Ahk-toong Bay-Bi Covered – Q Magazine Tips Their Hat to U2 in the Most Flattering Way Possible

Cover of "Achtung Baby"

Cover of Achtung Baby

When I finally switched formats, from tape cassettes to compact discs (cds for the youngins), I can claim, not without a hint of musical snobbery, that U2’s Joshua Tree was my first purchase. Sure, my collection prior to this was littered with the remnants of a tween girl’s love for sugary sweet chick pop (“pop” could be too kind a label, I rocked Expose, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey…). But, the moment U2’s seminal album made it into my hot little hands, I was hooked.  I had a sony discman, and every time Joshua Tree started spinning, my mind wandered, got lost in the roads of sounds, the crunchy rhythms and clean harmonics that rang throughout, and the heady lyrics inspired by the ultimate existential and spiritual journey.

At some point thereafter, Achtung Baby made its way into my lexicon.  If Joshua Tree represents the hopeful, transcendent search for a little old-time religion, Achtung Baby is its antithesis – a sometimes dark journey into obsession, destructive relationships, and the grittier shades reality can sometimes take on, especially apparent in songs like “Acrobat” and “Love is Blindness”.  The often satirical excess was evident in their tours, which harbored ornate stage set-ups complete with walls of television screens and even a belly dancer (who notoriously caught the eye of The Edge, they’ve been together since the Zoo Tv tour). However, some joy is definitively still evident on the album, especially in songs like “Ultra Violet (Baby Light My Way)” and “Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World”.

Q Magazine, a publication I am woefully unfamiliar with,  has released their latest issue not only featuring U2 on its cover, but also with the free offering of an included cd: “Ahk-toong Bay-Bi Covered,” in answer to the 20th year anniversary of U2’s masterwork. The album features the entire track listing of U2’s original “Achtung Baby,” but with songs helmed by formidable musicians offering up their own unique interpretations. It looks like geography informed most of the choices, as many of the performers hail from over the pond, including England, Ireland, and Scotland.  However, tracks by American performers like The Killers, Patti Smith, and NIN are at home among the finished work.

I have always been hard to please when it came to U2 covers. Given, I do a song or two of theirs at open mic myself so I embrace the hypocritical, but Bono is a bit of a hard act to follow. My rule of thumb has typically been a good cover song takes only the most basic of frameworks from the original,  and generally benefits from some creative re-working. It should be recognizable as the original song, but just barely. Q’s cover album mostly manages to succeed at this. There are a few lackluster tunes, but mostly it’s an exciting time seeing the new places these songs go.  Damien Rice gives “One” his unique treatment of sparsity, and brutal emotional honesty – you can almost hear the sighs littering his lyrical delivery. Patti Smith deconstructs “Until the End of the World” into a dirge-like piano ballad. Garbage’s version of “Who’s Gonna Ride My Wild Horses” has their signature electronic flair and maintains its original desperation as evidenced by lead singer Mason’s often breathy phrasing. In their take on “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”,  The Killers masterfully capture the charm and bliss present when U2 first recorded track. Jack White channels Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in a delightfully raw rendition of “Love is Blindness”.  This cover album us one to miss at your own risk.

White Picket Fences

So my friends and I get together for our yearly holiday shindig and there is music and fun and silly camaraderie. The music that holds up the next day during our raucous card game (peanut, if you don’t know it, you should learn it. And be prepared for some surprising in-game language from people you thought you knew…) are real keepers.

One of my recently favorite albums that made an appearance if Joe Purdy’s 2007 album “Take My Blanket and Go”, specifically the song “White Picket Fences”. It’s a twisting soul-felt intense blues number. See below for an impressive 9 1/2 minute version of the tune (there is a second song on the video as well).

And if you think you’ve heard him before, you probably have. His mellow “Wash Away” was featured on an early season of the very popular LOST.

And for this month only, download his new album for free on his official website http://joepurdy.com/

Digitial Release of Bjork, Dirty Projectors Collaberation to Benefit Nat Geo’s Ocean Initiatives

Bjork and the Dirty Projectors (a band that’s garnered some buzz  last year with their release Bitter Orca) have re-released a recent collaborative effort of theirs in digital form, this time to benefit Nat Geo’s Ocean Initiatives.

The original work, dubbed Mount Wittenberg Orca, was originally composed and preformed to benefit the homeless and an AIDS advocacy group.It’s fitting however, that the songs are being re-released to provide further assistance to a slightly different cause. According to the nat-geo article on this recent news item, the work was actually inspired by the ocean:

“Together they wrote and performed a new suite of songs called “Mount Wittenberg Orca,” which was inspired by Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman sighting of a family of Orcas on the California coast, and features Björk singing the part of the mom whale.”

Purchase and download the EP here.

Brandon Flowers from the “Killers” goes Solo, Pulls Jenny Lewis into the Mix

I love it when my favorite musicians collaberate!

Check out this news bit posted recently on Spin.com:

Brandon Flowers has finally spoken about the mysterious Flamingo, his debut solo album.

The Killers frontman — who unveiled the project in April via a website that post that offered only the album title and the promise that it was “coming soon” — gave his first interview about the fall release, dishing on his decision to go solo and revealing one of his collaborators: Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis.

“Jenny’s helped me out on a couple of songs, and we also got to duet on a song called ‘Hard Enough,’ which turned out great,” Flowers told NME [via ONTD].”She’s always popped into my mind whenever I think about getting a female vocalist involved because she’s a fellow child of Las Vegas, too. A lot of people don’t realize that, but she was actually born there, in the same hospital as [Killers drummer] Ronnie Vannucci Jr, only a few weeks apart!”

Flowers also recruited three top notch producers for Flamingo: Daniel Lanois (U2, Brian Eno, Neil Young), Stuart Price (The Killers, Madonna, Kylie Minogue), and Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen), who produced three songs.

The 28-year-old singer — who confirmed another new song title, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” — added that many of Flamingo‘s tracks were originally intended for a Killers album. But while the quartet takes a break, Flowers wasn’t ready to slow down.

“To be honest, I personally would prefer it if this was a Killers record,” he said. “I certainly never sat around dreaming of going out on my own, but singing songs and writing songs, it’s kind of what I do, you know? And I just don’t want to stop right now.”

But the Killers certainly aren’t done for good. In fact, Flowers sees Flamingo “as something that will only make the Killers stronger.” “I feel like I’m getting something out of my system with this album, but I want the next Killers album to be a wonderful collaboration between four guys who are ready to make the best record that they possibly can.”

Apparently it takes two for some badassery

For the record,the first dictionary entry for badassery in  the urban dictionary is:

Engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck.

“Did you see that badassery? He just took down a whole battalion with nothing but his hands!”

(However, it should be noted, the urban dictionary is basically an open source slang dictionary, which while it’s an interesting source of colloquialisms, doesn’t mean they have to be known to anyone except the person who wrote the entry)

Anyway, on to my main point. Apparently two is the magic number for creating some rock magic, a la the White Stripes or even the sugary garage pop Ting Tings. While they’ve been around for some time, the Black Keys seem to be gaining some stronger momentum as of late. It can’t hurt that they just released the stellar new album “Brothers” in May of this year.

The sound tends to be simple and lo-fi, but reeks of old soul reminiscent of screaming jay hawkins and other greats. These boys evidently have a good sense of humor as well as evidenced in some of their videos. Check out a few below and prepare to be hooked…

Engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck.
Did you see that badassery? He just took down a whole battalion with nothing but his hands!

Nature Can Make A Little Music

So I know I’ve been negligent in posting. Life gets a little busy sometimes and I’ll be starting a new job up in Booth Bay, Maine so posting may be a bit sporadic until I’m settled into my normal routine. So enough whining, onto the post:

I saw this some time ago but never got around to posting it.  French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot has installed an exhibit at the London Barbican, the largest performing arts center in Europe. The Curve is the center’s visual arts space, where Boursier-Mougnet has mounted eight Les Paul style guitars and populated the area with 40 squat little zebra finches. The instruments have all been carefully chosen (I have a personal affinity for Les Paul electric guitars as did Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton) tuned and  The birds scrabble over the strings and produce what surprisingly sounds like the crunchy guitar anthem of some experimenting rock star. According to Curve curator Lydia Yee as recorded in a BBC interview, “With the finches he started thinking about the relationship between sound and space. He wanted to create situations that would enable sound to happen but not in an enforced way, or a very composed way.” The installation requires some significant maintenance from which ranges from the delicate tuning of the instruments to clean-up after the birds themselves. The exhibition runs until May 23rd and can accommodate up to 25 visitors at a time.

An delightfully informative article on the exhibit, complete with a humorous bent can be found here. One of the more interesting products of the work has been you-tube clips showing the birds nonchalantly making rock history: