It’s Our Anniversary — We Put a Ring on It!

Oh ba-jeezus, I’ve been quite the neglectful husband lately. So let me start off with a bouquet of roses and an apology. First of all, I realize I’ve been leaving you hanging for weeks now without an update. It might have been all the nights out with the guys, well, we just went to some bars… and no I didn’t meet anyone, I just got super drunk, oh jeeze, I’m totally ruining this. Let me start over.

It’s the one-year anniversary of The Cover Story Blog! Well, actually, that was about 10 days ago. I forgot honey. I’m sorry. I mean, how could I forget such a special day, March Fourth… which is also Army Day! No, honey, I do take our relationship seriously… God I’m gonna start again. The ides of March certainly do bring destruction.

Simple as that: The Cover Story is one year and 11 days old! Reflecting on the year, we’ve received over 16,000 hits while covering over 50 artists with 63 different songs, which exceeds beyond belief what I ever thought would happen when I started this blog. Thanks to all our readers who’ve been submitting (and apologies to those who have yet to see their submissions up)!

So, what better way to celebrate than with a cover of Beyonce‘s Single Ladies, because, as you all know, I certainly love you it and will put a ring on it!

The first cover comes from koryhasasweetvest. What I really like about this song isn’t just the acoustic casting of the song, but that it has the tiniest elements of folk-rock mixed in with a bit of acoustic punk. I’m imagining an acoustic version of Dashboard’s “Screaming Infidelities” mixed with the a bit of Sufjan’s older stuff. Can you hear it? Listen here:

Now, Kory, I’m really happy for, and Imma let you finish, but cabin2j had one of the best covers of Single Ladies of all time! … is that joke too old yet?

Anyway, I really do enjoy this cover, which not only removes the song from its original hip-hop, synthetic sound, but then also recasts it into the blues. The chord progression is similar, but a bit different, which ends up adding a lot to the song. Then there’s the harmonies between guy and girl, which not only work so well together, but also in concert with the bass line of the guitar. It’s a great interpretation of the song, and it verily deserves more hits than it’s already gotten. Enjoy here:

Though the original will always be the better dance song, and the video may be more aesthetically pleasing, at least to some audiences, I can’t blame the artists above for wanting to tone it down a bit. Here’s the original in case you feel like dancing a bit: Single Ladies by Beyonce on YouTube.


Vampire Weekend — Diplomat’s Son

Oh jeeze, am I really in need of a forward on this post? Perhaps a side note, or two to be precise.

Side note one: I really need to step it up. Sorry for those who keep checking back waiting for a new post, I’ve been quite lazy. The blog’s been badly outdated… the last post is a Christmas song! Anyway, new post for y’all today, and guess what…

Side note two: For the first time ever The Cover Story is bringing you the freshest new beats! Yup, you should know by now that most covers on here are of songs that are a few years old, at best. It probably speaks to my ignorance of new music–I usually just wait for my friends to tell me what’s good, rather than going out and finding new music. The cover today isn’t of a new undiscovered band, and yes, my friend recommended this to me again, but hey, this song is merely DAYS OLD, having been released on January 12 of this year. w00t new beats! I just started listening to Vampire Weekend and they are quickly winning my heart over. So today I’ve got a cover Diplomat’s Son off their new album Contra.

I'd heard Vampire Weekend songs before, but this was the first time I had ever taken the time to listen to them seriously. I'm starting to love the whole feel of the song, from its reggae-reminiscent beat and the "cha-la"s in the background. The cover today is missing those elements, and is instead cast into a (surprise surprise) folk-ish guitar frame. Though I miss creative beat in the Vampire Weekend original, I still appreciate the simplicity of a single-artist live performance. According to the youtube page, RayRomanoFan99 plays guitar for the first time ever while playing this song–impressive, I think. Enjoy it here:

Here's Vampire Weekend performing the original live in Los Angeles on its U.S. release date.

Also, as of now you can listen to the whole album on Vampire Weekend’s website.

Traditional Music — Because I Love Christmas — O Come All Ye Faithful

So remember in the last post when I said I hated most Christmas music? That must not be construed with me hating Christmas in general. I actually LOVE Christmas. I know there were so many negative overtones to the holiday spirit in the last post, but really… I mean come on, can’t I be a traditionalist and cynic at the same time?

I grew up in the tradition of celebrating Christ–rather than Winter–on Christmas day, so you can see from whence my negative and sordid attitude comes toward camps that glorify gift-giving and merriment solely because “it’s the holidays.”

In the spirit of the real meaning of Christmas (and I mean this in the real Christian way, not the overly-done 1960s crappy animatronic Rudolph way), I present to thee a cover of my favorite Christmas song, O Come All Ye Faithful. Don’t let me get too sappy here, but I believe this song is a truly great composition that commemorates the most basic tenets of the Christian foundation. This cover does the same, but it does so in a very modern and alternative way that I think Christmas lovers–Christian or otherwise alike–will enjoy. That is, you don’t have to be Catholic or protestant to enjoy this great piece of music.

Having grown up in the church, you’d think that I’ve heard every possible version of every Christmas song ever, but this song proves us all wrong. Pomplamoose Music (which you’ve seen here before with their cover of Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel) takes some very creative steps with this version of a Christmas carol. They introduce the accordion and ukulele to a genre primarily dominated by piano, choir, and orchestra, and the entire song is complemented with a steady percussive beat. However, their alternative steps don’t stray too far from the original tradition. They include a totally a capella interlude that reminds me of the choirs I heard on the stereo on Christmas morning every year, complete with angelic harmonies. Enjoy here:

This song, according to wikipedia (yeah, that’s probably accurate) has unclear beginnings, but here’s one American icon singing this song:
Nat King Cole singing O Come All Ye Faithful” on YouTube.

Covers by Lovers SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EDITION — Vince Guaraldi Trio

I’m not saying I hate Christmas, I just hate a large majority of Christmas music.

Please don’t kill me, but I really can’t stand all the forced jolliness and cheer that everyone pretends to go along with when really they’re just stressed the crap out by having to find the perfect gift for every single person they know. My favorite Christmas songs are the ones that are actually about Christmas (you know, the birth of Christ), or, ones that just aren’t about how happy we have to be because it’s December. I particularly hate the ones that are about falling in love. It’s like, “Oh really? You mixed falling in love, the most popular topic in music, with the most popular American holiday and sold a ton of records? I can’t believe how creative you are!”

That’s why one of my favorite Christmas songs isn’t even really about Christmas per se, but it’s still a classic and iconic Christmas song. Linus and Lucy by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from the film A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), doesn’t even have any words, yet it still never fails to remind me of all the special parts about Christmas–just being happy to be with my friends and family–rather than the need to purchase gifts, worship Satan Santa, or pretend that being hit by a projectile sphere of crystalline water in blisteringly cold weather is somehow pleasant. So, I’ve got 3 covers for you today, and I hope you enjoy their various interpretations of this iconic composition.

You should have known that I can’t stay away from the guitar covers. Yes, I know, pretty much every cover here features a guitar, but I’m working on trying to span out the range of instruments featured here (but there’s not a lot to work with on youtube). That aside, the first cover comes from youtuber mtreed55 playing the guitar in his “personal studio” (which he admits is actually just his bathroom). It’s got good harmonies that work well on the guitar, and I chose this one because, as you know, I love alternate tunings. He’s got his guitar in the D A D F# B E tuning. Altogether it sounds well, especially with the resonance of the bathroom. Check it out here:

This next cover has taken a few more steps in production. Youtube user PoopPoopFart (no comment) lays multiple tracks on one another, including two guitar parts and some percussion–I believe he’s playing an egg-shaker and rubbing some bongos with a sheet of paper (correct me if I’m wrong). He does the song very well and pretty loyally, but what I really enjoy are the small liberties he takes with melody and rhythm in the second verse and the personalization in the interluding riffs. Watch and enjoy here:

The last cover, surprisingly, doesn’t feature a guitar! Youtuber snakefl plays the song on piano, as in the original, but there are more liberties taken throughout the whole song and a lot of personal flavor added in. Seeing that Vince Guaraldi was a jazz pianist, and jazz is all about individuality in the solos, I think the outcome would really satisfy him. In the comments, snakefl has been criticized for not getting the whole song down correctly. There are some places where I think he slipped up, but I think the comment author was referring to the distorted rhythm of the song. However, I think it’s more of an interpretive move rather than a lack of understanding of the original. Here’s my favorite version:

Well, for now, have a merry Christmas. Try not to get caught up in all the glamor of the holiday; instead, relax and enjoy the music! And for good measure, a shout-out to all the Jews (including Jesus): If I knew any good Hanuka songs I’d post ’em.

Here’s the original. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the video with all the Peanuts gang dancing, but still images will suffice for now:
Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi Trio.

The Dodos – Walking, Red and Purple

Somehow it’s quickly upon us: autumn, the most volatile of seasons. Yes, one might argue that spring changes just as quickly, but I prefer to romanticize autumn in this way because its changes are more dramatic; with spring comes life, and with autumn comes death. In step with the natural changes occurring outside, my tastes in music are quickly changing as well. I don’t have to be the one to tell you that I don’t keep up with the latest music. Just look at my posts; they’re mostly older songs. Even today’s covers are not that up-to-date, but at least they’re a little more recent than 5 years ago.

I just “discovered” The Dodos, though they’ve been around for quite some time. Their 2008 album Visiter (intentional misspelling with a touching story) is a big hit here at my house, so today I’ve got covers of Red and Purple and Walking. Shall we step right into them?

The first cover of Red and Purple comes from youtuber lanze. He uses a single guitar, so obviously some parts like the drum beat and bells (?) are missing, but I find it pleasant nonetheless. According to his page, he played this song by ear. It’s a nice reminder of how pleasant music can be–I envision some nice guy with his guitar, just chillin’ in the manner in which villains are stereotypically known to chill, trying to play some song he likes. Well, lanze did so and did so well. I particularly like the guitar instrumental part in the middle–you can really tell he’s having fun. It’s a nice tribute to the original. Watch here:

The next cover from simulache is a bit more elaborate. What I really enjoy about this cover is the liberties taken with the original. The Dodo’s original is based on a foundation of strings (guitar and perhaps a banjo), but simulache‘s cover relies upon the piano, playing chords not exactly present in the original. There are also multi-track voices with harmonies and a few other instrumental effects I’m unable to identify. It’s such a great cover that I’d say simulache could contend with The Dodos themselves! Check it out here:

And of course, here are the originals:
Red and Purple by The Dodos
Walking by The Dodos

Sufjan Stevens – They are Neighbors! They are Night Zombies! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! AHHHH!

Boils and ghouls, maladies and violent men, just in time for Halloween we have a really scarifying, bone-chilling, skin-tingling cover for you today. But all holiday puns aside, this cover of Sufjan StevensThey are Neighbors! They are Night Zombies… is actually pretty impressive. So, rather than me rambling on with bad jokes about the holidays, let’s get down to business so you can go get your candy.

This song is rather Halloween themed, being superficially about zombies and having an overall creepy, chilly feel to it. I love the bass line, and, like much of Sufjan’s other music, the non-synthesized strings mixed in with other instruments of modern rock. The drum has a good beat that gets stuck in my head every time I hear it. It’s one of my favorites from the album Illinois.

Unfortunately I’ve never been lucky enough to see Sufjan perform live, but I’ve heard it’s great, with all the actual instruments performing together as one… I imagine it to be a sort of magical orchestra. The video we have today, uploaded by youtuber ericsteffens55 comes close to what I imagine the concert to be like. Students from Eastman School of Music transcribed and then performed the album Illinois, which is, in my book, incredibly impressive. In one of the only covers of this song I could find on youtube (I absolutely refuse to recognize a capella), the students recreate with loyalty the song–everything, including violins, bass guitar, cellos, a choir… it’s all there. The ladies did especially well chanting… I always imagined this part done by zombie cheerleaders, but this is good too. All in all, it looks like it would have been awesome to be there. Check out the people dancing and rockin’ out! Watch and learn how it’s done:

Be sure to check out the other videos of these students performing Illinois on ericsteffens55‘s channel!

Here’s the original song set to a pretty interesting music video: Sufjan Stevens’ Neighbors/Night Zombies!

Covers by Lovers — Sigur Rós

Oh-ho ho, man I just got back from a whirlwind trip around the Pacific. You may know that I’ve spent the last year in Korea, and I recently took a vacation to Guam, stopping in Japan on the way. Needless to say the language circuits of my brain are a little fried, having switched abruptly between Korean, Japanese, and English dialect, and sometimes I’m still tempted to order coffee in Korean down at the local shop–obviously to no avail. But this has had me thinking a lot about language and what I may or may not be missing when I try to eavesdrop on that foreign-language conversation around the corner.

That’s why today’s Covers by Lovers features Icelandic ensemble Sigur Rós, a group I admire for, among other things, performing in a language other than English. This is not to say that English is a horrible language or that singing in it has somewhat invidious overtones, but I really do appreciate a band that can do so well in the English-speaking market without actually singing in English. Of course there are other foreign artists who sing in English that I really admire–Peter, Bjorn and John for one, Bjork for another–but it’s nice once in a while to experience something so closely tied to the artists’ homeland and culture–the language.

Sigur Rós’s discography shifts between Icelandic and what is commonly translated as “Hopelandic”–also known as Vonlenska, “a term used to describe the unintelligible lyrics sung by the band.” Though the non-Icelandic-speaking community often loses out on the meaning and thus full impact of the song, a little research into translations can aid in the comprehension of the tone of the song. When all else fails, there is at least one amateur artist who covers these songs in English translation, and some of these covers can be found here today.

To ease into this bilingual escapade, let’s start with one that features no language. This is a simply- but well-done cover of the instrumental part of the song Ágætis Byrjun, from the synonymous album that really helped launch them into international acclaim. It comes from youtube user Markv86, which appears to be the online alias of a member of the band “Hangover Sunday”* The cover stays pretty loyal to the original version, but as Markv86 states on the youtube page, “it’s not 100% accurate.” Oh well, I think that can be chalked up to personalization that comes with the cover territory. Check it out here:

The next song can help my fellow Americans and basically anyone not from Iceland get a little better grasp on the full effect of the music of Sigur Rós. This is a cover of Heysátan, sung in English translation by youtuber TheRoyalRey. Now I know English and Icelandic are related, but much to my chagrin, this song is not titled “Hey Satan!” in English; rather, it means “Stack of Hay,” which becomes apparent with TheRoyalRey’s translation. All in all it’s a good cover. Where the original is heavy on strings, a xylophone, and brass, TheRoyalRey recasts the song into piano and guitar parts, along with vocals. I thought it was a rather creative take on a song with non-traditional pop-music instrumentals. Enjoy it here:

The next cover is also by youtuber TheRoyalRey. It’s an English translation cover of Hoppípolla. The instrumentals again are well done–recreating Sigur Rós’s music with traditional musical instruments. This one also shows a bit of creativity on the part of the author. The video is so interesting. According to the page on youtube, it comes from an 8mm film he found in the woods. What good luck! It fosters in me a sense of resourcefulness and makes me want to create things with the discarded (or perhaps unfortunately lost) relics of another’s life. Watch it here, then go out and find something:

Our last cover today comes from youtuber Brunchman. It’s another cover of Hoppípolla, but this time sung in the original Icelandic. Though the artist appears to be a native speaker of English, it’s nice to see a tribute to an Icelandic band in Icelandic! The video is also noteworthy because it shows the process of creating the work–multi-track vocals, keyboard, and guitar. It gives one an idea of how much work can go into a hobby for the simple love of creating music. It also gives us a look at his technical skill. Brunchman apologizes because “the vocals are extremely boy-bandish” (most likely due to the amount of reverb), but I appreciate them nonetheless. The solo guitar part in the background also adds a nice touch, though it may be a bit boyband-ish as well. In any case, it’s a well-done cover that clearly took weeks to put together, and for that, I share it with you here:

Be sure to check out the originals, too!

Ágætis Byrjun video
Heysátan from the Sigur Rós movie Heima
Hoppípolla from Heima

*end note: I know I’ve said in the past that this blog would only feature amateur covers, so I was on the fence about posting the first cover by Hangover Sunday. I looked at their youtube page, which redirected me to their website and myspace page, which claims they are unsigned. Whether or not they are considered professional or amatuer, I’m going to let it slide today because I really like this cover. Judge for yourself. Also, there’s another cover of doubtful amateur status below, but I enjoyed it so I thought I’d post it anyway. Enjoy!

Gobblidigook, covered by Appledog:

Rufus Wainwright – Vibrate

Quick one today, but I’ve got to say that this Rufus Wainwright song, Vibrate, has always been one of my favorites of his. Again, I was introduced to this song when a friend put it on a mix for me some years back, and I think it’s especially ringing true these days. My phone’s on vibrate for a certain someone, you know who you are.

The cover today comes from youtuber satorihime. The video title says the singer is Leslie Winchester. What I love about this video is the singer’s angelic voice–complemented by the fact that, at certain angles, the picture frame in the background looks like a halo about her head. She’s got a full range that hits the high notes well and sometimes struggles a bit on the lower notes, but it’s not a desperate struggle. Rather, I think it adds a sense of anxiousness to the video, a feeling that goes well with the mood of the original. Another perk is the vibrato in her voice–no need to point out why this is an appropriate addition. Finally, most impressively, she succeeds at holding out the long note on the word “vibrate” at the very end of the video, a skillful feat considering it lasts about 5 measures through a tempo that is considerably slower than the Rufus Wainwright’s original. Enjoy the song here:

And be sure to check out the original: Rufus Wainwright’s Vibrate

Covers of Covers: Jackie DeShannon, Kim Carnes — Bette Davis Eyes

We’ve done a few covers of covers here, including Train Song, originally by Vashti Bunyan and covered by Feist and Ben Gibbard, then redone by Lovers of the Month Pianki and KirstenMH. What I like about covers of covers is that each one, no matter how similar they may be (or not), has its own unique and individual nuances that make it personal to the artist who performs it. Today’s post shows the progression a single song can make through four decades and three genres. The song is Bette Davis Eyes, originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1974, covered by Kim Carnes in the 1980s, and recently re-covered again by today’s artist, My Gold Mask.

The original version is very clearly dated in the 1970s. It makes me wanna go to the disco! The cover by Kim Carnes is even more clearly dated in the 80s–what with the synth and all–and the video’s a classic. The cover we have today could arguably also be dated in the 20-aughts, but we’ll leave that discussion for another 10 years or so. It is, however, obviously modern in its sound, using the electric guitar and bass with a steady beat in place of the 80s synth and the brass horns and syncopation of the 70s version. It’s reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I can’t help but feel the rhythm is something common to classic alternative bands today. It’s a great cover, and I really like the progression you can see in the song. Unfortunately, I don’t have a video today, but you can listen to the song here, linked from the Bandcamp website:

Of course, what would the post be without the originals? Enjoy ’em here:

Jackie DeShannon’s 1974 original
Kim Carnes’ 1981 cover

Regina Spektor – Us

The movie (500) Days of Summer has perhaps put this particular Regina Spektor song on the map and reignited my love for her 2004 release Soviet Kitsch. In fact, I’ve been on kind of a Regina kick lately and it’s been oddly refreshing to go back and listen to some of the older songs. Us was actually the first song that I heard that made me decide I really did like Ms. Spektor way back in high school and it’s still one of my favourites.

anaker09‘s cover is done beautifully. The violin in the background adds a nice touch and complements his amazing singing voice. This cover has a much more folksy feel than the original which definitely wins these boys points for originality.

Our second cover was done by the lovely and talented MKreidler. It took me a while to catch on that she was doing the piano accompaniment as well as the singing, which is talent all on its own (I was never able to sync the two when I tried, but I suppose I’m not exactly what you’d call coordinated). Her voice is beautifully rich and smooth and she stayed very close to the original tempo of the song which I liked a lot.

And here is the original: Regina Spektor – Us

Also, if you haven’t seen (500) Days of Summer or checked out the soundtrack, I strongly recommend both of them.