Jessie Ware‘s stunning debut album “Devotion” was finally released in the States earlier this month on Cherrytree Records, and today, the British pop star just casually chucked a new song on Soundcloud. “Love Thy Will Be Done” is originally a 1991 single for Martika (of “Toy Soldiers” fame), and it was produced by co-written by the one and only Prince. Apparently, this track was hidden away on the US vinyl pressing of “Devotion” all this time!
It’s yet another solid addition to her rich ’90s cover repertoire (including her sublime rendition of Brownstone’s “If You Love Me”, and her live-favorite version of Marvin Gaye/Madonna’s “I Want You”). Make sure to check out her classy reinterpretation below.
STREAM: Jessie Ware – Love Thy Will Be Done (Martika Cover)
My favorite Canadian indie-pop band Stars were responsible for one of the most infectiou songs of 2012, with the equally amazing title “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It”. The Montreal-based quintet just generously put up a free EP entitled “Far From Hold”, featuring alternate “Breakglass” versions of album tracks from their latest “The North”, as well as a cover of The Smiths‘ b-side “Asleep”. The latter was actually recorded back in 2010 for a charity children’s music album called “Sing Me To Sleep – Indie Lullabies”. Suffice to say their intimate, low-key take on the song won’t just appeal to hip babies!
I love me some ’60s-loving duo side projects. I can name a handful off the top of my head: The Last Shadow Puppets, Cat’s Eyes, Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, James Levy & The Blood Red Rose. Now Adam Green (The Moldy Peaches) and Binki Shapiro (Little Joy), are the latest to channel the Nancy/Lee dynamic with a self-tiled LP out January 29. The opening track “Here I Am” is a playful and sweet love song, with the tried-and-true deep-voiced-male/honey-voiced-female combination that guarantees an immediate spot on your local Starbucks playlist. Expect more loveliness like this when the album drops. Enjoy it while you can, since these kinds of projects hardly last beyond one album.
STREAM: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Collage (James Gang Cover)
It’s not Christmas at PLHQ without Theoretical Girl‘s annual Musical Advent Calendar to look forward to every day, and this year’s proves to be an extra jolly season. Taking song requests from Facebook fans, the English indie-pop maven adds her own charming lo-fi touch to a widely eclectic range of choice selections from The Cardigans, The Strokes, Francoise Hardy, Neil Young, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, Ronettes, Buddy Holly and more (and even a forgotten Longpigs classic)! Her sweet voice makes everything sound lovely and festive. For this post, I pick four of my favorites. Make a cup of tea, get comfy, and enjoy them below.
Theoretical Girl – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young)
Theoretical Girl – Erase/Rewind (The Cardigans)
Theoretical Girl – Someday (The Strokes)
Theoretical Girl – All Over The World (Francoise Hardy)
You can stream and download all covers for free , including those from previous years, at her Soundcloud. Theoretical Girl is currently working on her second album.
UK pop warbler Ellie Goulding capped off an amazing year with a live session for Fearne Cotton’s special Christmas show on Radio 1 yesterday. Beside acoustic renditions of “Anything Could Happen” and “Figure 8″, she also performed a lovely cover of Mariah Carey‘s festive classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Somewhere John Lewis are kicking themselves for not having her back with this. Listen to her version right below.
Yesterday, Dermot O’Leary (pictured above in a turtleneck, naturally) had four lovely singing ladies, dubbed his “Choir of Angels”, to spread the holiday cheers on his last radio show before Christmas. Rumer, Ren Harvieu, Emily Baker and Kristina Train (a Radio 2 super girl group right there) joined the host for a chat, then each offered their take on a holiday classic. Disney-noir songstress Ren Harvieu picked Joni Mitchell’s not-so-cheery “River”, which she pulled it off beautifully.
Fellow mellow chanteuse Rumer also chimed in with her own interpretation of Ron Sexsmith’s “Maybe This Christmas”, previously covered by Tracey Thorn.
You can listen to the whole session here if you’d like, starting around the 2:17:00 mark.
British rock duo Noisettes recorded a cover of James Brown’s “Living In America” a while ago to give away as a free download, which was sadly overlooked, as was their lovely new album “Contact”. It’s a fantastically funky effort, with an amazing pure-joy section that only starts at 2:25. And yes, there’s some serious cowbell action going on here too, which is always a good thing. I found Shinghai Shinowa to be a total star and one of the most fascinating frontwomen the UK has offered in recent years. I hope a tour on this side of the pond is in the planning.
Coincidentally, it’s Election Day in America! *pause for suspense* Have you done your part yet? Don’t just sit there now, GO OUT AND VOTE!
Alex Hepburn is a London-based up-and-coming artist signed to Warner, and seems to be getting a push in France. Her sound is more on the serious “real music” side, but it’s her torch-soul cover of Neneh Cherry‘s 1996 Portishead-esque single “Woman” that caught my attention. Alex’s got a raw, raspy, smoky voice that suits bare-bone soul/blues. She has a tendency to sound a bit affected on her own tracks, but for the cover, she’s got the balance just right. She’s definitely one to watch out for in 2013.
STREAM: Alex Hepburn – Woman (Neneh Cherry Cover)
And here’s an original – “Pain Is”, co-written by the notorious Linda Perry…
STREAM: Alex Hepburn – Pain Is
Saint Saviour excels at making spooky, grown-up art-pop, and she’s been honing those skills by recording covers and giving them away on her Soundcloud. Among her latest is a tongue-in-cheek dubstep-ified cover of infamous ’80s power ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. The Groove Armada collaborator has also provided her own lilting take on Mazzy Star’s ’90s shoegaze classic “Fade Into You”.
On the original-material front, her new single “Tightrope” is a beautiful heartbreak lullaby that would make Kate Bush proud. The chord progression also reminds me of Radiohead’s “Creep”, does it not? It’s by far one of her strongest tracks. Here’s the official video for it.
STREAM: Saint Saviour – Tightrope (Radio Edit)
A lot is happening in First Aid Kit‘s world. First, the Söderberg sisters will be featuring on several tracks of the new album “The Fire and The Flame” by Blood Music, aka fellow Swede Karl-Jonas Winqvist. The lead single, “Glad That You Called”, is a charming, laidback twee-folk duet, with a cute music video of the three frolicking about in a big greenhouse.
STREAM: Blood Music feat. First Aid Kit – Glad That You Called
Secondly, the indie-folk duo has recently released a iTunes Sessions live album, featuring this harmonious cover of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot.”
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith Cover)
Last but not least, their excellent album “The Lion’s Roar” will get a Limited Edition boxset edition come October 2, with 2 bonus b-sides and one brand new track/single, “Wolf”. Here’s the kaleidoscopic, forest-based video for it.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Wolf
Have I mentioned the girls are performing in New York tonight and tomorrow too? As I said, a lot is happening in First Aid Kit’s world, and deservingly so.
It’s strange to remember that Joss Stone is still quite big in America. Despite being largely ignored in her homeland, her last 3 albums have all gone top ten here. 9 years after “The Soul Sessions” – the album that started it all, she just released Vol. 2, comprising a new collection of cover songs. The lead single is a stoned-soul rendition of Broken Bells’ “The High Road”, which is pretty much the 2012 equivalent of her White Stripes cover “Fell In Love With A Boy” back then. I actually find it quite agreeable, if a bit oversung. She’s obviously a very gifted vocalist, but I wish she would stop smoking pot for a second to give Eg White a call and go back to her “You Had Me” ways. Anyway, it’s quite nice to see her in a proper music video again. Watch the psychedelic video for “The High Road” below.
Saint Etienne have become somewhat of a serial cover mount tribute CD contributor as of late. Roughly 2 months after their Beach Boys cover for Mojo, the band has once again lent their reinterpreting talent to Q’s Amy Winehouse issue. They picked “Just Friends”, their least favourite track on “Back To Black”, for fear of ruining the better ones, but I think they did an excellent job. I could be fooled into thinking it’s a St. Et. original had I not known better. As Louis Walsh would say, they really “made the song their own”.
Preview 30 secs of each track here, though I should warn you it features bits from ‘The Cribs’ and ‘The View’. View the full tracklist after the jump.
I won’t object to a nice Twin Peaks and NZ indie-rock band She’s So Rad did just the trick with their cover of the David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti kitschy dream-pop tune “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart”, balancing fuzzy guitars with candy-coated vocals in the same spirit of Julee Cruise. If you like The Raveonettes, then you oughta like She’s So Rad.
It also reminds me of another Twin Peaks fuzz-pop makeover of the theme song “Falling” by Girls Names, released back in 2010.
My new favorite British guitar-pop band Spector stopped by Zane Lowe’s show on Radio 1 yesterday for a chat and a two-song live session, one of which is a performance of their anthemic new single “Celestine”, and the other is a surprise cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall”. The original recently rose to prominence thanks to its inclusion on the infamous “Drive” soundtrack, which seemed to open the gate for a new craze for late-night-driving 80s-synthpop. Spector’s take is actually quite faithful and solid, with the addition of a guitar solo (for they are a guitar band)! I find it funny how the rest of the band sang background vocals in falsetto to make up for the lack of Lovefoxxx. What I like about the band is that they have a sense of humour, and not just all Joy Division doom and gloom. Check out their cover right below.
STREAM: Spector – Nightcall (Kavinsky Cover)
You can watch their performance of Celestine here, featuring a cameo from Fred’s untimely zits.
The desert-themed video for “Celestine” is also out on Youtube now. Is it only me or is that an S Club 7 reference in the video? And maybe a Madonna’s “Frozen” homage too. They certainly (presumely) know their late ’90s pop!
Radio 1′s certainly been pimping them a lot lately.
Now how about some album news, lads.
If you happen to subscribe to Mojo Magazine, the latest issue comes with a free CD of “Pet Sounds” covers in celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys. Saint Etienne contributed their part with a lovely version of the iconic track one “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”. It starts with a lush a cappella intro, then merges into a mellow bossa nova summer groove. It’s definitely something nice to tide me over while waiting impatiently for the new album to come out. It’s not the first time Saint Etienne covered a Beach Boys song, having done “Stevie” for another tribute compilation before.
STREAM: Saint Etienne – Wouldn’t It Be Nice (The Beach Boys Cover)
Who would’ve thought that Hooverphonic‘s still got it, 17 years plus into their career? I thought Geike’s departure marked the end of the Belgian band, but I was surprised at how easily the new vocalist Noemi fits into the band and holds the fort admirably. It seems they did well with some young blood, as their last album “The Night Before” was certainly one of their strongest efforts. On the strength of that album’s success, Hooverphonic just released “Hooverphonic With Orchestra”, with re-workings of old and new songs since the beginning. I always have a soft spot for well-crafted orchestral pop music, and the album made a lovely listen indeed. The string arrangements were wonderfully grandeur, especially on “George’s Cafe” and the lush new version of “Mad About You”. They even breathed new life into what was one of my least favorite singles, “Expedition Impossible”. Beside a new track “Happiness”, the album also contains a fantastic stripped-down cover of Massive Attack‘s classic “Unfinished Sympathy”, which you can check out below. I highly recommend this album if you’re not quite familiar with the band’s catalogue, or in need of a soundtrack for spring evenings.
You can stream their recent liveset for Studio Brussel in full length on Soundcloud.
British newcomer Emeli Sandé made her debut Live Lounge session last Tuesday on BBC Radio 1 with Fearne Cotton. Instead of choosing to cover a current chart-topping hit like most would do, she picked the old school 1995 Blur single “Country House”, and it was a lovely moment. With some clever chorus swapping, she turned the jaunty original into a brooding affair, beautifully sung and interpreted.
Her album “Her Version of Events” drops this week in the UK, and is set to be number one come Sunday. If you are hoping a whole album in the style of “Heaven” and “Daddy”, then prepare to be disappointed, for they are red herrings. I guess either “Heaven” was meant to be the buzz “tastemaker’s single” that unexpectedly became her big break, or she and her team decided to go after Adele’s market rather than Katy B’s. It was not the album I expected, but it still is a strong, solid effort. I’ll save the details for a later post, as the album will reach our shores on June 5. For now, watch the video for her latest single “Next To Me” below.
Back in late 2010, when Lana Del Rey was still relatively unknown and blond, she made what was possibly her first European TV appearance on Mandio Diao‘s MTV Unplugged show. Backed by the Swedish rock band themselves, Lana gave an acoustic rendition of “Chet Baker”, an obscure 2007 b-side named after the jazz legend. The show was later released on CD/DVD, and footage of her segment has been floating around since, but I only managed to discover it a couple days ago. Her voice was a good fit for the jazz-tinged track, and it was certainly fascinating to witness the soon-to-be pop star in progress, just a year before the big break. Not that much has changed, vocally and aethestically. A lovely listen, anyhow.
What I find interesting is that Juliette Lewis, who previously tweet-bashed her SNL performance, was also a guest star on the same show. I wonder if she remembers that they might actually have met before?
“Born To Die” is out now worldwide.
I was first alerted to Ren Harvieu when she was longlisted on the BBC Sound of 2012. Forewarning: she makes music for Radio 2. BUT it’s damn good Lite FM gold. The Mancunian chanteuse possesses an enchanting jazz/soul voice with a drawl that lulls you in effortlessly. Her debut single “Through The Night” is an exquisite, languid, elegant tune, conjuring up an expensive, widescreen kind of sadness. I suddenly found the song creeping its way back into my head on a misty Thursday morning, and it’s been lingering there since. In a nutshell, if you secretly like Rumer but think she’s too mumsy, or have a fondness for Norah Jones circa 2002, then Ren Harvieu is for you. Lovely stuff.
STREAM: Ren Harvieu – Through The Night
“Through The Night” is OUT NOW in the UK.
Sky Feirrera might still be spending her sweet time perfecting her debut album, but she’s been appeasing the fans by sporadically posting snippets and demos on her Soundcloud. Her latest gift comes in the form of a raw, angsty acoustic piano cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans”, deliberately renamed as “Berlin Jeans”, referring to where it was recorded. Allegedly done in one take, it’s a far cry away from her fizzy electro-pop stuff. Despite sounding a bit rough during the middle eight, she did an admirable job with the song.
Sky’s album “Wild At Heart” is set to be released later this year, and that she’s been working with producer Jon Brion only fuels more Fiona Apple comparisons. While it’s quite disappointing that her old electro-pop materials get scrapped, I’m certainly intrigued by her new direction. She’s a very promising artist who well deserves a breakthrough. Check out her cover below and let me know what you think.
MP3: Sky Ferreira – Berlin Jeans (Lana Del Rey Cover)
It occurred to me the other day that it’s been a while since I heard from Maia Hirasawa. After all, she’s responsible for one of the finest, catchiest indie pop songs ever made. So I decided to do some catching up and to my surprise, not only had the lovely Swedish/Japanese singer/songwriter relocated to Japan, she also released a new album over there last year! Her self-titled Japan-only album is a collection of new songs in English and Japanese, as well as assorted tracks from her second album and Swedish EP. The lead single “It Doesn’t Stop” also serves as a sort of introduction to the land of rising sun, and it’s classic Maia at her best – robust, bright and sprightly. The song’s bursting with life and sheer joy that it couldn’t fail to bring a stupid grin on my face. Most of all, it took me right back to 2007, when I first discovered the super talented female roster of Swede lavel Razzia Records, including Maia among Hello Saferide, Firefox AK, and Jonna Lee. Those were the days…
View the sailor-themed video for the song below – you will really dig this if you’re a fan of Regina Spektor or commercial-friendly Feist. For good measure, I’ll throw in her harp-laden cover of Ne-Yo’s “Because Of You”. As you can tell by the choice, it’s a quite old one but still sounds fantastic.
A cheery bunch Veronica Falls ain’t. The UK indie band is known for their gloom-laden, gothic lo-fi guitar-pop, and their self-titled debut album released last year makes great music for cold, grey days. They carry their aesthetics well on this fantastic cover of Eurythmics‘ 1986 hit “Thorn In My Side”. Released on a limited covers 12″, it’s a cleverly reimagined version of the original, with which I wasn’t familiar before hearing their version. Their rather bleak-sounding take hints at a sense of desperation beneath the kiss-off bravado. What I like about Veronica Falls is that they do not forget the tunes and harmonies. Do check out their own songs if you have the time, they’re so underrated.
Can you believe 2012 is just around the corner? Last minute gift shoppers need not be reminded. If you still have the time for some jolly new music to add to your playlist today, check out this poorly timed roundup of this year’s holiday highlights.
She & Him‘s holiday LP “A Very Merry She & Him Christmas” is pretty much the essential release this season. Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward’s seasonal offering is a charming collection of lovely old-timey fireside tunes.
Birdy‘s debut album is a delightful collection of songs beautifully interpreted by a voice and talent beyond her years. However, one of my favorite tracks are not even on the standard version. Hidden away as a bonus gem on the deluxe edition is a peculiar choice of cover, Mew‘s 8-minute arena-rock epic “Comforting Sounds”. At first I was quite curious and a little worried upon seeing its inclusion on the tracklist, and fortunately, Jasmine’s version does not disappoint. It’s a bold move to not only keep the original length, but also play up the scale by filling the latter half with a stirring widescreen string arrangement and Bjork-esque broken beats. Her weary, aching delivery evokes an quietly devastating kind of melancholy. It is just what I expect it to be: a sublime, orchestral piece of end-credits-worthy wallowfest. It’s a great interpretation that I didn’t even think could exist, but I’m glad it does. If you’re down for some pre-holiday gloom, click play. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
STREAM: Birdy – Comforting Sounds (Mew Cover)