Sunday, January 31, 2010


[EDIT 02/05/2010: Most song links removed after a Blogger takedown notice, though at least they're civil enough to now simply revert the post back to draft mode instead of outright wiping it out...]

[EDIT 03/01/2010: Okie dokie, ALL mp3 links removed after another notice. I'm 90% sure I removed the offending mp3 previously since I only left up the mp3s that were hosted on the artists' website. Of course, the identity of the offending mp3 is indiscernible to all, but if you're curious how these complaints come about, here's the official complaint to Google as sent by the IFPI, a form letter with a long list of URLs attached in cluding this here year-end post. I'm guessing some sort of robot "read" my post and deemed it complaint-worthy.]

Time for my belated and bloated annual look back at the past year... yes, we're mere hours away from February, but I started a dangerous precedent last year when I posted my year-end review at the end of January. Last year saw a dramatic drop in my post count, less than half the posts of 2008 and my lowest total since 2006. I partially blame the lingering effect of that blogger crackdown, but another contributing factor is the new job I started around the same time in late '08. Now I'm more or less happy with one post a week with maybe some really short ones in between. I joined Twitter last February and I'm surprised to find myself still updating it fairly frequently. An unexpected side effect of joining Twitter is that it reinvigorated my interactions with Facebook since my tweets are automatically used as my status updates. Travelwise, I visited Chicago for the first time last March and due to a fortuitous set of circumstances, I'll be heading back there with parents in May for a quick jaunt. I hopped down to Seattle at least thrice for concert-related reasons (Jason Webley, Harvey Danger's last shows ever, Ben Folds + symphony) and went to San Francisco/Mountain View for the Bridge School Benefit concert with my dad. I also went to Vegas for my best friend's bachelor party and served as Best Man at his wedding in July. My new baby cousin was born in June and around the same time I welcomed a new fuzzy friend into my home, my cat Jaboo:

It's funny, after looking back through my old posts I realize that I inadvertently fulfilled my new year's resolution last year: reading more books. This has been helped by joining in November, which fulfills my obsessive compulsive need to quantify my existence by cataloguing everything I see or do. Typically, I have a more or less constant flow of incoming material through library requests, but last week for the first time in a long time, I found myself with nothing to read and was getting kinda anxious about it... like I was having reading withdrawal symptoms. Good sign, I suppose. I didn't exactly read up a storm last year, but it was probably the most books I've read in a while. Currently I'm reading the Chinese classic Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en, translated and abridged as Monkey by Arthur Waley in 1942, which is the version I'm reading. I'm surprisingly well-versed in the tale based entirely on a book from the public library I loved and re-read constantly as a kid, Adventures of the Magic Monkey Along the Silk Roads, a comic adaptation by Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong and Anker Odum that was commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum in 1983. A couple years back, I flukily ended up with my very own used copy of the comic long after I had forgotten about it... and it turns out I never really did forget it. Hopefully this year will see the publishing of the long-awaited non-fiction travel book by Neil Gaiman, Monkey and Me, which sees Neil follow the same path as Monkey's journey through China.

Top Covers/Cover Albums:

The Leisure Society - Something [originally by The Beatles]
As arguably the most covered act of all-time, I'm impressed when I come across Beatles covers that sound new to me. This pretty much proves that no matter how over-covered a song is, all it takes is one inspired artist to make some cover magic. This beautiful cover by The Leisure Society was the standout from Mojo's track-by-track cover tribute to Abbey Road, which actually featured a few other great covers too (Jeffrey Lewis's Octopus's Garden comes to mind). The Leisure Society also registered on my radar with a similarly wonderful cover of Gary Numan's Cars in '09. Definitely a band to keep an ear out for.

Adam Green - I Will [originally by The Beatles]
Last year saw the beginning of the epic Beatles Complete on Ukulele project, which will be providing a bountiful supply of Beatles covers for another 2 years. This irreverent but sweet cover by Adam Green reframes the song as a sort of warped lullabye to his love who OD'ed on pills and is in a coma...

Project Jenny, Project Jan - Self Control [originally by Laura Branigan]
Last year, the Buffetlibre DJs lived up to their name with their covers smorgasbord, Buffetlibre Rewind 2 (still available for free!). The sheer amount of covers is actually quite overwhelming, but I unexpectedly found myself singling out this cover of Laura Branigan's 1984 hit Self Control for repeated listening.

Marco Benevento - Friends [originally by Led Zeppelin]
Benevento's second solo album Me Not Me consisted mainly of jazz reinventions along the lines of The Bad Plus or Brad Mehldau. He covers Beck, The Knife, Leonard Cohen, and others, but it's his version of the rarely covered Friends from Zeppelin III that caught my attention. Benevento also does a brilliant rendition of Nobody Does it Better on his Live at Tonic album.

DeVotchKa - Hot Burrito #1 (I'm Your Toy) [originally by The Flying Burrito Brothers]
I hadn't heard of the original when I fell in love with this cover from last year's Sweetheart compilation from Starbucks. Say what you want about the coffee giants, but their music people manage to attract some major and sometimes unheralded talent to fill out these compilations. This year's batch was recently released and features the likes of José Gonzáles covering Kylie Minogue, The Long Winters covering ZZ Top, and The Shins' James Mercer joining his brother Robert for a Bob Dylan cover. Guess I'll have to make my way to a Starbucks soon to pick this up.

Chromeo - I Can't Tell You Why [originally by The Eagles]
Montréal-based electrofunk artists Chromeo do an modern, but faithful cover of The Eagles track from 1979's The Long Run. There is actually a surprising dearth of good to great cover of Eagles... I can't tell you why. [EDIT: You can get the free MP3 from their official site with your e-mail]

The Lost Fingers - Belleville Rendez-vous [originally from The Triplets of Belleville]
The Lost Fingers followed their 2008 debut of 80s covers with Rendez-vous Rose, an album of Francophone covers in the same gypsy jazz style. All the covers are, of course, great, though I suppose the significance (or humour) of some of the French pop song choices is lost on me. In some cases, they managed to recruit some of the original artists to join them such as Plastic Bertrand on Ça plane pour moi or Nanette Workman on Lady Marmalade (she had a hit with the same song in Québec in the 70s). I was absolutely thrilled to discover they covered the theme song from the animated film The Triplets of Belleville.

Anamanaguchi - Holiday [originally by Weezer]
8-bit cover songs, which have become their own subgenre, are hit or miss with me. They're cute in a retro sense, but then after hearing a bunch of classic rock songs performed as instrumental chiptune songs, I feel like I'm back in the 90s listening to midi translations of popular songs, novel but unexciting. The (free) 8-bit Tribute to Weezer, remakes a collection of Weezer songs as if they're the soundtrack to NES end boss fights, which syncs up nicely with Weezer's nerd aesthetic. My favourite of the bunch is Anamanaguchi's cover of Holiday, combining the sounds of a hacked NES with actual live instrumentation and singing.

Retro Remix Revue - Super Mario Brothers 3 - Overworld BGM, Athletic BGM [originally by Koji Kondo]
The brainchild of Davis Jones and Blaine McGurty, Retro Remix Revue revisits the music of classic Nintendo and Sega games such as Mario, Sonic, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and more. Retro Remix Revue, Vol. 2 was released last year and featured this brilliant and wonderful medley of a couple very familiar tunes from Super Mario 3 as performed by a jazz trio. Unfortunately, there aren't more jazz arrangements like this on the album which is a grab bag of styles favouring synth rock, though there is a Spanish themed guitar cover of the Gerudo Valley Theme from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that's very good. If you go back to Retro Remix Revue, Vol. 1, you can find another amazing jazz cover incorporating themes from Super Mario World.

Booker T. - Hey Ya [originally by Outkast]
Hey Ya has been covered numerous times but never as a Hammond organ instrumental romp backed by Neil Young on electric guitar. [EDIT: hey, the album won a Grammy tonight! And, uh, Neil Young won his first ever Grammy... for box set packaging]

Michael Bublé featuring Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Baby (You've Got What It Takes) [originally by Dinah Washington and Brook Benton]
I'm a big fan both Michael Bublé and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings so it's almost a given that I'd love this cover they did for Bublé's Crazy Love album last year. Coincidentally, they performed this on last night's Saturday Night Live, horn and string section intact.

Pomplamoose - Beat It [originally by Michael Jackson]
When Cover Me's Ray tweeted Pomplamoose's Beat It as potentially the best post-death Michael Jackson (RIP) cover yet, I expected to hear a good cover but I wasn't expecting to stumble on a new favourite band. Pomplamoose has been around since 2008, building their fanbase through a series of "VideoSongs", youtube music videos that visually show every single sound, voice, and instrument you hear as they were performed live (example: Beat It). The duo of Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn reached a new apex of popularity when their VideoSong of Beyoncé's Single Ladies went viral with over 3 million views since September. I quickly discovered that all their covers, which also include Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson and Feist's Gatekeeper, can be downloaded for free from their myspace while their originals are $1 each. Even without the visual gimmickry, the songs more than stand on their own as great music. Their Christmas original Always in the Season cemented my appreciation for the music they're creating. Pomplamoose is officially on my music radar permanently.

Danny Michel - Straight to Hell [originally by The Clash]
With its sampling in M.I.A's Paper Planes in 2008, I couldn't help but notice a covers revival of The Clash's Straight to Hell in 2009. Whether it was Elvis Costello & Jakob Dylan teaming up on Costello's Spectacle, an acoustic version by Bill Janovitz for his cover of the week series, or Lily Allen (Joe Strummer's goddaughter!) covering it with Mick Jones for the War Child Heroes covers compilation, there was a definite, if unconscious, effort to let the kids these days know the musical origin of Paper Planes. This is my extreme bias showing, but my favourite rendition is by Danny Michel, a noted aficionado of The Clash and reggae. This comes from the Strummer dub tribute album Shatter the Hotel released in late '09 and featuring a number of Canadian artists.

Favourite Songs/Albums of '09:
  • The Very Best - Kada Manja [from Warm Heart of Africa]
    The full length debut of The Very Best (AKA Esau Mwamwaya and Radio Clit), Warm Heart of Africa, more than lived up to the promise of the free mixtape they released the year before. I was super disappointed that their gig I was set to go to in San Francisco was cancelled... come to Vancouver!

  • Sleepy Kitty - Gimme a Chantz! [from What I Learned This Summer]
    While it was bittersweet to say goodbye to Harvey Danger after their last ever shows in August, I became an instant fan of Chicago-based Sleepy Kitty, the duo of Paige Brubeck and original Harvey Danger drummer Evan Sult, who were playing some of their first ever shows as the opening act. This was my second most played song in 2009 and I can wait to hear what they've got lined up for 2010.

  • Rodrigo y Gabriela - Buster Voodoo [from 11:11]
    On their third album 11:11, each of the 11 tracks pays tribute to one of Rodrigo y Gabriela's musical influences ranging from Pink Floyd to Pantera's Dimebag Darrell to virtuoso jazz pianist Michel Camilo. This one pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix and you might catch hear a quick riff from Voodoo Chile in there.

  • The BPA - ToeJam [feat. David Byrne & Dizzee Rascal] [from I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat]
    Technically this single was from '08, but the album wasn't released until the beginning of '09. The Brighton Port Authority was a project headed by Norman Cook (AKA Fatboy Slim) joined by a bevy of artists like Iggy Pop, Martha Wainwright, Danger Mouse, Jack Penate, and more. This track featuring David Byrne and UK rapper Dizzee Rascal kept randomly surfacing on iTunes shuffles until I was force to acknowledge and love it.

  • Says She's Ms. Blat - Poseurs [from Says She's Ms. Blat]
    This was a blog submission that I never got around to writing about, but I definitely got hooked on the single Poseurs from the New York duo Says She's Ms. Blat. Lottie Leymarie (keyboards/vocals) and Bret Puchir (drums) perform in the vein of The Dresden Dolls evoking the vocals of Chrissie Hynde or Fiona Apple. [EDIT: download full album including Poseurs from bandcamp site.]

  • The Dead Weather - So Far From Your Weapon [from Horehound]
    It's hard to believe that a year ago today The Dead Weather didn't officially exist and their second album is expected this year. Cool, yes, but will we get to hear a new White Stripes album anytime soon?

  • Pet Shop Boys - Pandemonium [from Yes]
    It was a treat to catch the Pet Shop Boys when they came to Vancouver in September and hear them run through a setlist of some of my favourite all-time songs. While I haven't exactly been paying attention to their output since the 1991 Discography compilation of singles, after the show I became addicted to Pandemonium from their most recent release. The Smiths' Johnny Marr makes a guest appearance on guitars and harmonica.

  • Zee Avi - Poppy [from Zee Avi]
    My favourite new artist of the year. I wrote more about Zee Avi here when she came to Vancity in December. An auspicious debut for sure.

  • Andrew Bird - Oh No [from Noble Beast]
    What, Andrew Bird on a Fong Songs year-end list? No surprise. If he puts out an album, it's a guaranteed inclusion.

2009 in concerts:
2009/02/20 A.C. Newman with Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele Biltmore Cabaret Vancouver, BC
2009/03/13 Alice Russell with The O'My's Schuba's Tavern Chicago, IL
2009/03/14 Sammy Fender and others, featuring Buddy Guy Buddy Guy's Legends Chicago, IL

2009/03/27 JunoFest: Elizabeth Shepherd Rossini's Vancouver, BC
2009/03/29 Juno Songwriter's Circle 2009 (Hawksley Workman, Doc Walker (Chris Thorsteinson and Dave Wasyliw), Jim Cuddy, Jacob Hoggard, Sarah Slean, Ndidi Onukwulu, and Buffy Sainte-Marie) The Centre Vancouver, BC
2009/03/30 Serena Ryder Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre Vancouver, BC
2009/04/17 Unwigged & Unplugged: An Evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean & Harry Shearer The Centre Vancouver, BC
2009/04/25 54·40 Cambie All Access Vancouver, BC
2009/04/30 k-os with Jay Malinowski (of Bedouin Soundclash) Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC
2009/05/16 Ellen McIlwaine St. James Hall Vancouver, BC
2009/05/28 Danny Michel with Carolyn Mark and Hannah Georgas Vancouver, BC
2009/06/24 The Tragically Hip Orpheum Theatre Vancouver, BC
2009/06/26 The Lost Fingers Performance Works Vancouver, BC
2009/06/27 Alice Russell Biltmore Cabaret Vancouver, BC
2009/07/03 Jason Webley's 11 Year Elevanniversary Celebration with Amanda Palmer, Reverend Peyton, Andru Bemis, Jay Thompson, Jherek Bischoff, Michael McQuilken, Alex Guy, and more Town Hall Seattle, WA
2009/08/06 - 08/09 Edmonton Folk Music Festival (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Jill Barber, Chuck Brodsky, Neko Case, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Chumbawamba, Alex Cuba, Fred Eaglesmith, Steve Earle, Kathleen Edwards, Johnny Flynn, Patty Griffin, Hanggai, Sierra Hull, Danny Michel, Steven Page, Joel Plaskett, Boz Scaggs, The Wailers, Loudon Wainwright III, and many more) Gallagher Park Edmonton, AB
2009/08/21 The Dead Weather with Tyvek Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC
2009/08/22 The Dead Weather with Tyvek Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, BC
2009/08/28 Harvey Danger with Sleepy Kitty and Ships The Vera Project Seattle, WA
2009/08/29 Harvey Danger with Can You Imagine? The Crocodile Seattle, WA
2009/08/29 Harvey Danger with Sleepy Kitty The Crocodile Seattle, WA

2009/09/12 Summer Sessions with Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Luke Doucet, Melissa McClelland, and more Ambleside Park West Vancouver, BC
2009/09/19 Pet Shop Boys The Centre Vancouver, BC
2009/10/20 Ben Folds & The Seattle Symphony Orchestra Benaroya Hall Seattle, WA
2009/10/24 - 10/25 Bridge School Benefit with Neil Young, No Doubt, Chris Martin, Jimmy Buffett, Adam Sandler, Fleet Foxes, Monsters of Folk, Wolfmother, and Gavin Rossdale Shoreline Amphitheater Mountain View, CA
2009/11/25 The Swell Season with Doveman The Centre Vancouver, BC
2009/12/09 Zee Avi with Christopher Smith & The Beckon Call The Media Club Vancouver, BC

I set a new record for concert-going in '09, albeit with a fair number of repeats even within the same year. I went from A to Z, kicking off the year with A.C. Newman and ending with Zee Avi. In between, I doubled up on Dead Weather, Danny Michel, and Alice Russell (in Chicago and Vancouver). Spinal Tap "Unwigged & Unplugged" was a treat, as were The Lost Fingers and The Swell Season (i.e. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, stars of the film Once). I couldn't pass t up the opportunity to see the Pet Shop Boys and was not disappointed. Same goes for Ben Folds who performed with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Of course, Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit shows were a once in a lifetime experience... that is, until the next ones. Probably the ultimate shows for me personally were the three final Harvey Danger shows. I mentioned this recently but it deserves re-mentioning... the best single song live performance I witnessed in 2009 was Hawksley Workman at the Juno Songwriter's Circle:

Hawksley Workman - Safe and Sound (Live at The Juno Songwriter's Circle 2009)

2009 in film:
See here.

With 2010 already well underway, some good stuff has already been released like new albums from Vampire Weekend and Hawksley Workman. Just last week the mailman brought new cover album Turn Ons from The Hotrats (AKA Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey of Supergrass). Other stuff I'm looking forward to this year:
  • Debut from conjoined twin sisters Evelyn Evelyn (due in March). Produced by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley.
  • Speaking of Supergrass, they've got a proper new album due in early 2010 called Release the Drones
  • Out already but haven't picked up Corinne Bailey Rae's The Sea yet
  • The surreal sounding Here Lies Love concept album from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. Guests include Sharon Jones, Alice Russell, Tori Amos, St. Vincent, and more. Due in late February.
  • Muppets Revisited cover album... Fall 2010?
  • Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back covers album and reciprocal I'll Scratch Yours
  • possibly a new Mark Ronson album in 2010
  • New Weird Al! Though honestly his parodies mean less and less to me as I lose touch with whatever current act he's parodying...
Concertwise, I'll be checking out cover stars Nouvelle Vague when they come to town next week. I'll also being seeing K'naan as part of the Olympic festivities and (don't laugh) Canadian children's icon Fred Penner playing at a pub on UBC campus! March will finally see my concert bucket list dwindle to near nothingness as Jamie Cullum comes to town.

Over and out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Little Wing in the Sea

Corinne Bailey Rae's new album The Sea came out today and her cover of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing accompanies the iTunes release, though fortunately it can be purchased separately. Here's her performing it last year in the BBC 1Xtra Live Lounge:

Corinne Bailey Rae - Little Wing (Live on the BBC) [originally by The Jimi Hendrix Experience]

The Power of The Apples

I've recently become enamoured with The Apples, a 9-piece instrumental funk band from Israel whose cover of Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name is, well, killer. It sounds as if the Dap-Kings horn section enlisted a couple turntablists to create a unique fusion of retro funk and modern hip hop. In fact, if you look at their line-up, The Apples consist of a four-piece horn section, drums, double bass, two turntablists, and someone on "Sound Console & Live Effects". Yeah, no guitars, no keyboards. After a few tasty samples, I immediately ate up the rest of their debut 2008 release Buzzin' About from eMusic. Mmmmm... sweet, delicious Apples.

The Apples - The Power [originally by Snap!]
Check out their cover of early 90s hit The Power, which I falsely remembered as being C&C Music Factory. Also make sure to head on over to Versions Galore to hear The Apples' funktastic rendition of Killing in the Name.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hawksley Workman Covered

2010 is set to be a banner year for Hawksley Workman with his 11th and 12th albums on the way. In fact, Meat hits stores today while singles from its immediate follow-up Milk will be gradually released digitally over the next 5 months. Hawksley first captured my attention at the 2006 Edmonton Folk Festival. I had heard his name here and there previously, but the first time I actually heard him was his Friday night performance around midnight. In fact, from the hillside I was so far away I could barely make him out on the main stage, but he did a commanding set with no backing band except for the inimitable Mr. Lonely on piano. Then over the next couple days I checked out a couple of his side stage sessions (including one with Feist) and was repeatedly impressed. I saw him again at the 2007 Calgary Folk Fest then once more at last year's Juno Songwriter's Circle show, yet somehow I've never been able to catch one of his own designated shows. In addition to his prolific solo work, he's also produced albums for the likes of Sarah Slean, Hey Rosetta!, Tegan & Sara, Great Big Sea, Jeremy Fisher, and Serena Ryder.

Hawksley Workman - Safe and Sound (Live at The Juno Songwriter's Circle 2009)
My single favourite concert moment of 2009 was watching from the third row of The Centre as Hawksley and Mr. Lonely silenced the audience with this stunning version of Safe and Sound, thankfully immortalized in a CBC radio broadcast. This live version was by far my most played song of 2009.

Hawksley Workman - Striptease (Live at CBC Radio 3)
Hawksley performs the single Striptease from his 2001 album (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves and slips in a bit of Beyoncé's Crazy in Love at a 2008 CBC Radio 3 session.

Last Friday I had the fortuitous opportunity to check out Hawksley Workman perform a short intimate acoustic set at The Peak, a local rock radio station. The day before, Hawksley had tweeted a chance to win tickets to the show. Even though I got an e-mail that night that they were probably full, the next morning I got another e-mail that I'd been added to the guest list. Woohoo! The gig took place in the Peak Performance lounge, what seemed to be a converted meeting room filled with a mini elevated stage and about 4 plush sofas and a few seats. I nabbed a primo seat on a front row couch and buckled in for a four song set: Smoke Baby, We Dance to Yesterday (new Milk single), Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off, and Devastating (another Milk song). This was followed by a Q&A, photos, and autographs. Good times.

Here are the dates of his upcoming cross-Canada tour, which conspicuously skips over Vancouver. This was actually one of the questions posed to Hawksley and he reassured us that he's pencilled in for some Olympic performances but even he doesn't know the exact dates yet. I did a little checking and he's supposed to play free shows at the Richmond O-Zone and up at Whistler (Feb. 16).

March 05 - Cumberland BC - Sid Williams Theatre
March 06 - Victoria BC - Alix Goolden Theatre
March 07 - Kelowna BC - Kelowna Community Theatre
March 08 - Trail BC - Charles Bailey Theatre
March 10 - Red Deer AB - Memorial Centre Theatre
March 12 - Banff AB - Eric Harvie Theatre
March 14 - Edmonton AB - Winspear Centre
March 17 - Calgary AB - Jack Singer Hall
March 18 - Saskatoon SK - Odeon
March 19 - Regina SK - Darke Hall,
March 20 - Winnipeg MB - Burton Cummings Theatre
April 07 - Saint John NB - The Blue Olive
April 08 - Fredericton NB - Playhouse Theatre
April 09 - Halifax NS - Rebecca Cohn Theatre
April 10 - St. John's NL - Holy Heart Auditorium
April 12 - Charlottetown PEI - The Guild
April 13 - Charlottetown PEI - The Guild
April 15 - Quebec City QC - Le Cercle
April 16 - Montreal QC - La Tulipe
April 17 - Ottawa ON - Bronson Centre
April 20 - St. Catharines ON - Sean O'Sullivan Theatre
April 21 - London ON - Music Hall
April 24 - Toronto ON - Massey Hall

Hawksley Workman - I've Got the World on a String [originally by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler]

Hawksley Workman - Love Will Tear Us Apart [originally by Joy Division]

Hawksley Workman - Bankrobber [originally by The Clash]

Hawksley Workman - The Ocean [originally by Led Zeppelin]
Hawksley likes to warm up in a new studio by unleashing some Zeppelin with his bandmates. He shared this recording in a recent episode of his podcast HAWK radio, which is all Hawksley Workman, all the time.

Donovan Woods - Ice Age [originally by Hawksley Workman]

Chris Mills - Don't Be Crushed [originally by Hawksley Workman]

The Great Canadian Vocal Music Project - Hey, Hey, Hey (My Little Beauties) [originally by Hawksley Workman]
This was an unofficial sequel to the Langley Schools Music Project with Belleville, Ontario's Centennial Secondary School Choir singing covers of only Canadian artists including Bruce Cockburn, Feist, Blue Rodeo, Sloan, and more. It's a little more pro and polished than the Langley Schools Music Project, but I suppose it helps when your high school music teacher is David Reed whose debut album featured help from Danny Michel, Andy Maize, and Hawksley Workman to name a few. The Great Canadian Vocal Music Project, Vol. 2 was recorded in 2007 and pressed as CDs for the students and their families, but there are plans to release the album through Maple Music and Zunior. Until then, you can listen to them on their myspace site.

Last year, Hawksley was also part of the 60+ artists who re-did Midnight Oil's Beds are Burning for the Time for Climate Justice campaign. Music video here and song download here.

His great one-take video for Jealous of Your Cigarette:

A new one inspired by wacky Japanese game shows for the single We Dance to Yesterday:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Kleptones present Uptime/Downtime

The Kleptones - War of Confusion [Genesis vs. Edwin Starr]
This was one of my favourite mash-ups of 2007 from The Kleptones, brainchild of Brighton DJ Eric Kleptone. His mash-ups are among the ambitious I've ever heard, combining elements of rock, hip hop, electro, movie samples, and whatever into a wholly cohesive new music creation. Often it's hard to simply label his mash-ups as "X BAND vs. Y BAND" because of the sheer amount and diversity of samples used.

The Kleptones kicked off the new year by releasing a brand new double CD mash-up album, Uptime/Downtime. Download the whole thing here. Someone's even started a sample breakdown on wikipedia, so you can get a sense of the broad scope of the source songs. From my initial listens, highlights so far include Can't Be Paranoid (Garbage vs. Genesis) and MKY Da HVN (Pixies, Rage Against the Machine, Cream, Iron Butterfly, and more).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reliving the 90's in Utah

Drew Danburry and other Utah artists are teaming up to relive the 90s with a series of YouTube video covers to be released monthly. First up, Katie Brandeburg doing her cover of Lisa Loeb's Stay. At first it stays dangerously close to the original, then it evolves into a heart-lifting group romp through the ubiquitous 90s hit. You know, it's a bit refreshing to hear an irony-free take on the 90s. Can't wait to hear what they've got lined up next.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Live from Australia!

A recent tweet from Cover Me's Ray tipped me off about the Australian website, whose goal is to bring live music to the masses through quality video recordings for free. They've got hundreds of FULL concerts and there are definitely some gems in there. A selection for your consideration with, of course, a covers breakdown:

Go get lost in the archives and drop a line with any recommendations!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Love & Arrows

Head on over to Covering the Mouse to check out my guest post all about the love theme from Disney's 1973 animated Robin Hood. Stay tuned because I will be dropping by there monthly to share even more Disney covers.

The Wombats - (Everything I Do) I Do It for You [originally by Bryan Adams]

Friday, January 08, 2010

Fantastic Heroes & Fantastic Villains

My unofficial new year's resolution (i.e. don't hold me to it) is to simplify my blog posts. One of many reasons my post count was at its lowest since 2007 is that I have a tendency to start working on posts that inevitably escalate as I get caught up in researching new covers in addition to getting lost on bizarre tangents as I make more and more trivial discoveries along the way. A covers-post on Quentin Tarantino's filmography and one on comic book artist/musicians are two fairly recent additions to blogger draft hell. Today's post is another one I started a few weeks ago after I saw Fantastic Mr. Fox, which got stymied as I went off on a wild goose chase to track down one particular cover. Well, no more, I say! If I'm inspired to throw together a post, I'm just going to go ahead and try to do it without my neurotic tendency to attempt comprehensiveness on some narrow, random topic.

Today's topic: Films of 2009. That's right, I'm not done with 2009 quite yet. I'm going to take a cue from Ekko over at Berkeley Place and do a quick rundown of everything I saw last year. By my tally, I saw 39 new films in 2009, which seems like a lot on one hand and not enough on the other.

The bottom 3:

    3. New Moon (Ugh, don't ask)
    2. The International (Terribly boring. Took 5 sittings to get through it.)
    1. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (Don't even get me started.)
    G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Ninja Assassin; Brüno, Kamui Gaiden, The Time Traveler's Wife; Taken; Angels and Demons; Terminator: Salvation
Worth a Peek:

    District 9; A Perfect Getaway; The Box; Zombieland; Watchmen; Moon; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; 2012; The Princess & The Frog; I Love You, Man; Coraline; Sherlock Holmes; 9; The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; The Hangover, It Might Get Loud (released wide in 2009, but technically I saw it in 2008)
On the never-ending, ever-growing to-do list:
    Ponyo; Drag Me to Hell; Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; The Informant; The Road; The Cove; An Education; Crazy Heart; Nine; Public Enemies; Funny People; Thirst; Duplicity; Whatever Works; Humpday; In the Loop; Knowing; Adventureland; State of Play

See, I've already blown my new year's resolution by spending half an hour going through wikipedia's 2009 in film to formulate these lists...

Top Ten:
    10. The Hurt Locker
    9. Up in the Air
    8. Star Trek
    7. (500) Days of Summer
    6. Avatar
    5. A Serious Man
    4. Up
    3. Where the Wild Things Are
    2. Inglourious Basterds
    1. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Less than an hour after seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox, I turned to my friend and said "That was probably the best movie I saw all year" and he wholeheartedly agreed. Conflicting schedules led to us going about three weeks after it had already opened and even though I'd been steadfastly avoiding reviews to that point, I couldn't help but notice the complete lack of buzz before or after its release. To date, the film has grossed just over $19 million of its $40 million production budget. If Avatar is earning a CEO's salary, Fantastic Mr. Fox is like a teenage kid flipping burgers for minimum wage (or worse). Heck, even Paul Blart: Mall Cop earned more in one weekend than Fantastic Mr. Fox in almost two months. Right now, it ranks 107th domestically for 2009 films, sandwiched between Under the Sea 3D and The Jonas Brothers 3D concert. Even though it's pretty much a given that terrible movies make a lot of money and great ones don't, to me this seemed like a pretty egregious box office offense. Sure enough, the theatre was nearly empty when we went. Other than our group of four, there was maybe ten other filmgoers, which made the cackling and giggling all the more pronounced in such an empty theatre.

I went in with mild reservations (mainly based on the lacklustre trailer), which is odd considering I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson, a big fan of stop-motion animation, and a big fan of Roald Dahl. So there was a lot at stake here, but I loved every second of this movie beginning to end. Fantastic Mr. Fox opens quite literally with the opening of the title book by little clay hands and I beamed as I noticed it distinctly carried a library spine label. Then a couple minutes later Wes Anderson sunk his meathooks into me when he underscored Mr. and Mrs. Fox's daring raid on a chicken coop with Heroes and Villains, my all-time favourite Beach Boys song. Not long after that, he even slips in Love, the Oscar-nominated song from Disney's 1973 animated Robin Hood, my favourite Disney film. The movie was barely underway and it was already resonating on a deep molecular level. You can feel the care and artistry that went into the impeccably detailed set decorations, handmade costumes, and props. The ringer cast of Anderson regulars is bolstered by George Clooney as the fast-talking title character who is always quickly thinking up schemes but rarely dwelling on the potential consequences. As the nefarious Bean, Michael Gambon (who has one of my favourite phonebook reading voices) gets probably the best and most quotable line in the movie when he chastises Jarvis Cocker, "That's just weak songwriting. You wrote a bad song, Petey!" and flicks a cigarette at him. The movie is filled with little moments like that, which is part of what I love about the script. These little asides are written as if it's a live-action film with little regard to the fact that each one probably took weeks to animate. You should definitely run out and see it before it leaves theatres. It's Wes Anderson's best since The Royal Tenenbaums, another all-time favourite.

There's a bit of a story to how Heroes and Villains inexplicably became my favourite Beach Boys song. Years ago, my dad had borrowed some sort of Best of the Beach Boys CD from the library and recorded it onto cassette tape. Like most greatest hits compilations, this had the usual familiar hits like Good Vibrations, Sloop John B, Wouldn't It Be Nice, and 5 songs about surfing. But this one had one that I'd never heard before and it would be years before I was able to find out what it was. You see, my dad had recorded it in such a way that most of Heroes and Villains was cut off by the end of side one of the cassette tape and when you flipped it over it continued with the next track as if nothing had happened. So I fell in love with the first minute of Heroes and Villains. I still have a distinct memory of scavenging the house, the basement, the glove compartment, trying to dig up this abandoned cassette tape since I all of a sudden needed OCD-style to find that song. My dad didn't know what the song was called and he helpfully did not bother to write any tracklist for the tape. I resorted to borrowing various Beach Boys greatest hits CD from the library and going through track-by-track but even this proved difficult since Heroes and Villains is not on the majority of them. Apparently, my dad had borrowed the one compilation album that considered it a hit. Then one day, I had the latest candidate in my discman and was dutifully listening/skipping through each track when the elusive track kicked off: "I've been in this town so long that back in the city I've been taken for lost and gone and unknown for a long, long time". I immediately flipped the CD case over and read the back. Heroes and Villains. SUCCESS! And that same moment of revelation and elation filled my heart as I watched it grace the soundtrack of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The Beach Boys - Heroes and Villains
There are numerous incarnations of this song which was originally intended for their legendary incomplete Smile album. It was eventually issued as a single and released on 1967's Smiley Smile album. Brian Wilson would eventually re-record the "complete" version when he resurrected Smile in 2004.

Geraint Watkins - Heroes and Villains [originally by The Beach Boys]
The Apples in Stereo - Heroes and Villains [originally by The Beach Boys]
The Rubinoos - Heroes and Villains [originally by The Beach Boys]
Malcolm Ross - Heroes and Villains [originally by The Beach Boys]

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

White Winter Hymnal

Happy New Year, everyone! A quick one for you while I continue plugging away on another post . . . Boyhowdy from Cover Lay Down just dug up this most excellent cover of Fleet Foxes' White Winter Hymnal, though it's a wee bit too "rock" for his folk blog so he generously passed it along and I was more than happy to snap it up.

Panda Eyes - White Winter Hymnal [originally by Fleet Foxes]
Panda Eyes are a band from Aberdeen, Scotland and the cover was recorded for a Christmas charity album that could only be purchased from a little coffee shop in Aberdeen called Kilau Coffee ("Coffee, Crepes and Contemporary Art!"). You can download more Panda Eyes from or visit their myspace page.