[Cover Me]: Dead Kennedys, Nouvelle Vague and Seu Jorge.

There are good covers, and there are bad covers. These are some I think belong in the former category.

Dead Kennedys – ‘Viva Las Vegas’ (Originally by Elvis Presley)
Appearing at the tail end of their 1980 debut Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, Dead Kennedys had been playing the Elvis Presley show tune since their early days. Stripped down and revved up, this version simmers with reckless abandon and the anarchic humour in Jello Biafra’s reworked lyrics of a coked up gambler rings truer than the original’s optimism. Fittingly, the Kennedys’ version appeared in Terry Gilliam’s leering film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.

Nouvelle Vague – ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ (Originally by Dead Kennedys)
Almost at the other end of the spectrum, this take on Dead Kennedys’ fourth single is slowed to sultry, bossa nova groove. Bringing their distinctive knack for transposing punk and new wave songs to a lounge jazz setting effectively, Nouvelle Vague put ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ in a drinks party and what it might be missing in Biafra’s manic energy is made up for by Camille Dalmais’s amusing and bubbly delivery.

Seu Jorge – ‘Rock n’ Roll Suicide’ (Originally by David Bowie)
Seen here in his Team Zissou garb on the good ship Belafonte, Brazilian actor Seu Jorge’s major contribution to The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was to reinvent a slew of early David Bowie songs as Portuguese acoustic ditties. Hearing these versions Bowie himself said “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with”. Brimming with charm, Jorge’s covers are the masterstroke in Wes Anderson’s absurd nautical adventure.

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[Cover Me]: Kwabs, Ayanna Witter-Johnson & The Low Anthem

Kwabs – ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ (Originally by James Blake)
James Blake’s music has always had that soulful, jazz singer strain running through it, teeming just under the washed out surface of echoing beats and thawed synthesisers. Here Kwabs and co. tug at that particular string on ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ with soft melodies and Kwabs’s resonant baritone, bringing to the surface the seductive jazz ballad the song always had the potential to be.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson – ‘Roxanne’ (Originally by The Police)
As a multi-award winning musician with degrees in Classical Composition from the Trinity College of Music and Manhattan School of Music, as well as winning local venue competitions and being invited to tour with accomplished sitarist Anoushka Shankar, you could say Ayanna Witter-Johnson is something of an over-achiever. Appearing on her debut EP Truthfully, her solo cello take on pop masterpiece (and impetus for an intensive drinking game) ‘Roxanne’ is something to behold. Her soaring voice is both yearning and mournful, while her poised arrangement brings brooding classical sensibilities to Andy Summers’s tense, jazzy chord voicings.

The Low Anthem – ‘Home I’ll Never Be’ (Originally by Jack Kerouac)
Based on a little ditty Jack Kerouac wrote one night (tentatively titled ‘On The Road’), this rollicking barnstormer comes from The Low Anthem’s third album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. While this version owes a lot to Tom Waits and Primus’s previous arrangement, it is the ramshackle energy generated by Jeff Prystowski’s clattering percussion and Ben Knox Miller’s reckless holler which makes this rendition rattle along with the same energy it’s author’s prose was famous for.

[Cheap and Cheerful]: Four Tet – Live in Tokyo

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What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

Recently I’ve found myself listening repeatedly to this live set from Kieran Hebden a.k.a. Four Tet, recorded at Tokyo’s Yebisu Garden Hall on 1st December. Maybe it’s the fluid alchemy of dance, jazz, R&B and house or the subtle confidence of Hebden’s DJing, feeling no need to petition the crowd and trusting in their patience while he steadily weaves his magic, but there is something compelling in this mid-afternoon set which rewards repeated listens. It fosters a zen-like state and possesses a striking simplicity that belies the complexity of layering and manipulation at work over the hour. Perhaps that is why Hebden elected to upload it to Soundcloud and enable free downloads, satisfied by a set where, seemingly, everything went off without a hitch.

[On The Record]: Confessional Records.

As the mornings get colder and the nights draw in close, I always find myself listening to albums of a more personal nature. Maybe I’m a bit voyeuristic, but I do love a good confessional or break-up record full of excoriating truths and heart wrenching tales. Somewhere in between the longing and anger though, there is a cathartic comfort to be found. Against the closing in of autumn and winter such albums can feel like small intense fires, which warm you through to your bones. So, I thought I’d give a rundown of some of my in-the-wee-small-hours-of-the-morning favourites…

Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks

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“Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past, / I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast.”

With any artist there’s always the tricky matter of how much to take as autobiographical and how much is artistic license. This is especially the case with Bob Dylan, an artist who has delighted in misleading and provoking listeners and critics alike. However, Blood on the Tracks, written around the time of his separation from then-wife, Sara, is probably the closest we will ever get to Dylan’s personal experiences and observations on relationships. It is a dizzying collection of scenes, some depicting longing and bitterness (‘You’re A Big Girl Now’), others articulating contentment and fond memories (‘Shelter From The Storm’). As ever though, Dylan playfully leaves questions unanswered in even his most detailed accounts and sometimes he merely treats us to a glimpse of a girl who “might be in Tangiers”, leaving the listener to draw their own conclusions. Even if these stories are not true of him, these perceptive songs are certainly true of somebody at some time or another and rank among Dylan’s finest work.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call

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“We will know, won’t we? The stars will explode in the sky, / But they don’t, do they? Stars have their moment then they die.”

After the chilling and blackly-comic Murder Ballads, The Boatman’s Call was something of a complete U-turn for The Bad Seeds. Where the former is lascivious and merciless, the latter is sombre and restrained, displaying monk-like calm throughout the grief and intense self-scrutiny. Sparked by Nick Cave’s break up with PJ Harvey, he would later denounce it saying “I’d got dumped by some bird and here I was making this grand statement – about some fucking sheila!”’ Despite Cave’s retrospective criticisms of the album, it remains one of the Bad Seeds’s best records and features some of Cave’s most beautifully written lyrics. The album moves from optimism on spiritual-devotional love songs ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘Lime Tree Arbour’ through to misanthropy and self-loathing on ‘People Ain’t No Good’ and bleak album-closer ‘Green Eyes’. Against the backdrop of meditative melodies from the Bad Seeds, it is Cave’s commanding voice which really drives the album home, striking through to the core as if he were delivering a sermon from a pulpit.

Eels – Electro-Shock Blues

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“Life is funny, but not haha funny, / Peculiar, I guess.”

 From an album whose near opening lines are “My name’s Elizabeth, my life is piss and shit”, you’d expect Electro-Shock Blues to be one long doom and gloom fest. Given the details of Mark Oliver Everett a.k.a. E’s life, you’d forgive him for it (see the album’s story in comics here). But as ever, E finds comfort in creating esoteric, feel-good music with a serious side. It’s a journey you share with E all the way to its stoic conclusion on ‘P.S You Rock My World’ (“I was at a funeral the day I realised I wanted to spend my life with you […] And I was thinking about how everyone is dying, And maybe it’s time to live”). Graceful and indomitable, the album is a lesson in carrying on. Just as good is his recent three album cycle Hombre Lobo, End Times, Tomorrow Morning which follow relationships from infatuation to disintegration to recuperation.

Joni Mitchell – Blue

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“The bed’s too big, / The frying pan’s too wide.”

The biggy in the confessional album world, Blue really is the archetypal confessional album. As Joni Mitchell broke up with longtime partner, Graham Nash, and an increasing post-60’s hangover began to set in for the summer-of-love generation, she moved away from her flower-child image and further explored the personal side of her songwriting. What resulted on Blue was Mitchell letting all her barriers down and giving herself over completely to unmitigated emotional expression, revisiting experiences of infatuation, insecurity, estrangement and giving a child up for adoption. The diverse emotional ground she covers is vast, conveying both painful and joyful experiences in all their emotional intensity. Probably Mitchell’s greatest achievement with this album though is that she really manages to communicate the emotions present in each song, and not just their sentiments.

The Horrible Crowes – Elsie

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“I heard a curse being born, / Forming each finger and forming each thorn.”

Set up by Brian Fallon and his guitar tech Ian Perkins as a more unplugged and intimate outfit than The Gaslight Anthem, The Horrible Crowes’s Elsie shot into the top five of my best of 2011 list and it has been played many times since then. Dealing with themes of loneliness and heartbreak, it seems no coincidence that The Gaslight Anthem’s following album, Handwritten, tackled more difficult personal issues than their previous output. On Elsie, Fallon strikes a fine balance between hushed and intimate moments like ‘Sugar’ and raucous belters full of rage like ‘Mary Ann’.  And while there are plenty of tear-jerkers (’Cherry Blossoms’ is particularly gut-wrenching), Fallon ultimately ends on an optimistic note with ‘I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together’. Raw, poignant and sublimely crafted, Elsie marks out Brian Fallon as a major songwriting talent in America today.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

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“For every life… forgo the parable”

Suffering from glandular fever and break-ups with his former band DeYarmond Edison and a relationship, Justin Vernon retreated to a hunting cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin over the winter of 2006 in order to lick his wounds. When Vernon re-emerged in spring 2007 he had recovered from his ailments and carried with him a collection of nine personal songs he had recorded. Self-released under the moniker Bon Iver (derived from the greeting “bon hiver”, French for “good winter”) on a small initial pressing in mid-2007 and later reaching worldwide release in 2008, For Emma, Forever Ago sounded like nothing else when it landed. Complex, yet minimalist, the album perfectly evokes the intimate atmosphere in which it was made, every note indelibly placed and resonating to fill the space. Meanwhile, Vernon delivers his cryptic lyrics in an elastic voice charged with emotional energy that stops you in your tracks. It is the sound of loneliness, introspection and, above all, healing. As ‘re:stacks’ fades out at the album’s close, there is the barely perceptible sound of Vernon walking away from the microphone and dialling a number, signalling that he is ready to return form hibernation.

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine

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“I’ll take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie’s wings, / And I’ll tie ‘em to your shoulders and your feet”

Despite his gruff exterior (and even gruffer voice) Tom Waits has always had a soft spot for romance, especially where the bungled and the botched are concerned. Even when his characters are in the gutter, more often than not they have one eye cast up at the stars. As Waits began to stretch himself and break out of his boho-poet image he made Blue Valentine, a blues-jazz masterpiece documenting romance in the dark areas of town, and the danger that inevitably follows. In some areas he is the danger (‘Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard and ‘A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun’), and sometimes the danger finds him (‘Romeo is Bleeding’, ‘$29.00’). Sometimes he sings with tongue firmly in cheek (‘Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis’) and sometimes he is achingly honest (‘Blue Valentines’). Covering fractured romances in all their comic and heroic guises, Waits’s most triumphant moment is on the poignant ‘Kentucky Avenue’ where he recalls an intense childhood friendship with a boy who suffered from polio. A romantic album for all the broken things out there.

Josh Ritter – The Beast In Its Tracks

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“Oh, the appleblossom rag, lord, I’m such a fool, / For things that sing so sweet and sad, and are so goddamn cruel.”

For a year after a bitter divorce from his wife, songwriter Dawn Landes, Josh Ritter experienced difficulties sleeping, passing out from the exhaustion of an intensive schedule only to be wakened by nightmares. His dreams were so awful he took to fearing sleep, as if his grief were hunting him down. Out of this state came the germs of The Beast In Its Tracks, where he claims songwriting proved a retreat: “Some nights, the songs I was working on helped me stay ahead of it. Other nights, the heartbreak got me”. The album is actually cheerier than its birth might suggest and Ritter delivers much of the album from the perspective of having recovered and become a father in the interim. ‘A Certain Light’ and ‘In Your Arms Again’ sees Ritter safe in the arms of a new lover and thankful for the tranquility. However, The Beast In Its Tracks has plenty of the darkness of those haunted nights too, delivered often by sleight of hand. ‘The Appleblossom Rag’ covers self-deception in a plaintive solo acoustic performance while ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Nightmares’ bounce along on cheerful melodies which disguise Ritter’s harrowing lyrics documenting his night terrors. Even ‘New Lover’, one of the uplifting singles where Ritter evenhandedly wishes his old lover well in the light of his new, happy relationship, has a sucker-punch at the end so sly that you barely notice it as the song sweeps you along on its jubilant energy: “But if you are sad and you are lonesome and you got nobody true, / I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy too”. Between the bitterness and newfound happiness, Ritter documents a long road to recovery experienced by many of us and perfectly captures that turning point where you realise “Yeah, I’ll live through this” on ‘Joy To You Baby’.

What are your favourite confessional albums? Let me know in the comments below.

[Sneak Peek]: Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wise Up Ghost

tumblr_mo8cur8zrs1qb2mk2o1_500“Keep a red flag flying, keep a blue flag as well / And a white flag in case it all goes to hell.”

A friendship born on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where The Roots have served as Fallon’s house band since the show’s premiere in 2009, Elvis Costello and Questlove (The Roots’s drummer and co-frontman) are set to release their full-length collaborative LP, Wise Up Ghost, tomorrow. The odd-couple, much? Probably, but looking at their respective career trajectories, Elvis Costello and Questlove have a lot in common. Both have been slow-burners and neither have shied away from making unpredictable career moves or bothered making distinctions between what their music should or should not be about. Also, neither have qualms about letting their social opinions known on record: The Roots have recorded challenging albums commenting on social inequality and dissatisfaction in America on albums such as Things Fall Apart and Rising Down, while Costello’s protests range from the furious (‘Radio Radio’, ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’) to the beaten down (‘Shipbuilding’). It is fitting then, that some songs on Wise Up Ghost grew out of reworking some of Costello’s angriest songs (‘Stick Out Your Tongue’ came from ‘Pills and Soap’) and that ‘Walk Us Uptown’ should be an equal meeting of Costello’s  admonishments and Questlove’s musical sensibilities.

The album’s cover art being presented in the distinctive style of the old City Lights pocket poetry volumes is not fanciful, as ‘Walk Us Uptown’ very much has the feel of a modern beat poem. The traditional jazz accompaniment has moved on to encompass hip-hop and rock and roll and it feels like natural continuation of where Gil Scott-Heron left off with his final volume, I’m New Here. Jarring samples and punk staccato guitar punctuate the mix, while Questlove’s drumming is busy yet downplayed. Rather than a lively beat it is a monotonous shuffle, simmering with the same malice as the beat on Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’. This sense of unease is heightened by the edgy piano chords which permeate the track and the sound of a distant train fading in and out. Meanwhile, the world view of ‘Walk Us Uptown’ remains as bleak and apocalyptic as anything Allen Ginsberg or Amiri Baraka saw, full of degradation and barely suppressed fury. Costello has been long recognised as a wordsmith and here he sounds like a man reading out newspaper headlines, an endless litany of frustration and bile which is broken only occasionally by the refrain “Will you walk us uptown?”, which sounds more like a demand than a question.

This is anti-easy-listening music. Disguised behind ‘Walk Us Uptown’s catchy and listenable veneer, lies a challenging and troubling core, which Ben Greenman articulates when musing on Wise Up Ghost‘s title in his ambitious introduction to the album: “Often, [ghosts] are spirits left behind because they failed to demonstrate the appropriate acumen in life. Are we now, as a species, risking this kind of nightmare? Can we learn enough to prevent a purgatorial future?”. This is a tall order to fill, but, like the best of any art form, ‘Walk Us Uptown’ does not present answers. Rather it provokes questions in the consumer and, hopefully, we may derive some answers for ourselves.

Wise Up Ghost is available in record stores tomorrow through Blue Note Records.

[Sound and Vision]: Let’s Get Lost

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“Let’s defrost in a romantic mist / Let’s get crossed off everybody’s list.”

A portrait of the artist as an old man.

Well this article is going to be a bit different as I don’t often do film reviews, despite being a big film fan for most of my life. However, this documentary about Chet Baker really struck a chord with me. Rather than a detailed retrospective, Let’s Get Lost is more of an intimate portrait of the West Coast jazz prodigy who had it all and spent his final years as an itinerant speedball addict in Santa Monica, CA.

Filmed during the last year of Chet Baker’s life, Let’s Get Lost grew out of a photo shoot which director Bruce Weber intended for a short film called Blame It On My Youth. Weber had been interested in Baker since coming across a vinyl LP in a record store in Pittsburgh at the age of 16, becoming infatuated with his music and his iconic James Dean good looks. Over the course of the shoot they grew closer and Baker opened up to Weber, so Weber convinced Baker to make a longer film. Let’s Get Lost became a labour of love for Weber who funded the $1,000,000 production from his own money and filmed it only when he had the time and money to do so. The filming itself was marked by difficulty and spontaneity as Baker’s turbulent life during this period meant that filming plans quickly went out the window when he finally walked in the room: “It was like going to Marine boot camp,” Weber said to the Austin Chronicle. “You’d plan something, and it wouldn’t happen the way you planned it, so you had to adapt to it, just go with it. Sometimes we’d have to stop for some reason or another and then, because Chet was a junkie and couldn’t do things twice, we’d have to start all over again. But we grew to really like him.” Baker would later be found dead on the pavement on Prins Hendrikkade, Amsterdam during the film’s post-production, giving Let’s Get Lost an added poignancy.

The film is beautifully shot in black and white and Weber’s eye as a fashion photographer creates a sweeping and incredibly romantic aura around the whole film. The stars seem to twinkle in the night sky and the palm trees along the beach sway elegantly. Meanwhile Baker, who now resembles a Bukowskian barfly more than the Adonis of his youth, is still remarkably photogenic. The film meanders like a memoir, as Baker reminisces about his music, experiences and relationships while ex-associates and old flames tell their stories. There is little sense of chronology and with another subject such a film may fall apart, but Baker is such a beguiling and effortlessly enigmatic personality that he holds the film together, the linchpin in an otherwise chaotic tale. Let’s Get Lost does follow his career but at a cursory glance, briefly mentioning moments such as playing on Pacific, getting his teeth knocked out and his multiple incarcerations. This does not mean the music is neglected though, as Baker’s enrapturing and languid music is weaved throughout, blending seamlessly with shots of sleepy California and Baker’s escapades of the time. The film also features some incredibly intimate performances, the likes of which cause the hairs to bristle on the back of your neck. Despite the years, Baker’s voice is haunting and pitch-perfect, while his trumpeting is as moving and mellifluous as ever.

What I feel is Let’s Get Lost’s greatest achievement is conveying Baker’s charismatic personality. He is electrifying onscreen, not in an overtly energetic way but in the sheer magnetism he exerts over everyone, the viewer included. He is charming and good looking even after the ravages of substance abuse which make him look ten years older than he actually was at the time. You find yourself falling under his spell, even as his closest friends, lovers and relatives repeatedly disclose to us that he is selfish, unreliable and a great manipulator. But even those most burned by him still adore him, just as the viewer finds themselves drawn to such a lovable rogue. And this is Let’s Get Lost’s main focus: It’s not about setting the record straight, but about staring in awe at such an infatuating personality. As you watch Baker you sense the fascination of that sixteen year-old kid in Pittsburgh and the wonder of those who knew him. “There’s a line between love and fascination,” says ex-lover Ruth Young, quoting the Baker standard ‘My Foolish Heart’. “That’s mystique. But that isn’t necessarily real and that’s what takes a long, long time to figure out: To separate one’s gift from one’s self.” Perhaps Baker never did, and that is what Let’s Get Lost excels in showing.

[Album Review]: Iron & Wine – Ghost On Ghost

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‘In your restless nights I swam blind, Somehow falling into the light’

In the ten years since the release of his debut, The Creek Drank The Cradle, Sam Beam has covered a remarkable amount of ground. Moving from hushed acoustic lullabies through to raucous full-band arrangements over four albums (not including a considerable amount of EP’s and B-Sides) Mr. Beam can probably afford to relax a little, as he does on Ghost on Ghost. In a press release, he said that he wished to move away from the “anxious tension” that pervaded The Shepherd’s Dog and Kiss Each Other Clean, and that “this record felt like a reward to myself after the way I went about making the last few”. While the album is the product of well-earned leisure and benefits from the relaxed approach, I would argue that this is Beam’s most ambitious work to date.

The album opens with ‘Caught in the Briars’, a jubilant, full-band anthem which centers around an acoustic guitar line that is not-dissimilar to ‘Boy With a Coin’. Although it kicks off the album on a suitably laid-back note, that doesn’t mean Beam doesn’t have a few aces up his sleeve. Along with his trademark ballads (‘Joy’, ‘Baby Center Stage’) he is equally comfortable churning out a speeding road anthem on ‘New Mexico’s No Breeze’ or pulling out a hip-hop influenced groove on ‘Singers and the Endless Song’ (that may sound awful on paper, but trust me, it works). While a jazz influence has been present on his last few albums, here it is more pronounced and takes center stage with playful bass-lines, compelling percussion and blaring brass. Throughout the album ethereal backing vocals are also never far away, like a choir of ghosts hovering just by Beam’s shoulder.

‘Grass Windows’ has a sombre, foot-shuffling beat while Beam’s wispy vocals have a gospel cadence to them. The meandering organ flourishes during the song’s middle and the stately brass sections make this seem like a funeral song performed by a lounge-jazz band. Meanwhile, ‘Sundown (Back in the Briars)’ is a majestic composition with the interplay between vocal, percussion and organ a stroke of genius. For me it ends just too soon as sweeping strings kick in and create the atmosphere of a band on a steamboat, lazing down a river on a summer’s evening. This immediately segues into the chilly overtones of ‘Winter Prayers’, a stark, acoustic ballad that is evocative of trees stripped bare and cutting winds.

The most astounding track on the album is undoubtedly ‘Lover’s Revolution’. It starts off with just Beam’s vocals, along with some bass and brass that slinks in and out. As more instruments come in the track progressively gathers speed, gaining urgency with each repetition of the refrain “I came to you, and you to me”. This eventually culminates at the middle 8 into a ramshackle jazz furore, with crashing drums, bluesy piano and screaming saxophone. The track then settles into a confident tempo before finally slowing down into the woozy and sluggish beat from which it started. All the while Beam is singing his ass off like a crazed seer. It’s a rollicking journey travelled in just under six minutes and you can tell that Beam is loving every single minute of it.

With each album Beam matures as a composer. His compositions have become more refined and complex, far outstripping his initial reputation as an acoustic-folk artist. The production on songs such as ‘Low Light Buddy of Mine’ have a scrappy, lo-fi charm, but the layering of parts clearly show that Beam meticulously arranges each song to his particular vision. At their most accomplished, they have the richness of classical suites. I’ll admit that I occasionally miss the acoustic-based Beam, but it is gratifying to see that at a decade into his career his creative thirst and inspiration remain undiminished. He shows no sign of slowing down and still has the ability to surprise.

At the time of writing I have been unable to give the album as many plays as I would have liked, but I can definitely tell that, like Iron & Wine’s most recent albums, this album will only sound richer with repeated listens. At its best it reaches the creative heights of The Shepherd’s Dog (and possibly surpasses it, I really couldn’t say at this point). What I am sure of though, is that once you get your hands on this record you will have it on heavy rotation for a long time to come.

Ghost on Ghost is available from 4AD on 15th April.

— Originally posted on Hercules Moments

[Cover Me]: The Gaslight Anthem, Michael Kiwanuka & Sachal Studios Orchestra

The Gaslight Anthem – Changing of the Guards (Originally by Bob Dylan)

The Gaslight Anthem are a band I have been following since I first started listening to them a few years ago. In that time they have gone from strength to strength, incorporating varying elements of punk, soul and rock and roll into a uniquely recognisable style all of their own. The lads have announced that they’ve finished recording their fourth studio album, Handwritten, which is estimated to be released in the summer. If, like me, you can hardly wait for the album’s release then hopefully this gem of a track will help tide you over until then. I hadn’t heard this Dylan track from 1978’s Street Legal before, but the lyrics are prophetically striking and almost Yeats-ian. However, I find the original somewhat pales in comparison to this raw and blood racing rendition. As ever Brian Fallon’s delivery is impeccable, moving between red-eyed rage and broken vulnerability as the situation calls for. Meanwhile the cutting lead guitar, cascading drums and thundering bass show the rest of the band are on sterling form as they race along, helter-skelter style, through Dylan’s apocalyptic track.

Watch this space for a review of Handwritten come summer time!

Michael Kiwanuka – Whole Lotta Love (Originally by Led Zeppelin)

It’s about time we had another Zeppelin track in this feature, and this time BBC’s elected Sound of 2012, Michael Kiwanuka, steps up to the plate.You’d be forgiven for not recognising the song at first, until the familiar bass line emerges out of a haze of swirling sitar instrumentation. After this the rest of the track falls into place, with organ, slide guitar and drums enthralling the listener. I never thought I’d hear a cover of the proto-blues/punk classic that features a sitar, but it makes sense here, especially in the cavernous breakdown after the second chorus. Meanwhile, Michael’s soul-searching voice remains cool and restrained, making sure not to fall into the pitfall of imitating Robert Plant’s inimitable, primal vocals. Though the band follow the original’s blueprint fairly closely, they manage to make their individual mark on it.

Stay tuned for a review of Michael’s debut album Home Again later this week.

Sachal Studio Orchestra – Take Five (Originally by Dave Brubeck Quartet)

While we’re on the sitar tip, let’s take things into exotic jazz territory. ‘Take Five’ is probably one of the most instantly recognisable jazz riffs, if not THE most recognisable jazz riff, and it was while looking up George Benson’s equally impressive cover that I came across this interpretation. By using traditional Indian and Pakistani instruments the Sachal Studio Orchestra manage to make Dave Brubeck Quartet’s jazz masterpiece sound simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. The saxophone riff is transposed onto sitar and violin, while the essential timekeeping duties are given over to tablas. It really works and manages to breathe new life into a classic which has been covered to the point of possibly losing its original spark and colour. Stunning.