Death Grips

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights of 2016

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

YG – Still Brazy

This would be a memorable album even if it didn’t include the future national anthem of the United States, “FDT.”

Wilco – Schmilco

A delicate album that seems tossed-off now, but future Wilco fans will enjoy as a secret gem.

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

The token country album, but its status as one that even indie kids would enjoy is earned, even beyond the touching cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.”

PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

Forgotten too soon (or worse, seen as a disappointment), this was a strong album from one of rock’s most consistent artists.

Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow

It didn’t measure up to their debut, but there’s still gold in their shoegaze-meets-hard rock sound.

The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect

Not quite as strong as their debut, but it was a treat to see Alex Turner’s side-project return once again

Gojira – Magma

I saw these guys open up for Mastodon, and instantly became a fan.

DIIV – Is The Is Are

They pretty much play only one song, but it’s a good one.

Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Just when it seemed like the creative well was running dry, Death Grips find new nuance in their abrasive sound.

David Bowie – Blackstar

Goddamn, who knew he had this in his backpocket the entire time?  Bowie was still capable of musical surprises, like this futuro-jazz album, up until the end.

Dame D.O.L.L.A. – The Letter O

Damian Lillard is easily the best rapper in NBA history (and in all of professional sports), but really his talent is better than everything that sentence implies.

Clipping. – Splendor and Misery

Daveed Diggs got mass recognition for his role in “Hamilton,” but a lot of fans would prefer he stick to his day job.  A great sci-fi hip-hop concept album.

Bleached – Welcome the Worms

One of the strongest garage rock albums during the current wave of the genre.

Also Worthy of Praise

Yuck – Stranger Things, Band of Horses – Why Are You OK, Wire – Nocturnal Koreans, Banks & Steelz – Anything But Words, Joy Formidable – Hitch

All Albums That Were Considered

In the interests of full disclosure, here are all the other albums that we listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just could not crack the previous lists.

The Men – Devil Music, Kanye West – The Life of Pablo, Beyonce – Lemonade, Frank Ocean – Blonde, Red Fang – Only Ghosts, Teenage Fanclub – Here, Anderson .Paak – Malibu, Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, Tim Hecker – Love Streams, Adrian Younge – Something About April II, A Giant Dog – Pile, Walter Martin – Arts & Leisure, Andrew Bird – Are You Serious, Bloc Party – Hymns, Holy Fuck – Congrats, Pixies – Head Carrier, Yung – A Youthful Dream, Dandy Warhols – Distortland, Pinegrove – Cardinal, of Montreal – Innocence Reaches, Savages – Adore Life, Hot Hot Heat – Hot Hot Heat, DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall, Deerhoof – The Magic, Woods – City Sun Eater in the River of Light, Tindersticks – The Waiting Room, White Lung – Paradise, Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

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Over the Weekend (Mar. 30 Edition)

News, videos, and other fun stuff for your possible recovery from Spring Break…

Built To Spill is gearing up for the release of their long-awaited eighth album, Untethered Moon, and they recently posted the video for its first single, “Living Zoo”.  Be sure to read the Noisey interview with Doug Martsch that accompanies it for an insight into what the band has been up to in the past few years and how the current lineup was formed.

Mini Mansions is a new project featuring Michael Shuman, the current bassist from Queens of the Stone Age, and they just released a new video featuring Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys.  Pitchfork has the video and some more background on the shoot, though as the link indicates, it is probably NSFW due to reasons of nudity.  As for the music, the song has the same Gothic vibe that can be found in QOTSA’s groovier work, and is pretty catchy as well.

Death Grips is releasing jenny death, the second half of The Powers That B tomorrow, and it is certainly a different animal from the first half that was shared last year.  Check out the GoPro-type video for the bone-rattling “I Break Mirrors With My Face in the United States”, featuring footage from Zach’s drumstick and MC Ride’s mic.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead shared the video for “Lie Without A Liar” from their recent album IX, depicting a fantastical suburban child warrior.  Or something.

Ad-Rock, subject of a recent GQ profile that we linked to on Friday, stopped by The Tonight Show to discuss his recent movie role as well as his poor appearance.

Elsewhere on the late night circuit, Modest Mouse became the first band to perform on the newest incarnation of The Late Late Show, now hosted by James Corden, where they performed “Be Brave” from Strangers to Ourselves.

Stereogum has a helpful guide to getting all your “beach” bands straight, which is probably worthy of consultation as the weather gets nicer.  I wonder if they had similar guides when “Deer” and “Wolf” bands were popular.

And finally, enjoy the contributions of this musical dog to some well-known rock songs.  It’s the perfect thing to help kickstart your week.

Over the Weekend (Mar. 16 Edition)

Some fun news and videos as you prepare/recover from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations…

The biggest news of the weekend is the sudden release of Kendrick Lamar’s new album, To Pimp A Butterfly.  The weekend began with the release of another track, “King Kunta”, before the whole album was released a week early last night on iTunes.  Physical copies are available for purchase through Amazon as of now, with record stores certain to get in on the action as quickly as possible.

Another group gearing up for an upcoming release is Death Grips, who after a couple of false starts are finally set to release the double-disc The Powers That B.  After practically taunting their fans with the free instrumental release Fashion Week (whose tracklist asked the question when the second disc of their final album would be released by spelling out “Jenny Death When”, the band has a physical release date for the album of March 31.  To help tide fans over, the band released the track “On GP” first with one video with the band, and then released a second “official” video.  Enjoy the strangely depressing single, with the help of some magic tricks, below.

If it weren’t for Kendrick moving everything up a week, most of the buzz would certainly be devoted to Modest Mouse’s first full-length album in nearly eight years finally seeing the light of day this week.  To prepare yourself for tomorrow’s release of Strangers to Ourselves, you can read an unconventional 10 song overview of the band from Consequence of Sound as well as reading the account of The Oregonian’s David Greenwald of what the band has been doing in the downtime since the release of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.  At the very least, we can all take comfort in Isaac Brock’s statement that the next album will not take nearly as long to reach the band’s fans.

As our readers are well aware, we here at Rust Is Just Right are big fans of Sharon Van Etten, so we were delighted to see this footage from New Zealand of a newscaster who was able to witness and was moved to tears by a surprise performance from the singer.

Over the Weekend (July 7 Edition)

Hope everyone had a fun holiday weekend, with all fingers and toes still intact.  On to the news and videos:

Big news last week as Death Grips broke up, just in time for me to miss seeing them on their tour with Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails.  To tell you the truth, I wasn’t fully expecting the group to show up, considering their history, but it’s a bummer nonetheless.  The “break-up” makes sense, in either their own narrative of being an art project or an outsider’s perspective of being a pure troll-job.  At least we can say that a lot of rich people gave them money, and they repaid that debt by giving the public a lot of cool music for free.

Some might say that the biggest news was the leak that Pink Floyd is releasing a new album, but this is only significant for people who never listened to The Division Bell and don’t care that Roger Waters is not involved in the new project.  Still, if you’re looking for an excuse to turn out the lights and fire up Wish You Were Here, might as well make it this one.

Or you could listen to “Wish I Was Here”, a collaboration between Cat Power and Coldplay for the new Zach Braff film of the same name.  I don’t remember much of the movie “Garden State”, but if it got more people to listen to The Shins, I’m perfectly fine with its existence.  I still get chills listening to “New Slang”.

Continuing with another (un)expected collaboration, Rolling Stone has the latest video to result from the Miley Cyrus/Flaming Lips partnership, this time with special guest Moby.  Yes, drugs were involved.

Jack White is continuing to clear out his vault, and announced the release of a single from his band The Dead Weather, along with a live album from The White Stripes.  Pitchfork has the details if you’re interested.

If you’re in the mood for some reading, you could do better than read the AV Club’s Hatesong feature, which continues to be a waste of time for most everybody involved.  This past week saw a comedian complain about Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” because…he was in 8th grade and didn’t like his classmates that liked the song.  AV Club, you’re better than this.

If you need something to lift up your spirits after that, no worries: we finally have a new song from Death From Above 1979.  The track “Trainwreck 1979” made its debut on Zane Lowe’s program on BBC Radio 1, and you can catch it at about the 1 hour and 54 minute mark.  Be sure to set your cursor back a couple of minutes before that, as Zane explains the significance of You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine to many music fans, even if it never sold all that much.  It reminds me of “Sexy Results”, but a quicker and dirtier version of it.  In other words, it’s grimy, but still has a good dance beat.

[Edited to add:] The band has uploaded a lyric video for “Trainwreck 1979” and have also included information to pre-order the new album The Physical World on their Facebook page.

Still bored?  Check out some Best Albums So Far lists, courtesy of Relix and Stephen Thomas Erlewine.  Several the albums we’ve touted appear on both lists, so good news for us, but they should also provide the opportunity to discover other new artists as well.

And last but not least, Spoon continues to release new tracks from its upcoming release, They Want My Soul.  The band released “Do You”, plus Brit stopped by the BBC Radio 6 studio to do a quick acoustic show and interview.

Over the Weekend (June 9 Edition)

Let’s kick off the week with some fun videos and some new music, shall we?

Probably the best thing that I saw this weekend (aside from the news that Bill Watterson made a surprise return to the comics page) was this video of Sir Mix-a-Lot performing his classic hit “Baby Got Back” with the Seattle Symphony.  The last time we saw this kind of synergy between the classical music and hip-hop worlds was back at the ’96 Hullabalooza Festival, when the London Symphony Orchestra performed “Insane in the Brain” with Cypress Hill.

It’s definitely worth checking out the Oral History of the song as well.

That was not the only salacious thing to happen this weekend–it appears that Neil Young’s Twitter account was hacked, and followers ended up receiving a bunch of porn suggestions.  Apparently, all is well now, so you’ll need to check in with another classic rock legend for your porn fix (as a commenter pointed out, David Crosby would probably be a great bet).

The biggest news from this morning (or late last night, if you were up) was the surprise release of the first half of the new double-LP from Death Grips, the powers that b (though they do have a penchant for this sort of thing).  It’s available for free from their Facebook, and after a couple of listens this afternoon, I can say it’s actually a less-rambunctious release than you might expect (I do love that the automatic genre tag that appears when you load into iTunes is “Pop”, though).  And you’ll see a lot of mention that Björk does guest vocals on each track, though her appearance shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

A couple of links to check out from NPR–first, there’s Spoon performing the brand new track “Rent I Pay” live in New York; and speaking of New York, they also have the early stream of Familiars from NYC’s The Antlers.  In the email sent to fans about the stream, The Antlers mentioned that there will be limited edition white label copies of the LP available at some of the band’s favorite independent record stores.

Pitchfork has Father John Misty performing a cover of recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Cat Stevens’s “Trouble”, released as part of the soundtrack to a documentary on Hal Ashby.  The site also has news that Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips are releasing an album as “Electric Würms”, with Steven assuming more traditional front-man duties and Wayne backing on bass.

And finally, because we’re always fans of what our favorite Portland heavy metal band is up to, check out Red Fang discussing their influences in this interview with Loudwire.  A few of their choices may surprise you.

Catching Up On The Week (May 2nd Edition)

We’ve got some nice, light articles for you this weekend, mirroring the gorgeous weather we’ve been experiencing this week (at least here in the Pacific Northwest).

Last week we had an article that provided some interesting trivia about Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, and this week we have an article about its successor band, New Order.  The AVClub has an article about the single “Ceremony”, which bridged the two bands.  Kevin McFarland makes a convincing case for how the song provided an effective transition between the two eras.

The Wild Magazine has an extended interview with M.I.A. that’s worth checking out.  I didn’t get a chance to post anything about Matangi in the 2013 roundup, but I enjoyed the album and felt that it was a significant step up from its predecessor, MAYA.  But now I have a great excuse to post the video for “Bad Girls”, because it’s pretty damn cool.

Steven Hyden listened to the new Damon Albarn solo album, and while he hasn’t completely accounted for his sin of choosing Oasis over Blur in the mid-90’s Britpop battles, he does use the occasion to ponder why there aren’t any big band beefs any more.  Let’s just hope that this eventually leads to a listen of Parklife at some point.

The Flaming Lips recently fired long-time drummer Kliph Scurlock from the band, and Pitchfork has a message from Kliph that explains the situation and dynamic in the band.

And finally, great news for those of us in the Northwest, as the Nine Inch Nails/Soundgarden/Death Grips touring juggernaut announced additional dates in Sacramento, Portland (actually Clark County in Washington), and Seattle.  It feels good to not dread making a trip 800 miles down I-5.

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2013

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

EELS – Wonderful, Glorious.  It had begun to seem as if Eels were stuck in a rut, with a trio of dour albums (Hombre LoboEnd TimesTomorrow Morning) that were difficult for even a superfan like me to listen to on an regular basis.  But E switched up the formula a bit and even sounds “happy” with this album.  And the live show for the tour for this album was quite great as well, a kind of variety-show getup with everyone dressed in monochrome tracksuits and sporting the same facial hair.

No Age – An Object.  No Age have always been a band that’s difficult to appreciate on first listen, but even fans of their abrasive sound (whether it be riotous punk rock or feedback-drenched ambient) weren’t sure how to respond to An Object.  In many ways it was built more like an art project than just “the next album from No Age”, and surprisingly it often worked.

Phosphorescent – Muchacho. This country-tinged indie folk album is a real treat to listen to on a relaxing, sunny day, but would still be worth it if it only included the reworking of “Wicked Game” that we didn’t know we needed in 2013 with “The Quotidian Beasts”.

Red Fang – Whales and Leeches.  I always love hearing my favorite hometown metal band, so it was surprising that they didn’t manage to make it onto the official list.  Such is the mysterious ways of The Process.  It seems that touring with Mastodon rubbed off on them a bit, as one could definitely hear their influence on the album (my initial comparison was “Mastodon on amphetamines”, and I think that it still fits).  And good news, Red Fang is still making great music videos.

David Bowie – The Next Day.  Can we just pause a minute and recognize how awesome it is that it’s 2014 and David Bowie can just surprise the world with a damn good album 45 years into his career?  The album isn’t perfect, but there are some songs that would fit comfortably aside the old classics on a Greatest Hits.

Los Campesinos! – No Blues.  I keep telling everyone to go to one of their shows because it’ll probably be the most fun you’ll have all year, and I’ll continue to do so.  No Blues sees the band continuing with the mature sound from Hello, Sadness but with a slightly more positive outlook.

Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady.  It’s hard to keep track of the narrative about robots and revolution, but the music is fantastic.  Seeing her perform with OutKast was one of the highlights of Coachella.

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual.  I hadn’t understood the love that some people had for this band until I heard this album.  It’s bizarre, but I like it.

Death Grips – Government Plates.  Who knew we hadn’t heard the last from Death Grips?  My favorite part is that when I downloaded the album, it was automatically tagged as “Rock & Roll”.  If you are unfamiliar with their music, well…

Also Worthy of Praise

Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana; Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt; Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die; Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On; Tim Hecker – Virgins; Neko Case –  The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You; Washed Out – Paracosm.

All Albums That Were Considered

Here’s a list of the albums that I listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just couldn’t crack the previous lists.  And I’m not going to do something like say the new albums from The Strokes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were complete garbage, because that wouldn’t be nice.

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest; Daft Punk – Random Access Memories; Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze; The Strokes – Comedown Machine; Surfer Blood – Pythons; Atoms for Peace – Amok; Ducktails – The Flower Lane; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast; British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy; The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanney Valley; M.I.A. – Matangi; Palms – Palms; Phoenix – Bankrupt!; Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts; Deerhunter – Monomania; Jake Bugg – Shangri-La; Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God; MGMT – MGMT; Mudhoney – Vanishing Point; Yo la Tengo – Fade; Beach Fossils – Clash the Truth; Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream; Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here; The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual; Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving; Darkside – Psychic; The Dear Hunter – Migrant; Dr. Dog – B-Room; How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion; Kavinsky – OutRun; Major Lazer – Free the Universe; Of Montreal – Lousy With Sylvianbriar; Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven; Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love; Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious; Tyler, the Creator – Wolf; Typhoon – White Lighter; Baths – Obsidian.

Over the Weekend (Mar. 17 Edition)

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, with interesting stories and cool videos to start off your week, though we should note that not one of these items is St. Patrick’s Day-related.  We hope it’s an enjoyable holiday regardless of this fact.

The biggest news of the weekend was the announcement of a joint Soundgarden/Nine Inch Nails tour, a possibility that we mentioned previously.  That’s a fantastic double bill by itself, but the addition of Death Grips as the opener should definitely be an extra incentive to catch the show if it comes near you; unfortunately, with no Oregon show, I may have to make arrangements to head down the coast and see the spectacle somewhere in California.  I’m using the Pitchfork link just so I can point out that Pitchfork’s weekend writers apparently cannot spell “amphitheater” correctly.

Speaking of Soundgarden, many people are aware that drummer Matt Cameron had been splitting time between his old band and Pearl Jam.  With Pearl Jam still touring, Soundgarden needed a replacement and found…Matt Chamberlain, one-time drummer for none other than Pearl Jam.  Chamberlain’s stint with the band was very brief, basically just around the time the “Alive” video was shot, before he moved on to working with the Saturday Night Live band.  As Antiquiet reports, Matt is filling in on the early 2014 dates, and it is unknown who will be behind the kit for the tour with Nine Inch Nails.

Franz Ferdinand recently released the music video for their latest single from Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, for their song “Fresh Strawberries”.  The album didn’t seem to make much of a dent here in the States, which is a shame because it was one of my favorites of 2013.  Then again, I have had a greater appreciation for their post-debut work than most people.  Also, don’t miss the video for the b-side, “Erdbeer Mund”.  It’s German, and it’s bizarre–a bit redundant, I know.

Another band that had a huge debut in the early part of the last decade, Interpol, is putting together material for a new album to be released soon.  Pitchfork has video of a couple of the new songs that debuted last night here, though don’t expect the highest possibly quality that bootleg video can offer.  It’s good to hear Sam rip it on the drums again, as he does on the track “Anywhere”.

A couple of other short articles worth checking out are a piece questioning the purpose of SXSW and an interview with bassist Billy Cox, who worked with Jimi Hendrix both in the Experience and with Band of Gypsys.  The SXSW article raises a lot of interesting questions regarding the conundrums facing the festival as it continues to expand, and how it conflicts with their initial mission.  Left unsaid is whether or not is the significance of the festival in the digital age we live in, where it’s easier than ever to hear new music or even hear about new bands.  I’m not sure if there are any bands that actually break through at SXSW without initial buzz to begin with or a significant push after the fest.  As for the interview, it is always worth reading what a great musician has to say, especially one that spent so much time with Hendrix.

For your ridiculous news item of the day, I present to you the NFL.  Yes, the NFL is apparently still angry at M.I.A. for her “gesture” at the Super Bowl.  Not only that, Deadspin says they’re making a ridiculous claim for restitution, to the tune of $15.1 million.  There’s no way in hell the NFL could ever prove such losses, and to ask M.I.A. to make that kind of payment is insane.  There’s your quality legal analysis of the day.

Finally, let’s all get to work on fulfilling our nation’s greatest need: more mind-blowing guitar solos.   That should keep us busy through the week.

Covered: “Pink Moon”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before. 

For this edition, since we’re in the middle of “Beck Week” here at RIJR, we’re going to be using him as a pivot in this feature.  In other words, we’ll be examining both a cover done by Beck as well as another artist covering one of Beck’s songs.

Initially, I was going to analyze Beck’s cover of Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”.  I first heard this cover at a live show on the Modern Guilt tour, back when I was in New York.  I remember how energized Beck was for that particular song, which was a marked contrast to his demeanor for most of the rest of his set (I also want to pin some of the blame on the audience, who were pretty indifferent to much of the set, even when it dipped into Odelay-era rarities like “Minus”).  I wasn’t sure how much the lackluster performance could be blamed on doing a multi-night stand, or on the venue (the United Palace Theater is a pretty stunning venue, but while it’s perfect for acts like Sigur Ros, it’s not as conducive to a full-on rock show), or just general malaise from doing yet another tour.  In subsequent interviews, I learned that Beck had severe back pain during that era, which makes me feel a bit bad for being generally disappointed with the show.

To keep a long story from going any longer, I decided to go with a different cover, because while I enjoy Beck’s version, I feel that it’s a little too close to the original to be worth further analysis.  It’s pretty much how you would imagine a Beck cover of a Dylan song would go–it’s got the ragged feel of the original, slightly more uptempo, with a fuzzier bass and electro-country leads.  In other words, it’s not exactly like Death Grips taking a lyric from the song and going in a completely different direction.  Instead I’m going to look at a cover that I only learned existed recently, that of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”.

Like many of my generation, I am not ashamed to admit that I first heard the song in a Volkswagen ad.  It’s not as if I had a huge knowledge of the English folk scene from the 70’s back in high school, so please pardon my ignorance.  But I was touched by just the pure beauty of the song, from the soft vocals, the churning acoustic guitar, and that delicate little piano melody that somehow in one line ties the whole thing together.  The album would soon hold a dear place in my heart, most notably as a soundtrack to my first couple of semesters of college.

Beck does a great job of capturing the same atmosphere and emotional feelings of the original, and is definitely faithful in that regard.  It’s interesting how it is distinctly Beck’s voice, but he is still able to evoke the memory of Nick Drake’s vocals.  The difference between the two comes from the guitar parts, which leads to a focus on different rhythms in each version.  Most people don’t realize the technical complexity of Nick Drake’s guitar playing; it is an example of how sometimes the most difficult things to do sometimes appear easy to the untrained eye.  He used a lot of alternate tunings that allowed him to play a lot of complex rhythmic and lead parts at the same time, often interacting with each other in the same measure.  That’s why there’s a consistent drive to the rhythm in the original.  Beck (wisely) chooses to not imitate the complexity of those guitar lines, and instead emphasizes certain beats with strummed chords, giving the song a more laid-back feel, and in turn making it somehow even more melancholy.  This even extends to the famous piano melody, which with this extra bit of drag conveys an even greater sense of longing.

Now we have the slightly more difficult task of looking at those who have attempted to cover Beck.  Surprisingly, there are not that many from which to choose.  On the one hand, Beck has composed hundreds of songs, dabbled in dozens of genres, and been around for over two decades now, so you’d think there would be a wide variety of artists that would attempt to cover his work.  But even through all those various detours and musical experiments, there is the singular persona of Beck that shines through, and he leaves a specific stamp on each song that he does.  But it makes sense that it’s from his album Sea Change, in many ways his most straight-forward singer/songwriter record, that we see at least an attempt by others to try out.

“The Golden Age” kicks off the record, and in many ways after those opening lines (“Put your hands on the wheel/Let the Golden Age begin”), it’s all downhill from there, at least emotionally speaking.  I’ll never forget that when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series back in 2004 that the network broadcasting their victory decided that this was an appropriate song to mark the occasion, making it one of the best examples of an executive green-lighting a song without ever hearing the whole thing.  Who doesn’t love celebrating with a song whose chorus goes “These days I barely get by/I don’t even try”?

It’s hard to even call this a cover, since the Flaming Lips toured with Beck shortly after Sea Change came out.  So you know they at least do a faithful job of covering the music.  I do appreciate the rumbling low-end that the Lips manage here, but I miss the slide guitar parts from the original, which added a great counterpoint to the melody.  Wayne Coyne adds a bit more fragility to his vocals, but he doesn’t get the same longing feel that Beck conveys in his part.  What I find most interesting though is the fact that they omit the second verse, which is actually the one that I prefer.  This may be due to the live nature of the performance for a radio show, but it’s an interesting comment if it’s intentional.

Another cover of a Beck song that I think is worth sharing is The Cinematics performing “Sunday Sun”, also from Sea Change.  Already one of the more uplifting songs on the album, The Cinematics turn it into a genuinely happy song.  It’s not just in the attitude and tempo, but through each part, from the drums (the sixteenth-note hi-hat rhythms help drive the song), to the guitar tones, to the vocals themselves which are simply cheerier.  Beck’s original is much more dramatic, and does a great job in building and building over the course of the song.  But even when the melody soars, Beck maintains a certain tension with his vocals over the course of the song, which makes the collapse at the end fit perfectly.