Posts Tagged ‘guest blogger scott’

h1

Coverage: Amanda Palmer, “Billie Jean”

July 6, 2009

Guest blogger Scott writes:

It’s always a little weird when famous people die. The level of emotional outpouring from people who have attached a piece of themselves to this person they’ve never met is somewhat foreign to me. But it’s different when I can see the specific ways in which someone benefited from the celebrity’s existence. Just as the death of a president hits me, even when I didn’t follow their politics or particularly like them, musicians have responded to the death of Michael Jackson in a way that I can understand, if not relate to. I’ve heard a lot of stirring tribute songs (in the truest sense of the term) over the past few days, including several from singers who had performed with Jackson, but the one I’ve liked best is this Amanda Palmer cover of Billie Jean, as much for the monologue that precedes it as for the song itself. It’s the raw form of what music means to people who music means something to.

[Scott also mentioned that he was really hoping for an Amanda Palmer cover of “Thriller,” with Neil Gaiman doing the Vincent Price monologue, and I’ll happily second that. And he also warns that there is a girl ‘hooting enthusiastically’ in the MP3; you may wish to watch the video, above, instead.]

MP3: Amanda Palmer – Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover)

h1

Coverage: Commissions at Cover Me

March 23, 2009

yoshimiroboto

Guest blogger Scott writes:

Cover Me, a cover song blog, has begun commissioning covers from independent artists. In blogger Ray’s words:

Here’s the gist. Every month we will present to you an artist, one who’s probably showed up on the blog before, one whom I feel has a lot to offer cover-wise. Said artist has signed on to produce a special, never-before-heard cover for Cover Me. A commissioned work minus the money. What song will be covered? Well that depends on the artist, but as often as possible, the song choice is up to you!

The first commission has been completed and posted, a cover of Devo’s “Beautiful World.” I’m not a huge fan of the original, but this definitely an interesting sound. James Eric also submitted a cover of the third place finisher, MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” which is more to my taste.

The second commission is to be performed by John Anealio. When the poll closed, the final tally of votes on the second commission showed a tie between The Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.” So clearly, whatever Anealio chooses, we win. But here’s hoping he goes with the commenter who suggested “Yoshimi Battles Mr. Roboto.”

MP3: James Eric – Time to Pretend (MGMT cover)

h1

Coverage: Nightmare Revisited

February 6, 2009


[extended trailer for Coraline on YouTube; if you can’t watch it, click here]

Guest blogger Scott writes:

Coraline opens today and, while debcha might be most excited about the production of a favored author’s work, I have multiple reasons to be excited. I like gothic spooky, but can’t stomach horror (at least until a Hollywood hack proposes the cheap vampire crossover Underworld vs. Twilight — I may actually already be in line for that movie), and Hollywood doesn’t usually make much of a distinction. I have a lifelong love of children’s entertainment that doesn’t take a dim view of children. And this movie will fill out my double feature of Animated Films Featuring the Voice Talent of Humorous Non-Fiction Authors Who I’m Secretly Stalking.

But mostly, I’m excited for another off-kilter, animated film by Henry Selick. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my ten favorite movies of all time, and while it’s thought of as a Tim Burton movie, Selick was able to give the same eerie look and feel to James and the Giant Peach. That’s not to take away from what Burton brought to Nightmare, but just to point out that Selick, given good source material, can perform the same artistry again. “But wait,” I hear you say, “Isn’t this a music blog? What are you rambling on about?” I’m getting there.

debcha has previously written about the changing business model of music, one piece of which is the increasing placement of songs in other media. For television, this has resulted in the “Music From” album. But in their ever-increasing effort to squeeze out every last drop of marketability from a product, we’re now starting to see things like this—albums of covers of music from TV shows or movies. Now, unlike those Amazon commenters, I don’t think this is inherently bad, but then, I like covers. And although the initial album is a different beast entirely, it’s that same premise that brings us to Nightmare Revisited.

The album came out in September and, though it caught my interest, I hadn’t gotten around to listening to it until just a couple of weeks ago. Now, if you read blogs devoted to cover music, they’ll pretty universally claim that what makes a cover worthwhile is the artist taking the material and making it their own in an interesting way. This album definitely does that. But it took a bit more thinking, first about the songs themselves and then about the theory of what makes a good cover, to figure out why the album was disappointing (not bad, just disappointing). The instrumentals were mostly enjoyable, and the instrumentation for the songs generally sounded better than the song turned out to be.

In making the covers their own, what was missing was the sense that the performers understood what made the songs good in the first place. In particular, I think the difference is that the singers (I’ve never before used that term to describe Korn, and God willing, I never will again) are just that—singers—rather than actors. They use their voices to convey a story, but not to convey a character. So in the original “What’s This?”, Danny Elfman both tells the story of Jack Skellington’s arrival in Christmastown and gets across the somewhat-crazed excitement he feels at being there. Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf, despite making some really interesting changes to the structure of the song and instrumentals, sounds wrong to me largely because she isn’t doing that kind of emoting. And that’s not to pick on her, as most of the songs have a similar problem—interesting and promising instrumentation choices marred by voice work that doesn’t make adequate sense of the words being sung.

MP3: Danny Elfman – What’s This?
MP3: Flyleaf – What’s This?

h1

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime

December 25, 2008

chiron-beta-prime[Image credit : Len from the Jawbone Radio Show]

As you may have gathered from an earlier post, I’m not so much about holiday music (hey, it’s a secular democracy, deal with it). So it’s perhaps unsurprising that “Chiron Beta Prime” by Jonathan Coulton is one of the very few Christmas songs that I like. This live version features zed equals zee’s very own guest blogger Scott in a cameo as the robot voice.

MP3: Jonathon Coulton (and Scott) – Chiron Beta Prime (live)

h1

Coverage: “Hallelujah” on the UK charts

December 22, 2008

leonardcohen

Last week guest blogger Scott posted about the Jeff Buckley cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” describing it as ‘insipid’ compared to the original.

Well, as he pointed out, apparently all of the UK is conspiring against him.

This week, the number one song on the British charts is a cover of “Hallelujah” by Alexandra Burke, the winner of the British analog of American IdolX-Factor. The number two song? Quoth the Guardian: “In second place…was the late Buckley’s interpretation of the song, which was propelled…by an internet campaign masterminded by music fans who feared that Burke would desecrate Cohen’s 1984 anthem.”

Sorry, Scott. The fact that Cohen’s own version also charted, at #36, makes me feel slightly better.

You can see the video of the Burke version here. Or do something better for your soul and download the original from Amazon here.

EDIT: In the comments, Mike Epstein recommended the John Cale version. It is indeed wonderful. Enjoy.

MP3: John Cale – Hallelujah (live)

h1

Threesome: Vampire Love Songs

November 23, 2008

stephin-merritt

Guest blogger Scott writes:

Knowing the z=z audience, I have no doubt that you all rushed out to see Twilight opening night. Twice. And so, to tide you over until you head back mid-week for a third bite of undead Cedric Diggory, I offer a trio of vampire love songs.

[debcha notes: The above is a fine example of Scott’s famously arid sense of humor. However, if you are a Twilight fan who somehow ended up here, I suggest that you go read this article. Now.]

Stephin Merritt’s “I Have The Moon” is, like most of his work, an exceedingly well-written and composed song. But, as with Tom Waits and Nick Cave, sometimes his…unique vocal sound works for him and sometimes against him. I find that “I Have The Moon” falls into the ‘against’ category. But Brit-pop band Lush steps in to tighten a few of the screws and make the spectral quality of the original yet more ethereal. As an aside, Lush is credited with being one of the first bands in the “shoegazing” genre, and I can’t recommend heartily enough that you check out the striking graph toward the bottom of the linked page. (I can only hope that no one has changed it between my writing and your reading this.)

AA Bondy offers a similar story with “Oh The Vampyre.” But instead of Lush’s reinterpretation of Merritt’s moody indie rock, Bondy edges his already folkier style in the direction of blues. I’m in favor of adding harmonica to anything, but it still surprised me how effectively it ramps up the lament quotient on lyrics that would seem more at home with strings and maybe an oboe.

I’ll come clean—those were the only two songs I had in mind in putting this together. I went looking for a third and pulled up some perfectly mediocre options, like Annie Lennox’s “Love Song For A Vampire” or The Deadbeats’  “Vampire Love” (which is chronically misattributed to The Misfits). Fortunately, my one spark of inspiration—that some clever-clever singer/songwriter must have stumbled upon the song title “Bloodlust”—was well-rewarded. Admittedly, Lauren Shera is undeniably folk minus the ‘rock’ modifier I’d apply to AA Bondy, so this isn’t exactly typical fare for z=z. Also, “Blood Lust” isn’t quite a vampire love song; it’s more of a love song that is vampire-adjacent. Sorry. I like it anyway.

[debcha adds: The photo is of Stephin Merritt, mostly because I couldn’t stomach doing an image search with the keywords ‘vampire’ and ‘love.’]

MP3: Lush – I Have the Moon

MP3: AA Bondy – Oh The Vampyre

MP3: Lauren Shera – Bloodlust

h1

Coverage: “Video Killed the Radio Star”

November 5, 2008

Following up on the previous post, guest blogger Scott adds:

As any trivia geek knows, MTV’s first aired video was Video Killed the Radio Star, by The Buggles.

and he sent along three covers for your enjoyment.

MP3: Erasure – Video Killed the Radio Star

MP3: Ben Folds – Video Killed the Radio Star

MP3: The Wrong Trousers – Video Killed the Radio Star