The Captain Discusses Modern Rock Covers Part Zwei

11.  Papa Was A Rodeo – Bright Eyes

I’ve recently had a change of heart about Conor Oberst.  He seems to have gradually backed away from the pretentiousness of his first few albums and settled into a role as a more humble singer-songwriter1.  In 2009 he took a step backwards in my book by joining the super-group Monsters of Folk, but he also released this track for a compellation album honoring Score Records.  He chose to cover a Magnetic Fields song from the second disc of the now legendary 69 Love Songs, which was a brave move.  69 Love Songs is damn near flawless three hours of music, and covering this classic was no small task.  Conor wisely went with an electric twang vibe that gives the song a more authentic, lived-in feeling.  He would do well by sticking with this approach for his next album.

12.  Ever Fallen In Love – Nouvelle Vague

Nouvelle Vague is a French band with a dull concept; they cover American and British songs in a French style.  Most of time these covers don’t really pan out, like on their ridiculous cover of Blister In The Sun.  But on this dreamy little track they manage to turn the jittery punk sound of the Buzzcocks into a breezy, romantic meditation on love.  This theme of slowing down upbeat songs to transform them into mellow and moody covers versions will reoccur frequently throughout the last half of this disc.  The only thing better than slow versions of fast songs is…

13.  Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa – Hot Chip & Peter Gabriel

Slower versions of already slow songs!  Hot Chip took this laidback little track from Modern Rock 2008 and managed to dial it down even further.  For the obvious meta-reference they recruited Peter Gabriel to sing a song where he name-checks himself.  While the humor is a little obvious, it’s still enjoyable to hear Peter sing his own name.  It’s for that reason that I went with this track over the other wonderful Peter Gabriel cover from this decade.  His take on The Book of Love from the aforementioned 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields is another slower than slow song that seemed worthy of a spot on this disc.  But in the end the novelty of a Vampire Weekend cover was just too great to ignore.

14.  Landed – The University Of Colorado Buffoons

While there were several trends in cover songs this decade, none seemed more widespread than the a cappella chorus cover.  It was so popular that Ben Folds released a whole album of college groups covering his songs.  St. Louis’ own Washington University had two different a cappella groups on Ben’s album; The Mosaic Whispers covered Still Fighting It and The Amateurs covered The Luckiest.  Of the sixteen a cappella tracks this cover of his song from Modern Rock 2005 was my favorite.  The trend was so popular last year that a group recorded an a cappella cover of Ben’s cover of Dr. Dre from this disc.  That much covering makes my head hurt!

15.  Baby I’m Yours – Arctic Monkeys

This gorgeous track was a real surprise back in 2006.  After the Arctic Monkey’s blazing first album earlier that year, I was not expecting this straightforward sentimental cover of the Barbra Lewis classic.  The first time I heard this cover I was in the midst of planning my upcoming wedding and it seemed like the perfect complement to our special day.  It eventually scored a prominent place on the ultra-rare Niks Piks October 13, 2007 disc we gave away in our wedding gift bags.  As far as I’m concerned, this track and it’s corresponding album, the Leave Before The Lights Come On EP, should’ve been the end of Arctic Monkeys.  Everything they’ve released since then has been a colossal disappointment.  But damn if they weren’t the best back in 2006.

16.  Ms. Jackson – The Vines

Way back in 2002, releasing a slower version of a rap song was a novel idea.  The first time I heard it I laughed my ass off.  This moody cover of Outkast’s biggest hit to date was a strange addition to The Vines’ breakthrough album, Highly Evolved.  Most of the album featured the same nervous energy that made them an instant hit, except for this odd little cover.  I dismissed it for years as a joke, but eventually I came to embrace it as a legitimate song.  By ignoring the verses from the original2 and sticking with the refrain the Vines managed to add a layer of emotion through subtraction.  The Vines never really tried to explore their slower side again, choosing to stick with their messy style for the rest of this decade.

17.  Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want – She & Him

This cover of an often overlooked Smiths song appeared on 2009’s best soundtrack, (500) Days Of Summer3.  The movie placed its love of The Smiths front and center.  So it came as no surprise that the female lead, Zooey Deschanel, covered a Smith’s song with her bandmate for the soundtrack.  What is surprising was that the finished product turned out great.  As I stated in my Modern Rock 2008 review, She & Him are a good idea with bad results.  I guess all it took was bit of the Smith’s magic to pop out a good song.

18.  California – Mates of State

Mates of State are a band that I forget I like.  They’ve had a couple of great singles this decade that I always seem to overlook when I’m compiling my yearly Modern Rock discs.  Fraud In The 80’s should have been a shoe-in for Modern Rock 2006, but I completely spaced it out that year.  So I’m glad I’m finally including a song of theirs on one of my discs, even if it is this supremely ludicrous cover.  With tongue firmly planted in cheek they recorded this sappy version of the theme song to The OC back in 2006.  It took me a minute to recognize the source material at first.  But when the chorus kicks in I couldn’t help but laugh.  What’s even funnier was that the OC’s producers embraced their version and released it on a compilation album for the show!

19.  Real Love – Regina Spektor

After so many purposely goofy slow covers, I decided to end the disc with a few heartfelt versions.  The first is a cover of a John Lennon song from the Instant Karma benefit album for Darfur.  This track is the perfect pairing of John’s idealistic songwriting with Regina’s beautiful phrasing.  She gives this version a universality that is usually lacking in Lennon’s love songs.  Regina singing about love makes me think about the splendor and magnificence of love; Lennon singing about love makes me think about Yoko Ono.  No wonder I prefer this version to John’s original.

20.  Creep – Scala

I had never heard of the group Scala before they were mentioned in my favorite blog, Shortcake.  She championed this compelling all-female choral arrangement of Radiohead’s first single4 as “hauntingly beautiful and makes me want to kill myself all in one. Coldplay wishes it could make me feel this way.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself!  I checked out some of Scala’s other cover songs, but none of them really struck a chord quite like this track.  I had intended for quite a while on using this track as the closing song for the album until I stumbled upon…

21.  Why Try To Change Me Now – Fiona Apple

I heard this track for the first time recently and I immediately knew it would close out this disc.  Damn if this isn’t the prettiest song ever.  This track is remarkable for several reasons.  Actually, it’s remarkable that it was even created.  Fiona Apple only managed to release one album THIS DECADE, back in 2005.  Extraordinary Machine was a great album, and had one of the best videos of the decade starring a little known at the time Zack Galifianakis:

Fiona didn’t release anything else up until this little beauty in early 2009.  She recorded a cover of a rather obscure song that appears on an album paying tribute to songwriter Cy Coleman. The song was originally sung by Frank Sinatra but it sounds custom made for Fiona.  It’s a nice little nod to everyone that has called her crazy for so many years.  Even though it sucks that Fiona doesn’t record much anymore, I can respect the fact that she only writes songs when she has something to write about.

This track was also recommended to me by my man D, which means he as the distinct honor of beginning and ending this disc.  Good job dude!  And speaking of ending, that’s it for Modern Rock in 2009.  Hope you enjoyed it, and I hope everyone has an enjoyable new year!

Ciao,

The Captain

1  Which is pretty much the exact opposite of how I feel about Ryan Adams.  He seemed pretty cool in his Whiskeytown days, but since then has slowly become so narcissistic that it’s hard to stomach.  And worse, he just married Mandy Moore.

2  It’s impossible to take the original version of Ms. Jackson serious when Big Boi includes lyrics such as “You and this girl ain’t speakin’ no more ‘cuz my dick all in her mouth.”

3  I found out after recently that a distant cousin of mine actually wrote the score for the film and hand-picked the songs for the soundtrack.  I have extremely conflicting feelings about this that I will cover in a separate blog sometime in the near future.

4  For those keeping track, Radiohead was the only band covered twice on this disc.  Strangely enough, both songs were done by covers-only bands.

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