Monday, July 26, 2010

Cover Case File #3: "Handle With Care"

Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins (f. Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst and M. Ward)
"Handle With Care"
Rabbit Fur Coat

The need to know: Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis can be a mixed bag, both solo or in her indie rock day job. But in 2006 she stirred up a whole bunch of fanfare with her collaboration with The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat. An album of blue-eyed soul with a tinge of countrified flair, it found lovers amongst Rilo Kiley fans and beyond, and jump started The Watson Twins as an act to keep on the radar.

Why it's worthy: "Handle With Care" is just a great song, for starters. Originally recorded by the Travelling Wilburys, themselves something of an odd superroup,  covering it with a who's who of 2006 indie rock just made it all the more noteworthy. Lewis, of course, tackles most of the lead vocals on this version (the parts generally sung by George Harrison), with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard taking over for Roy Orbison (naturally) and M. Ward and Conor Oberst going for the Tom Petty/Bob Dylan/Jeff Lynne bits. It's a little bit sweeter (especially when Lewis croons, "Baby, you're adorable"), and maybe a little less cynical, but, as cover songs go, this version ain't too shabby.

Quotable lyric:  "Been stuck in airports, terrorized/ Sent to meetings, hypnotized/ Overexposed, commercialized/ Hand me with care"

Where you've heard it:  This isn't the only time Lewis and Gibbard have collaborated: She also contributed backing vocals for The Postal Service's album Give Up.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Case File #39: "Infinity Guitar"

Sleigh Bells
"Infinity Guitars"

The need to know: Sleigh Bells make dance music with a metal soul.  The combined effort of ex-Poison the Well guitarist Derek Miller and one-time girl grouper Alexis Krauss is made to be played loud and often, mimicking blown-out speakers even within its noise-pop sound. Their debut, Treats, is one of the years best reviewed albums (Don't believe me? Believe Metacritic.) and posits Sleigh Bells as one of few bands going that can claim true uniqueness. In short, they own.

Why it's worthy:  "Infinity Guitars" will punch you in the mouth, and, damnit, you'll love it. Strong from the get-go, like most of the album, it's a relentless throttling of guitars and awesomeness that still maintains a pop sensibility through all that noise. Fun and feisty, it only goes to show how much everybody else is slackin'.

Quotable lyric:  "Deaf chords/ Dead ends"

Where you've heard it: The track "Meds and Feds" off of M.I.A.'s latest disc Maya features elements of Slegh Bells title track "Treats". "Meds and Feds" was co-written by M.I.A. with Derek Miller, and Sleigh Bells were the first band signed to her boutique label, N.E.E.T.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Case File #38: "Trick For Treat"

Neon Neon
"Trick For Treat"
Stainless Style

The need to know: An album based on the life and times of John Delorean (you know, the guy behind that crazy lookin' car from Back to the Future) shouldn't work. It shouldn't really even come up for consideration. But this album's mixture of 80s worship wrapped up in modern day criticisms make it an album that's not just fun, but surprisingly relevant. And that can only be due to the fellows in charge: Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys and DJ/electronic artist Boom Bip. A one-off collaboration, it nevertheless earned the band a nomination for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize, an annual award honoring the best album from the UK.

Why it's worthy: On an album that meanders through retro dream pop, nostalgic new wave and hard hip hop, "Trick For Treat" is the track that pulls it all together. Not as biographical as "Luxury Pool", a loose take on Delorean's life story, "Trick For Treat" is nevertheless laden with white powdery references and lifestyle excesses courtesy of guest spots by singer Har Mar Superstar and rap group Spank Rock.

Quotable lyric: "Got me dreaming like a Michigan boy/ In Hollywood/ Got me doing all I can"

Where you've heard it: The video for Neon Neon's "I Told Her on Alderaan" ends with the chorus from "Trick for Treat", complete with a cameo from Har Mar Superstar.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Case File #38: "Wasted Daylight"

"Wasted Daylight"  
The Five Ghosts

The need to know: Relying on boy-girl vocals, courtesy of Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan, and an impeccable pop sensibility, Stars have made a name for themselves since their sophomore release, Set Yourself on Fire made waves back in 2004. Six years and two albums later, the band has added a danceable flourish to their delicious pop sound. Consider their Soft Revolution complete. 

Why it's worthy: "Wasted Daylight" is an escapist's dream. Amy Milan's ode to spending the day in bed, the tune is equal parts dreamy pop and danceable energy. More likely to get you going than to lull you back to bed, it's a consolation prize for the days you can't afford to snuggle up, turn off your phone and ignore the world around you.

Quotable lyric:  "Telephone rings/ But we'll just let it sing/ Hide out 'till tomorrow/ I crawl into your shadow"

Where you've [seen] it:  In addition to his music career, Campbell has also tried his hand at acting, appearing in episodes of Sex And The City and Law & Order back in 2000, the same year that Stars was formed.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Case File #37: "Coax Me"

"Coax Me"  
A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005

The need to know:  A Canadian institution that never quite found much success in the states, Sloan made some of the best power pop to come out of that country in the 90s. Although critically adored, their first attempt at United States domination found the band feuding with Geffen records and the label refusing to promote their second album, Twice Removed, in 1994. The band found much love and acclaim in their native Canada, however, releasing no less than five albums between 1996 and 2001. Still going strong, Sloan's most recent album, the again well-received Parallel Play, was released in 2008.

Why it's worthy: Orginally appearing on Twice Removed, "Coax Me" is largely thought to be based on the death of Kurt Cobain and his relationship with Courtney Love, as well as the band's struggles with Geffen at that time. A low-key, catchy tune, the Chris Murphy-penned song is largely dominated by the clever wordplay that made the group's earlier songs, like "Underwhelmed", so loveable. But it also comes across as an underhanded Fuck You. Murphy may be singing "Coax Me" but it sounds a lot like "Bring it."

Quotable lyric:  "It's not the band I hate/ It's their fans"

Where you've heard it:  Sloan contributed five songs to the soundtrack for Sophia Coppola's 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides.

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