The Raconteurs - It Ain't Easy [originally by David Bowie] is David Bowie.

Expect a Killers/Bowie post soon.

And the winner is...

Forget the Oscars, who won those Harvey Danger CDs? Taking a cue from Boyhowdy's approach to choosing a winner, but lacking a 5-year old child or even a dog at my disposal, I enlisted the help of a borrowed 4-year old turtle named Studwin (AKA Stupid AKA Soup). This was a much more involved process than anticipated as we stared each other down at opposite ends of the hallway for 5 minutes before he made finally a move towards one of the fated scraps of paper.

Praise!Rejoice! The winner of Harvey Danger's debut CD Where Have All the Merry Gone? is... non-responsive. Um, I advise perhaps checking your SPAM box for a potential win if your initials are KH. I sent another notice tonight, but if I don't hear anything in a few weeks someone else may win by default. Rock on.
**UPDATE! We have our winner... Kate H., your CD is on its way!

And Harvey Danger's third album Little By Little... goes to Tisa A. Your prize is in the mail courtesy of Canada Post. Cue orchestra, no speech for you! Thanks for participating, folks.

Eight more days to the big show(s)!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Deals on Amie Street

Just read that indie digital retailer Amie Street, who I'm a big fan of, has signed a deal with Beggars Group (Rough Trade, XL, 4AD), Matador and Polyvinyl, adding their music to the site today. What does this mean for you?

Official word from Amie Street is they're working on the "US Only" hurdle...

Get 'em fast. If you're unaware, songs on Amie Street start off free and as they become popular, the price goes up. It caps off at $0.98 per song, so it never gets out of hand. Format is DRM-free MP3s (160 kbps, I think). There's also a deal today that credit is 50% off! So I just bought $50 worth of credit for $25. Sweet. Now, we just have to wait for them to let us Canadians/rest o' the world at those new songs. Leave a comment if you find any good covers on there!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Smells Like Laura Barrett

Today I'm going to talk about Laura Barrett. She's a classically-trained pianist from Toronto, but made her mark creating hauntingly beautiful kalimba music with quirky lyrics on her first independently released EP Earth Sciences. I first heard Laura via (what else?) a unique kalimba cover of Weird Al's Smells Like Nirvana and knew I had to buy the EP, which also featured the blogosphere favourite Robot Ponies. Now when I say independently released, I mean it arrived in a wonderful hand-stitched green CD case with a little personal note after ordering it directly from Laura. Her latest 4-song EP Ursula which also includes a music video for Robot Ponies was released in December, though unless you live in Toronto and can go to indie record store Soundscapes you'll end up having to e-mail Laura for further instructions...

[indie Earth Sciences EP]

[Ursula EP]

[Earth Sciences EP re-release]

Last month Laura signed on with Paper Bag Records who are re-releasing her Earth Sciences EP with new artwork and a bonus remix next Tuesday. So ordering some Laura Barrett CDs is that much simpler now. And by the sounds of it, she's working on a full-length album (including, but not limited to the kalimba) to be released by Paper Bag Records later this year. She'll also be performing at SXSW next month among a ton of other Canadian artists. Tomorrow Laura will be live on CBC radio's morning show GO! and you can even go see it live, that is of course if you live in Toronto.

Laura Barrett - Smells Like Nirvana [originally by Weird Al Yankovic; parody of Nirvana]
(**Note: I'm going to be particularly stringent this week about the temporary hosting of this particular track. One week max!)

Both the Earth Sciences and Ursula EPs have different versions of Deception Island Optimists Club, a song for which she was nominated for the inaugural SOCAN ECHO Songwriting prize in 2006. There's kind of a curious story to go along with this that I'll have to elaborate in a later post, but here's the short version: The winner of the 2007 ECHO prize was Toronto rapper Abdominal (who also deserves a future post of his own). I'm a big fan of Abdominal's collaborations with DJ Format, though I didn't find out until the new year that he released a new solo album, which after listening would have made my top 10 of 2007. There's an amazing CBC Radio show on Saturdays called Fuse that fuses seemingly disparate artists together to create new music. On a December show of Fuse (listen here), Abdominal was paired up with a band I was unfamiliar with called Henri Fabergé & The Adorables. I came away with a great appreciation for both artists. Now just this past week, alerted by a CBC Radio 3 blog, I read that Henri Fabergé & The Adorables were going to be featured on In Sessions on CBC Country Canada this week and a preview was up on youtube. I was vaguely startled while in the middle of watching the preview... did I just see Laura Barrett?

Now all I've been talking about is her solo work, but Laura has been playing in and touring with a number of bands in the past couple years and that includes being a member of The Adorables playing clarinet! I knew she was a member of The Hidden Cameras, but randomly seeing her in the Adorables was a delightful surprise. That was just further incentive to pick up their self-titled album from Fuzzy Logic (also available digitally from Zunior, but I like CDs).

Let's Get Baked with Laura Barrett: Lemongrass Coconut Curry
I'm sure all that reading has made you hungry, so join Laura for on the music/food podcast Let's Get Baked with Mat and Dave, where musical guests prepare a dish with some music in the mix. Check the archives too. Ever wanted to make Wyld Mushroom Risotto with Final Fantasy? Basia Bulat's Polish Apple Cake? Chicago Deep Dish Pizza with OK Go? Lots of notable guests (100+ episodes since 2005) including Fong Songs fav Danny Michel, Geoff Berner, You Say Party We Say Die, Joel Plaskett, Immaculate Machine... The catch? They're all vegan dishes, which is not exactly my food scene (near opposite, in fact-- meat, meat meat), but it's a fun listen.

...And for those of you who entered the Harvey Danger giveaway, I'll pick winners tonight using some random unscientific method and announce it soon thereafter. Good luck, all eight of you!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Black Hole, Take 2

Some exciting news today in the movie world. Neil Gaiman's latest journal entry had some "small news things":

  • he's almost finished his next book The Graveyard Book
  • Beowulf and Stardust are both up for some Saturn awards
  • a dino-eating demon frog Beelzebufo was found in Madagascar
I can just imagine that in conversation: "Blah blah blah, David Fincher is directing my script, blah blah blah."

Now, some Soundgarden covers:
Handsome Hank and his Lonesome Boys - Black Hole Sun
Lota Red - Black Hole Sun
Steve & Eydie - Black Hole Sun
Copeland - Black Hole Sun
Cibo Matto - Black Hole Sun
The Moog Cookbook - Black Hole Sun
Paul Anka - Black Hole Sun
Peter Frampton - Black Hole Sun (featuring Mike McCready & Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam)

While Neil is my favourite author, I have to admit none of the films he's been involved with have been entirely satisfying. Mirrormask, Stardust, Beowulf... I really wanted to like them, but they all sort of fell short of the mark. He did write the script for the English translation of Miyizaki's Princess Mononoke, but that doesn't really count. On the other hand, David Fincher is among my favourite directors and if he didn't get a free pass already for Se7en and Fight Club, he definitely sealed it with Zodiac for me. So between this film in development and Coraline directed by Henry 'Nightmare Before Christmas' Selick, things are looking up. Even more so if Neil gets his Death adaptation back up and running post-strike. Last year Neil was hanging around the Hellboy II set, picking up pointers from Pan's Labyrinth and future Hobbit director Guillermo del Toro, who's signed on as a producer for Death with Neil making his directorial debut. Even while watching actress readings for Stardust, Gaiman was covertly screening for potential Deaths...

**UPDATE! Neil just posted the 3D teaser for Coraline previously seen before Beowulf. After crappy camera phone recorded versions cropped up on youtube, Laika studios gave him the go ahead to post higher-res videos. Go here for your choice of youtube or quicktime. This is great because when I went to see Beowulf 3D, I distinctly did not see this trailer.

Another Gaiman project kind of, sort of, someday in the works is his and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens. One of my several Best Life Moments was two summers ago when I met Terry Gilliam and he signed my copy of Good Omens (read the long version here). At the time he told me (this made me feel all special) that Good Omens was his next project after Tideland, provided financing fell into place. But knowing Gilliam's film history (see: Lost in La Mancha), I knew not to get my hopes up too high. And now two years later, there's not much movement on the project. But don't give up hope yet! The best source for Good Omens rumours is here and as recently as last month, Gilliam said that the chances are better of getting it made in light of all the high profile Neil Gaiman projects recently. Originally Gaiman and Pratchett had sent the book to Gilliam in hopes of getting a blurb, but he read it, loved it, and wanted to make it into a movie. At one point he had written a script with Tony Grisoni with Johnny Depp and Robin Williams attached, presumably as Aziraphale and Crowley, but still couldn't get financing for it.

I'm sure you've all heard the bittersweet news of Gilliam's latest project The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus being saved after the untimely death of Heath Ledger. The acting trifecta of Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell have stepped in to finish the movie, which is set to finish production here in Vancouver. The fantastical plot, in which Ledger's character travels through parallel worlds, allows for this creative solution to the horrible circumstances. The BBC has a pretty good article about the show-must-go-on mentality of the movie business. I'm glad Gilliam found a way to continue the movie in a way that I believe honours Ledger's last performance. Fortunately we'll also get to enjoy Christopher Plummer as the 1000-year old title character and Tom Waits as the Devil.

Black Hole

Oops, blogger prematurely posted that post before I was done, then crashed safari. Give me another 10 minutes...

Monday, February 18, 2008

U2 3D

Saw U2 3D the other day. The 3D is quite spectacular but the show didn't exactly blow me away. I just couldn't shake the feeling that these were the umpteenth time these songs have been performed, though at the same time I didn't want to hear their newer stuff too much either. So basically there wasn't any way this movie was going to work for me, though some more Achtung Baby may have helped. I love Sunday Bloody Sunday but honestly how long must they really sing that song? The best part was seeing the massive crowds in South America. There's a fantastic bird's eye shot of a solid mass of people jumping up and down during Where the Streets Have No Name that looks like a human earthquake. I was surprised to see that one of the co-directors was Mark Pellington who directed the underrated Arlington Road then hasn't done much since. I'm a casual U2 fan at best, so it never really occurred to me that the high-pitched background wails common to many a U2 song are sung by The Edge and not, as I had previously assumed, an overdubbed Bono.

The best U2 cover is by the Pet Shop Boys, but here a few others:

The Smashing Pumpkins - Stay (Faraway, So Close!) [originally by U2]
James Eric - Stay (Faraway, So Close!) [originally by U2]
This is my favourite U2 song, so I was excited though ultimately disappointed to discover cover songs of it. Billy Corgan with James Iha performed this stripped down acoustic version at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit Concert in 1999. James Eric used to have a bunch of his covers on his site including Stay (Faraway, So Close!), though you have to do a little digging to find them now. Apparently trumpeter Al Hirt performed a cover on the 1994 Brit Awards compilation and I can't even begin to imagine how that sounds, though I'm definitely curious...*hint, hint*

Jarvis Church featuring K'Naan - One [originally by U2]
I can always find an excuse to re-post this wonderful cover by Jarvis Church, the alter-ego of Philosopher Kings lead singer Gerald Eaton. The song, from the War Child compilation Peace Songs veers nicely into gospel territory and even gets a shot of hip-hop courtesy of guest K'Naan.

St. Fiachra's Junior School Choir - Sweetest Thing [originally by U2]
Liza at Copy, Right? posted this once and it's a great discovery. It's from the U2 tribute album Even Better Than the Real Thing, Vol. 3 and oddly enough I do like it a lot more than the real thing. The original kinda makes me cringe with its repeated "Oh-oh-oh, the sweetest thing", but this children's choir makes it sound adorable and charming in a Langley Schools Music Project way.

U2 - Sweet Caroline (Live in Edmonton) [originally by Neil Diamond]
[**UPDATE: I've been informed that this is, in fact, The Edge (not Bono) singing karaoke. Same goes for Daydream Believer the next night. So is it a cover? Kind of, not really. This goes to show that we were so far from the stage it was like watching ants perform.]
This bootleg is from a concert on June 15, 1997, the second of two nights they played in Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium. My mom had gotten tickets for my sister and I to the previous night, which was one of my first big rock concerts ever. Though we didn't get Sweet Caroline, Bono The Edge led us in a round of Daydream Believer. The only other thing I remember is that there was a giant lemon on stage and we were very far away. Three songs from this show were featured as bonus material on the PopMart: Live from Mexico City DVD released last year. Also, With or Without You recorded that night appeared on the officially released Please EP.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Little Ditty Tidbits

Just some news tidbits that came to my attention this week that makes me want to jump up and shout it to anyone who will listen. Because when I go bug-eyed and speak excitedly about the Dresden Dolls, Ditty Bops, or Zooey Deschanel I'm generally faced with shrugs and "Oh, I see"-s from my closest friends.

  • One of the perks of being Neil Gaiman as opposed to John Malkovich: Amanda Palmer will personally send you an advance of her debut solo CD "wrapped in lace" with DVDs! Damn you, Neil!

  • The Dresden Dolls (Amanda Palmer & Brian Viglione) were back in the studio in January re-recording some old school non-album tracks and leftovers from the Yes, Virginia sessions. The collection of "scattered" tracks tentatively titled No, Virginia is set to be released sometime this spring before her solo album comes out. Woo! Bonus Dresden Dolls action out of the woodwork!

  • It seems like Amanda has also been busy finishing off a full-length Evelyn Evelyn record with Jason Webley for anyone who missed the limited edition EP. She's also been collaborating with Estradasphere for (I think) her solo album. Estradasphere is responsible for the BEST Super Mario Bros. 2 cover ever.

  • [**UPDATED] Even more DD tidbits, courtesy of Amanda's blog (warning, don't click that link if you don't want to see close-up photos of her vocal nodes) that just updated around the same time I originally put up this post:
    • No, Virginia is likely going to be released late May.
    • Amanda's working on a companion songbook to accompany all the songs from both Yes/No, Virginia. The previously Dresden Dolls companion was a fantastic book of full piano transcriptions with hand-written notes and an extensive diary-like section with colour photos, drawings, and such.
    • Cover Alert: the Dresden Dolls teamed up with their pal Franz from The Hold Steady to record a couple covers, one for a Johnny Cash compilation and one for a Jonathan Richman compilation to be released later this summer or fall.
    • Amanda is going to be playing with the Boston Pops Orchestra June 19th and 20th. Sweet.

  • Once upon a time, Neil Gaiman introduced me to the wonderful world of the Ditty Bops. And there's a brand new Ditty Bops album in just a couple weeks! Summer Rains is due March 1st and is available for pre-orders from their online store. Sold!
    The Ditty Bops - Bye Bye Love [originally by the Everly Brothers]
    The Ditty Bops - Gentle Sheep
    The Ditty Bops - Aluminum Can
    -there's a tease of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in here
    The Ditty Bops - Some of These Days [originally by Shelton Brooks]
    -from the Live Music Archive which has tons of great Ditty Bops live recordings

  • Zooey Deschanel is playing at the Largo tonight in LA. I managed to catch the Watkins Family Hour at the Largo when I went there in January and it's a phenomenal venue. Probably like dinner seating for 100 or less plus standing room. It'd be like a Zooey Deschanel concert in your living room. Thinking about it makes me sad that I can't be there. The Largo has a bunch of strict rules (i.e. no cell phones, electronics, talking during show, etc.) with one goal: it's all about the show/performer. And that's a refreshing attitude for music lovers. Don't forget her album with M. Ward is coming out March 18th. Note to self: get crackin' on that full Zooey cover post.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Papa Mars and Joe Dick team up to fight crime!

Last week in the comments, I briefly mentioned that Hugh Dillon, lead singer of the Headstones (who covered Tweeter and the Monkey Man once upon a time), was co-starring in a cop drama this fall on CTV called Flashpoint opposite Enrico Colantoni (Veronica's dad on Veronica Mars). The show, originally titled Sniper, focuses on an elite tactical police team that handles hostage negotiations, bomb threats, and other fun stuff. It made some ripples a couple weeks ago when CBS picked up the Canadian show for this summer's programming in spite of the on-going Writer's Strike. But the strike's all over now, so no worries. Whether he was serious or not, Boyhowdy suggested a blog post on the matter and I was more than up for the challenge. So today I present music tenuously associated to Hugh Dillon and Enrico Colantoni!

First off, Toronto-born actor Enrico Colantoni. I basically know him only as Keith Mars on Veronica Mars and Mathesar in Galaxy Quest, though a quick perusal of his IMDb credits would point to his 7 seasons of Just Shoot Me as Elliot DiMauro as his biggest role. I have to admit having never seen Just Shoot Me, though if it lasted 7 seasons it must have been alright, eh? And in a crazy bit of planets aligning, it turns out today is in fact his birthday(!). Happy Birthday, Enrico!

Enrico Colantoni - I Finally Got the Police Report on the Dean's Suicide!
I didn't exactly find an Enrico Colantoni cover song around or even any song for that matter. But while finishing off season 3 of Veronica Mars on the weekend and thinking about this post, I stumbled upon this musical moment that made me laugh.

Kristen Bell - One Way or Another [originally by Blondie]
Veronica Mars herself performs this truncated karaoke version in Season 1. Does this count as a cover song? Well, as my film prof liked to say all the time, close enough for government purposes.

The Dandy Warhols - We Used To Be Friends [Kenn Richards Remix]
The theme song for Veronica Mars was this Dandy Warhols song, which was later remixed for Season 3. Dandy Warhols lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor cameoed on the show performing karaoke to Love Hurts. Britt Daniel of Spoon also showed up in another episode singing Elvis Costello's Veronica at the karaoke club. One of the more peculiar aspects of Veronica Mars was spotting the most random and unlikely guest stars... Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, 2 of the 3 kids from Home Improvement (Zachary Ty Bryan and Jonathan Taylor Thomas looking creepily like Christian Slater), Arrested Development's Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat (in the same episode!), Dan Castellaneta, Rider Strong (formerly of Boy Meets World), Lucy Lawless, Patty Hearst, and probably many, many more.

The Dandy Warhols - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald [originally by Gordon Lightfoot]
Since I'm heavy on the CanCon today, here's a Dandy Warhols cover of the classic Gordon Lightfoot ballad. According to wikipedia, Courtney Taylor-Taylor's cousin was in fact a crew member on the ill-fated SS Edmund Fitzgerald. This particular version is from Come on Feel the Dandy Warhols, a collection of b-sides and covers, and a different version of this cover was recorded for The Black Album.

Hugh Dillon was the lead singer of the Headstones, a Canadian hard rock band active from the late 1980's to 2003. In the mid-90's he began to take on some film roles, most notably the lead in Bruce McDonald's cult rock film Hard Core Logo. Some other credits include three episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation, the third Ginger Snaps film, the Assault on Precinct 13 remake, and a Genie-nominated role in the Trailer Park Boys movie.

The Headstones - Smile and Wave
The Headstones - Cubically Contained
The Headstones' third album Smile and Wave is chock-full of great rock tracks and they had a radio hit if I remember correctly with Cubically Contained.

The Headstones - Tweeter and the Monkey Man [originally by the Traveling Wilburys]
For a long time, one of the only covers of the Traveling Wilburys around. With Jenny Lewis' cover a couple years ago, the total has risen to about... four, maybe.

The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir - Streets of Bakersfield [originally by Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam]
Following the break up of the Headstones, Hugh Dillon's next band was The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir and this cover was offered to fans on his website one year as a X-Mas bonus.

You may not realize this, but one of the trademarks of Canadian cinema is the depressing and/or downbeat ending. Also: roadtrips. And that's Hard Core Logo in a nutshell, a Canadian rock & roll mockumentary (rock mock doc?) directed by Bruce McDonald in the vein of This is Spinal Tap, but only superficially. That is, there are some darkly funny moments, but you wouldn't call this a comedy. Based on a book by Michael Turner, it follows the fictional once-influential punk band Hard Core Logo as they embark on a last gasp reunion tour. Punk rock hijinks ensue. Like Chungking Express, Hero, and Iron Monkey, this film carries the questionable distinction of being "Presented by Quentin Tarantino" (i.e. "I had nothing to do with this movie, but I liked it and my name is Quentin Tarantino"). Hugh Dillon carries the film as the charismatic, self-destructive Hard Core Logo lead singer Joe Dick.

Hard Core Logo - Edmonton Block Heater
The Pursuit of Happiness - Edmonton Block Heater [originally by Hard Core Logo]
The Pursuit of Happiness - Edmonton Block Heater (Live) [originally by Hard Core Logo]
Every Edmontonian knows the importance of a block heater. This winter was particularly brutal with some -40ish temperatures at times, but we seem to take it in stride. For instance, when I went to L.A. I was miserably cold at times, muttering to myself at bus stops with the other shivering and wet patrons. And even though it was a good 30 degrees Celsius colder when I got home, at least I could bulk up in a huge puffy jacket, put on some big gloves, pull on my Oilers touque, and make epic treks to the post office or library like an arctic explorer. Embrace the bitter cold and it becomes your friend. The Hard Core Logo soundtrack was actually a "tribute" to Hard Core Logo featuring Canadian artists such as 54-40, the Odds, Kinnie Starr, the Headstones, and more performing the real songs of the fictional band. This tribute CD was also available with the Hard Core Logo special edition DVD. The Pursuit of Happiness is a rock band (lead singer from Edmonton) who had a hit song I'm an Adult Now in the 80's and endeared themselves to hockey fans everywhere with Wayne Gretzky Rocks. They recorded the Hard Core Logo cover for the tribute album and the live cut is from one of their Best-of compilations. Curiously, there's actually a band called Edmonton Block Heater from, uh, Vancouver whose name is inspired by Hard Core Logo song even though they're not a punk band.

Billy Talent - Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldnt've)? [originally by the Buzzcocks]
Canadian rock band Billy Talent gets their name from Hard Core Logo's guitarist Billy Tallent (different spelling), played in the film by Callum Keith Rennie. This cover was released with their 2nd album, Billy Talent II, but only on iTunes.

Don't forget I'm giving away some FREE STUFF that you can enter to win here (scroll to the bottom). So far, there are 4 entries and 2 prizes... you do the math! One week left.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Harvey Danger coverage

I've got my next rock vacation lined up. Come March 6th and 7th, I'll be bussing down to Seattle to go see Harvey Danger play a 2-night stand at the 300-seat Triple Door. In the late-90's they attained one-hit wonder status with Flagpole Sitta from their debut album Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?. I remember hearing the song in a commercial and scouring the p2p networks trying to find it. Problem was I couldn't remember any of the lyrics and for some reason I thought it was Oasis (don't ask), two big detriments to my search progress. A year or so later I re-discovered the song in the middle of a Weird Al polka and frantically looked over the liner notes to finally find out the song's name and artist. Flagpole Sitta. By Harvey Danger. Gee, why didn't I think of that? And who is this "Harvey Danger" person?

Two founding members Jeff Lin and Aaron Huffman were classmates at the University of Washington with the band's name coming from some random graffiti written on the wall of the student newspaper office. The full story (rise/fall/resurrection) of the band is officially summarized here. I think I borrowed that first album from the library but barely listened to it before having to return it. In 2000, by which point I was actually working at the library, I picked up a brand-spankin' new copy of their 2nd album King James Version straight from cataloguing/processing. Admittedly, I borrowed it on a whim and a shiny case thinking "Oh yeah, I sure liked that Flagpole Sitta song". I still remember coming home and casually putting it in the CD player. Whatever I was planning to do, washing the dishes or something, I simply stopped and stood there in the kitchen listening to the rip-roaring opening track Meetings With Remarkable Men (Show Me the Hero). Than I sat on the couch with the liner notes and listened to the rest of the CD, reading along with the lyrics (which are phenomenal, by the way). I don't have too many big rock epiphanies, but this was one. I am Harvey Danger fan for life. Now 8 years later I am finally ready, geographically speaking, to see them for the first time.

In honour of the 10th anniversary of their first album Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, over two nights they will be playing all three of their albums in their entirety. It'll be an epic doozy of a first live Harvey Danger experience. The big highlight for me will be hearing King James Version live, start to finish one of my favourite albums ever. Last year I saw Roger Waters perform Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety (amazing) and let me tell you I'm equally excited, if not moreso about watching/hearing/experiencing King James Version, not to mention the opportunity to hear them pull out rare tracks, b-sides, and covers. To quote lead singer Sean Nelson, "Indeed, it would be prudent to assume that some of these songs will be (unofficially) retired after these shows".

Last summer I was expecting to be in the Caribbean in January rocking it up on a cruise headlined by Ben Folds along with special guest Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls... a dream trip to be sure. I was all booked, rearing to go when it was unceremoniously cancelled last June. Somewhat ironically it's actually Harvey Danger of all people who ended up jumping on a ship with the Barenaked Ladies a couple weeks ago on a cruise to Jamaica put on by the same company, Sixthman. As much as I would have liked to, the cost would have been a bit too much, a sentiment shared by even hardcore fans. When asked by fans why they'd be participating in the cruise anyway, the answer was pretty simple: it was basically a paid vacation and the idea of playing on a cruise ship was appealingly ridiculous. Getting out of a frigid Seattle in January was a nice perk too. By all accounts it sounded like a great time. One enviable session to have attended was the Barenaked Ladies' frontman Steven Page teaming up with Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson for a 'Songs of McCartney' session. Gah! I'm told it was Steven who met Sean in Toronto recently and invited the band on board.

Pretty much since the inception of this blog, I've been repeatedly plugging Harvey Danger. Right now if you're not a fan already, you might need some convincing. In general, my cover song philosophy is that hearing a band you're unfamiliar with perform a cover is the most directly accessible way to digest their music. You can tell when there's more to the band than just the cover, which leads you to seek out their other music. Tainted Love was my intro to The Living End and Young Americans to Danny Michel, two of my favourite artists I've discovered through covers. I really can't say the same thing about, say, Alient Ant Farm or The Ataris (sorry!). Though for all I know those bands are like someone else's Harvey Danger. So let's get to some covers, shall we?

Harvey Danger - Save it for Later [originally by The English Beat]
Harvey Danger - Is There Something I Should Know? [originally by Duran Duran]
**song title corrected... thanks Kel]
Harvey Danger - Oh! You Pretty Things [originally by David Bowie]

Harvey Danger - I've Got a Feeling [originally by The Beatles]
On New Year's Eve 2006, Harvey Danger and guests played an epic show where they covered side 2 of the Beatles' Abbey Road from Here Comes the Sun to Her Majesty. Before jumping into that, they kicked it off with this Beatles gem from Let it Be.

Sean Nelson - Gotta Get Up [originally by Harry Nilsson]
Sean Nelson - Daddy's Song [originally by Harry Nilsson]
A great but unreleased album is languishing somewhere... Sean Nelson's tribute to Harry Nilsson called Nelson Sings Nilsson (the title in turn refers to Harry Nilsson's tribute to Randy Newman, Nilsson Sings Newman). There are some demos on Sean's site and some full versions on myspace. He played sold out Nelson Sings Nilsson shows and the 15-track CD was completed I believe in 2006. For some reason it never came out. Copyright issues? No publisher? No one seems to know. It's number 1 on my lost albums list because the quasi-released stuff is fantastic. At the very least, it introduced me to Harry Nilsson who had flown under my radar for years. Go here to watch a youtube video of Davy Jones dancing and singing ridiculously to Daddy's Song in the 1968 Monkees film Head. Stay tuned to the end of the video where Frank Zappa gives Davy some advice with his talking cow... and I should mention the film was co-written by Jack Nicholson. Those wacky Monkees!

Death Cab for Cutie featuring Sean Nelson - Fortunate Son [originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival]
Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson sings lead on this CCR cover backed by Death Cab for Cutie. This comes from a Vietnam war benefit CD called Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again with lots of cover songs on it that I recently found in L.A.

Magnificent Tracers - Flagpole Sitta [originally by Harvey Danger]
Hairy Canary - Flagpole Sitta [originally by Harvey Danger]
(Just iTunes links for these ones! Listen to samples for a taste... but I recommend tracking down the original.)
There are not a lot of Harvey Danger cover songs around, though in a sense these are the very definition of cover songs: quick cash-ins on a popular hit put out by another company with the intent to mimic the original as closely as possible. In a horrible, bizarre twist of fate the Harvey Danger original is not even available on iTunes, but the preceding cover versions are. Yikes! The Magnificent Tracers-- even the band's name alludes to the fact that they are essentially "tracing" the song-- is from a K-Tel compilation called Extreme Sports. What's even more baffling is that the Hairy Canary version has a variety of techno, acapella, and percapella(?) remixes to go along with it. I was so tempted to buy the Hairy Canary "album", but I just couldn't bring myself to do it and I don't really encourage you to either. Probably the worst crime with these covers is that uninformed consumers actually believe these to be the original. I cringe when I've seen arguments such as "This is definitely I'm Not Sick but I'm Not Well by Hairy Canary!" or "Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's actually the Magnificent Tracers!" or "No, no, no, it's definitely Harvey Dangerfield..."

The Lounge-o-Leers - Flagpole Sitta [originally by Harvey Danger]
Not a particularly great cover, but it'll have to do until a big Harvey Danger revival in pop culture consciousness leads to an influx of HD covers.

Unknown A cappella group The UNC Achordants - Flagpole Sitta [originally Harvey Danger]
Generally I don't like posting songs of unknown origins... but it's a Harvey Danger cover, proving once again that there's an a cappella cover of virtually anything. Presumably it's a college a cappella group. Who? I have no idea, so give me a shout if you can identify it.
**UPDATE: Thanks to an anonymous reader, we now know this is the UNC Achordants from their 2007 album High Stakes Old Maid, available from their website.

Weird Al Yankovic - Polka Party!
Thank you Weird Al for introducing me to Harvey Danger! Spice Girls, Beastie Boys, Matchbox 20, Marilyn Manson, Third Eye Blind, and more get the ol' Weird Al polka treatment from 1999's Running With Scissors.

Everyone loves free stuff right? In this, my inaugural giveawway on Fong Songs, I would like to share my Harvey Danger passion with you. I have in my collection spare copies of Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? and Little by Little..., their 1st and 3rd albums. So first prize will be one CD and second prize will be, uh, the other CD. No guarantees as to the condition of the CDs (this is free, mind you). I will send these anywhere at my own expense, cheapest shipping possible. If you want in on this free stuff, no strings attached, leave a comment with your e-mail and I'll pick winners on Friday next week. If I get pie in my face and only one person comments, he/she will take both prizes. If no one comments, I will cry myself to sleep or donate them to the library, both excellent alternatives. Depending how this goes, I may actually give away actual CDs with COVER SONGS in the future... *cough* veiled threat *cough* Don't forget Harvey Danger's third album Little by Little can also be downloaded for free at their site. The physical edition comes with a bonus CD of demos, alternate cuts, and extra songs so there's your incentive to win or buy your own copy. First album is available on Amazon (though not iTunes). And the great, underrated King James Version can be bought on iTunes or as a used CD on Amazon.

In parting, one of my favourite Harvey Danger originals:
Harvey Danger - Loyalty Bldg.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Last Night

Last night I became acutely aware of the number of covers of the Strokes' Last Nite there are.... I'm working on a couple more substantial posts, so let this tide you over until then.

The Detroit Cobras - Last Nite
Vitamin C - Last Nite
...Also samples Blondie's Heart of Glass
Jumbonics - Last Nite
Adele - Last Nite
The most recent Last Nite cover from Jo Whiley's Live Lounge show on BBC 1

Lenlow - Last Night [The Strokes vs. Traveling Wilburys vs. Kid 'n Play]
There should really be some more Traveling Wilburys covers in existence.

Serena Ryder - Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream [originally by Ed McCurdy]
From her 2006 album of mostly Canadian cover songs If Your Memory Serves You Well.
"Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Zooey (to be continued...)

Clearly I've missed some stuff while I was away... I belated just read a post on music blog I Am Fuel, You Are Friends about the forthcoming M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel collaboration. Working under the new moniker She & Him, their debut album Volume 1 has a release date of March 18, 2008. Definitely go to IAFYAF to download their recent 4-song performance on KCRW. I've been waiting for some sort of Zooey album since hearing her croon with Leon Redbone on the Elf soundtrack.

Also check out the site for their record label Merge Records, which has the official bio blurb and a free song too. Bonus news: the album features 9 originals and 2 covers. So far they've got two concert dates in March lined up: the Noise Pop festival in San Francisco followed by the SXSW festival in Austin. Hopefully they go on tour or something.

While I was in L.A. I went on the Warner Brothers studio tour on a very rainy afternoon. With the writer's strike and not a heck of a lot was going on, although one of the projects in production was the upcoming Jim Carrey flick Yes Man co-starring Ms. Deschanel herself. Having read the book it's based on by British comedian/writer/TV personality Danny Wallace, I really have no idea who would have read it and thought "We have got to get Jim Carrey in this!", but I'm sure I'll check it out for the Zooey factor at least. By the sounds of it, they're just taking the basic idea of the book (a man who says yes to everything) and building a fictional narrative out of it.

Guess I've only got a month left to put together that Zooey cover post I've been mulling over for a year...