It’s been my experience that original songs are most often better than any subsequent covers following them.  I could easily list 100 covers that fall a long way short of the original.  Sometimes, however, they surprise me.  There are some very talented musicians out there who can actually improve upon an already decent or even great song.  It doesn’t seem to happen very often, but when it does they deserve recognition.  I’m going to skip the most obvious one of all, Sinéad O’Connor’s classically stunning cover of Prince’s (not so great original) “Nothing Compares 2 U,” because I just talked about her a couple of posts ago and because I feel like everyone already knows that her song is better than the original anyway.  With that said, here are three artists who I feel do the song better than the original artist:

Aimee Mann – “One” (Harry Nilsson cover)

Mann did a much better job covering this song than Three Dog Night did, in my opinion.  It became well known after it was used as the opening song in P.T. Anderson’s 1999 drama Magnolia, starring Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Cruise, among others.  Mann basically did the entire soundtrack to the film, which I also recommend.

Malcolm McLaren – “She’s Not There” (The Zombies cover)

So it’s not a word-for-word cover and also incorporates Bessie Smith singing “St. Louis Blues,” but I think it’s close enough to qualify.  This dreamier sounding version was also included in a film- Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill vol. 2,” which is where I first heard it.  Whenever I hear the original now, it just sounds repetitively peppy and doesn’t do anything for me.

Logan Lynn – “The Last High” (Dandy Warhols cover)

Not only is this one of the best music videos I’ve seen, but Logan Lynn somehow manages to improve on a song that is already good to begin with.  The original version is catchy, but Lynn’s cover captures that dreamy quality while bringing even more dimension to the song.  You don’t know whether to be happy, sad, or start dancing when you hear it, and I love songs that aren’t so easily resolved.

And now for the runner-ups!  Here is a short list of additional covers that I also think are excellent, but it was too close to say if they were better than the already-great originals or not:

Lissie – “Pursuit of Happiness” (Kid Cudi cover)

Easy Star All Stars – “Lucky” (Radiohead cover)

Pearl Jam – “Masters of War” (Bob Dylan cover)

Rage Against the Machine – “Maggie’s Farm” (Bob Dylan cover)

Fiona Apple – “Across the Universe” (Beatles cover)

Marilyn Manson – “Sweet Dream” (Eurythmics cover)

Mr. Little Jeans – “The Suburbs” (Arcade Fire cover, this one is really good!!)

 

Now tell me, what are some of your favorite covers?

I’m still feeling the list-ey vibe and thought it might be fun to compile some of my “tops” in lieu of posting more songs/videos.  So without further ado, I present you my music-related lists.

The 3 best concerts I’ve been to in recent years:

  1. Crystal Castles at First Ave (because nothing beats Alice Glass screaming, jumping and crowd surfing even with her broken leg and crutch)
  2. TV on the Radio at First Ave
  3. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros outdoors at the Cabooze

The 3 concerts I didn’t go to and really wish I did:

  1. M83 at First Ave
  2. Austra at the Triple Rock
  3. Grinderman at First Ave (I’m most upset at missing this one.  Christopher Bahn from The Onion described frontman Nick Cave as someone who has always “trafficked in a swampy, machismo-laden stew of sex and sleaze-ridden spirituality … You’re never sure whether he’s going to buy you a shot of bourbon, rob you at knifepoint, or lecture you sternly on how God is coming soon to destroy the world.”  Australian-native Cave rarely makes it to Minneapolis, and everyone I know who went to this sold-out show said it was worth every penny to see him stalk the stage “like a scarecrow televangelist or predatory stork.”

My top 10 favorite bands/musicians ever!! (In no particular order)

  1. Bob Dylan
  2. Leonard Cohen
  3. Garbage
  4. Nick Cave
  5. Pink Floyd
  6. Rage Against the Machine
  7. Crystal Castles
  8. Depeche Mode
  9. Nirvana
  10. The Doors

In a music and entertainment industry that likes to toss aside talent, especially women, as they age, here are four ferocious females who still keep it real.

At 59 years old, Sonic Youth singer Kim Gordon rocks out just as hard as she did in the eighties.  This video, which was taken in 2004 when Kim was 51, is proof.  Unfortunately, the band’s fate is uncertain after the public separation of Kim and her husband (fellow band mate) Thurston Moore in 2011.  Whatever happens though, Kim will always be one of the biggest and most badass champions of punk rock.

I’ve posted about Shirley Manson before and I’ll do it again.  She’s 45 years old and currently touring again with her band Garbage to promote their upcoming album release.  This video wasn’t even taken a month ago and is enough to convince me that this Scottish alt-rock goddess is as magnetic as ever.

PJ Harvey.  The power behind this woman!!  She is a force and I’m in love.  I couldn’t decide whether to post the above video, or this other stunning version of the song with just her and her electric guitar.

I love this woman and have been familiar with her music longer than any of the others on this list.  When I was 9 years old, her version of Prince’s “Nothing Compare 2 U” was the first song in which I wrote down all of the lyrics.  I remember the repetitive “stop-rewind-repeat-write” with my ear to the tape player while trying to make out exactly what she was singing.  Fast forward to the 2000’s and O’Connor is still putting out amazing music.  She just came out with a new full-length album this March, and the video above highlights a shift in her usual style and comes from a reggae album she released in 2005.

Here’s hoping for another decade or more with Kim, Shirley, PJ and Sinéad!!

This will either be my nerdiest or most awesome post ever.  It concerns Kermit, Ernie and the Count.  Yes, I will be sharing my favorite songs from the sketches of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.  About a month ago during one of our Pancake Picnic Monday nights, I proposed that we do a cover of this song.

We actually did do a quick rendition of it that sounded pretty good with the help of our friends Mike (singing as the count) and Kate (singing as a bat with me).  I hope our cover doesn’t get lost, even though I used to have nightmares about the count as a small child.  Kermit, on the other hand, was always a friendly, non-threatening muppet.

I think this version of “Lime in the Coconut” is better than the original.  For real.  Lastly, no sesame song list would be complete without an Ernie ode to his favorite thing in the world, his rubber duck.  Many of you who watched the show as a kid might remember his “Your the One” song, but I like this entirely different reggae muppet song better.

Sometimes I think about how fun it must be for the voice over artists on a show like Sesame Street.  I want to know what the banter was like between Jim Henson and Frank Oz in between takes of being Bert and Ernie.  I want to hear the outtakes, or just be a fly on the wall at anytime during the creative process and production of a Henson project.  RIP Jim.

I strongly dislike modern country music.  I can’t think of one modern day country song I would ever want to listen to.  You will never find Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift or Faith Hill on any of my playlists.  Classic country, one the other hand, I love to bits.  Just today I reminded myself to start listening to more Johnny Cash again when Walk the Line was playing on TV.

This was Cash’s first number one single on the country charts in 1956.  I’ve never been able to pick a favorite Cash song because it changes all the time.  The same is true for me when it comes to Patsy Cline.  When I was in high school, my friend Graham and I made a music video to this Cline hit:

Even though it was probably one of our best music videos, we’re both thankful YouTube did not exist when we were in high school.

The last one I’m going to post is also the earliest of the three and was written and recorded by Hank Williams in 1949.

Williams is considered one of the most important country music artists of all time, and I also just learned today that he died quite young at the age of 29.  His funeral was said to have been the largest event ever held in Montgomery, Alabama.

As a spinoff from my last entry and inspired by my other love of high quality TV series, I’m going to post some favorite songs that have been featured in one way or another in episodes of my favorite series of all time, The X-Files.  Two nights ago, in a fit of loneliness, boredom and insomnia, I was re-watching the episode “Terms of Endearment” when I heard this song:

Garbage!!  Still one of my favorite bands 13 years after I purchased my first Garbage CD.  I still look up to vocalist Shirley Manson as a badass redheaded role model and inspiration.  I particularly love her hair in this video.  Her and fellow bandmates will be releasing a new album later this spring.  Eeek!!  I’ll be first in line at the record store.  In fact, I’ll probably just write an entire entry devoted to Garbage when it comes out.

Back to The X-Files.  Writer/Producer/Director/Creator Chris Carter obviously has the same taste in music (and everything else) as I do.  In one episode, Scully gets kidnapped by a repeat alien abductee who blasts one of my favorite Nick Cave songs in his car while Scully is tied up in the trunk.

In an interview, Carter said he heard this song while driving home one night and fell in love with it.  It’s hard not to.  This is one song of Cave’s that I’ve found appeals to a wide range of my friends and family, including my mom.

Another one of my favorite X-Files moments comes at the end of “Release,” where Mulder is led to a ghost graveyard of children and finally gets closure on his sister’s disappearance so many years before.  Even though it’s kind of nerdy and embarrassing for me to admit, I cry every time I watch the end of this one.

I’d like to end with one more dreamlike Moby song that plays in “All Things,” a Scully-centered episode that was written and directed by Gillian Anderson.

Thank you, Chris Carter, for giving us great music on top of such a great show.

One of the main purposes of having music in movies or TV shows is to enhance the story.  When done right, it greatly intensifies and adds to the mood of a scene or sequence.  Often, certain scenes in movies are so powerful precisely because of the music that was chosen or scored for the film.  When a film is scored perfectly it makes the movie feel complete.  Sometimes the music is so beautiful on it’s own that I’m prompted to seek it out afterward just to listen to it for its own qualities.  Here are three songs that were specifically scored by talented composers for some amazing films.

Michael Mann’s 1992 historical epic The Last of the Mohicans has probably my favorite ending sequence to any movie.  Trevor Jones’ score in this final sequence makes it all the more climactic and emotionally gripping.

Moving from endings to intros:

I don’t think this classic Stanley Kubrick film could be any creepier or more psychologically powerful.  The music in this intro is a cover of Henry Purcell’s “Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary” (1694).  This intense remake fits perfectly into Kubrick’s vision of Anthony Burgess’ tale of ultraviolence.

And now for something completely different:

Composer Danny Elfman has done numerous scores for Tim Burton movies and most of you can probably hum his theme song to The Simpsons.  In Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, both Elfman and Burton give us another reason to be terrified of clowns.