New Artists, Old Songs: Soundcloud Edition
(covers of Fugazi, Metric, Carly Rae, Avett Brothers, Dire Straits & more!)
File under “when it rains, it pours”: since coming back from the dead, the Cover Lay Down mailbag has been inundated with new streaming folk and acoustic coverage, with the vast majority of the tracks just days old. Combine it with a few tracks gratefully received during our downtime, and our cup runneth over: today, we filter out the good stuff, leaving a solid selection of Soundcloud gems to tickle the ears until they gasp and give in.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Fugazi’s 1989 double-EP re-issue 13 Rooms, most especially the album’s violent ennui anthem of an opening track Waiting Room, which would become a key component of my formative years as an audiophile. But nowhere in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the song as beautifully haunted as Philly-bred, LA-based folk duo Homesick Elephant transform it. And if their cover is simultaneously more grandiose and more delicate than their usual fare, which otherwise trends towards the kind of tight staccato coed harmonies, rich and ringing guitar-and-mandolin settings, string-tinged chamber-folk arrangements, and wry-yet-whimsical storysong narratives that make our hearts beat that much faster, then it merely shows just how well Sara and Kevin know their source material – making the track all the more appropriate, really, for a tribute to the kings of the DC post-hardcore scene.
Homesick Elephant: Waiting Room (orig. Fugazi)
“Intelligent yet accessible” singer-songwriter Levi Weaver loves his fans, and his brand new covers EP Antipodes is plenty of proof: the daring indie set runs from contemporary folk to grungy-and-grandiose alt-pop, though there’s a good acoustic underpinning on every track, and though the overall set ends up quite diverse for a 5-song collection, his love for his contemporary influences shimmers throughout every beat and pick. So although it was his stunningly majestic video cover of Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism, featuring a cast of dozens in fine fettle and laughter, which hit the blogs last week, we asked to be able to share the two folkiest cuts instead, and were pleased as punch to find ourselves given exclusive rights to share ‘em. The EP is a gift for mailing list fans, and we’re sure you’ll be one once you hear its lovingly updated, joyfully transformed interpretations of hipster favorites from Dan Mangan, Damien Rice, Avett Brothers, and The Head & The Heart, so listen to the latter pair below, and then head over to his website to sign up, thus ensuring that you’ll get the full EP when it drops next week.
Levi Weaver: The Weight Of Lies (orig. Avett Brothers)
Levi Weaver: Rivers and Roads (orig. The Head & The Heart)
Yeah, Pitchfork got to this one first. But sometimes, you just have to keep passing it along, and this one is irresistible: Margaret Glaspy‘s sparse Lauryn Hill cover rings of Feist and Cat Power, with Karen Dalton’s soulfully broken little-girl vocals and a pulsing thread of Jeff Buckley-esque guitar atmospheres that scuttle along like a fragile hum; its live setting provides an echo that doubles the effect, lending a power to the performance that makes me ache to see her up close in some dark and smoky room. But the intensity is her own authentic self, and you can hear it in full force in if & when, the new digital-only EP the cover is designed to help carry – which is to say, the whole damn thing sounds like this – clear of adornment, raw and pain-born, bare to the soul’s core – and if that doesn’t make you want it bad, then perhaps it’s time to give up, and return to the world of pop.
Margaret Glaspy: Ex-Factor (orig. Lauryn Hill)
No one but the most naive and jaded of pre-teens could dare accuse Carly Rae Jepsen, the young composer and performer of last year’s earworm hit Call Me Maybe, of being too dark. But as with a surprising number of female-penned popsongs, there’s real substance under all that catchy production and the radiobeat, and to prove it, here comes half English half Norwegian Folly Rae, who despite an equivalently Teen Beat backstory – apparently, the fledgling poet-turned-songwriter started turning her poetry into songs four years ago, after an “emotional split with her then boyfriend” – manages to repackage the angsty radio hit as a dark post-folk track that teeters on the edge, using a complex swirl of deep drum heartbeats, electrofolk rhythms, and layered angst vocals to transform pop into pain.
Folly Rae: Tonight Im Getting Over You (orig. Carly Rae Jepsen)
Teaching in a bilingual district for the past five years may have helped me recover a good bit of my high-school Spanish, but I’m still somewhat stymied by the press materials and original song lyrics of LopLop, a Castellón-based folk quintet who support their contemporary melodic folkpop with the slightest hint of mellow acoustic latin strum patterns. Thankfully, over the last few weeks, Sara Ledesma, LopLop’s lead singer, has dropped some delicate uke- and guitar-driven covers in a surprisingly flawless English onto Soundcloud, proving that music is an international language, and providing entry into their other work for those who, like me, generally favor melody, harmony, presence and arrangement over lyrical narrative to begin with – all of which Sara, like her band, seem to have in spades. (Though I have to admit, The Magnetic Fields’ All My Little Words sound delightful in Spanish, especially with bells on.)
Sara Ledesma: Breathing Underwater (orig. Metric)
Sara Ledesma: Chasing Cars (orig. Snow Patrol)
Sara Ledesma: Mis Pequeñas Palabras (orig. Magnetic Fields; tran. Ledesma)
We named Bring In On Home, the debut duo release from songstress Shannon Whitworth and constant bandmate Barrett Smith, our Best Covers Album of 2012, making the more-typical frontwoman hardly “new” enough for our usual New Artists, Old Songs focus. But though we were fans of the Brevard, NC painter and farm-owner’s previous work with bluegrass-and-country band The Biscuit Burners, we hadn’t really paid attention to Whitworth’s solo work until now…which turns out to have been a serious mistake.
Color us corrected. While High Tide, which comes out this Tuesday, leans more folkpop and less true-blue Americana than both her duo work with Smith and her first two solo albums, thanks to a switch from banjo to Gibson guitar, and to the supportive influence of Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses) and producer Seth Kauffman – it says something that the Appalachian-trained Whitworth is reportedly a Merlefest favorite, though fresh off US and Canada tours opening for Chris Isaak and the Tedeschi-Trucks Band – the package, drenched in reverb and dripping with jazz crooner soul, practically embodies the continued viability and vibrancy of modern folk as a genre sprung from the older traditions yet eminently its own. Is Shannon Whitworth the new “it girl” of contemporary crossover folkpop? All signs point to yes.
Shannon Whitworth: So Far Away (orig. Dire Straits)
Last, but not least, the Soundcloud-stream release of Slowcoustic’s incredible homage to J. Tillman’s Long May You Run came to a triumphant conclusion yesterday with the release of the final tracks, thus proving the entirety of the album as “a triumph of curation and performance” as previously reported earlier this week in our own feature on the slow-leak tribute. Our previous post took on Doc Feldman, who we’re pleased to learn will be releasing a new album sometime this summer, and who has some great videos at the link above, plus more “subdued, almost heroin sentiment” from Pickering Pick and Quarter Mile Thunder; I’m also loving the tracks from Lotte Kestner (Ties That Bind) and Al James of Dolorean (Fireworks), both of whom we’ve covered here before, plus a whole host of new-to-me discoveries, from Andy Oliveri to Cash Harrison and the Terrible Decision. Head over to Slowcoustic to stream and download the entire set; for now, since we’ve already posted three of the tracks, here’s a slightly older, deliciously jangly lo-fi banjo cover from Lexington singer-songwriter Pilots & Errors, whose own take on Fireworks is a stellar contribution to a stunning tribute.
Pilots & Errors: Hickory (orig. Iron & Wine)
Looking for more streaming coverage? Check out a pair of sweet newfound YouTube tracks – a heartbreaking take on Crosby, Stills & Nash classic Helplessly Hoping from Australian duo The Falls and a sunny folkpop take on The Beatles’ She Loves You – over at the Cover Lay Down facebook page!