The Pierces have put their sisterly harmonizing powers to good use with a folked-up version of Lorde‘s commoner anthem “Team”. Absent are the glitches and pitch-shifted vocal samples, as the duo winds the song back four decades, when Fleetwood Mac reigned supreme. It’s a pretty acoustic cover that replaces teen angst with knowing wisdom. Check it out below.
STREAM: The Pierces – Team (Lorde Cover)
Current UK #1 single champion (and deservingly so) Kiesza is keeping the momentum going by dropping a cover of Haddaway‘s ’90s club classic “What Is Love”. Yes it’s a bit of an obvious choice, but also not what you probably expected (it’s done in an emotive piano ballad style). The Canadian singer gets to show off her vocal chops here, and the beautiful strings towards the end really class it up. Check out her pensive cover below, and watch the self-directed video via NME.
STREAM: Kiesza – What Is Love (Haddaway Cover)
And just for extra content engagement I’m gonna squeeze in two cool remixes of “Hideaway” by Gorgon City and Zac Samuel.
Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun managed to bring out the subtleties in Beyoncé‘s gargantuan ballad “Halo”. Her chamber-folk rendition is a pared-down, understated acoustic affair with Swedish cellist Linnea Olsson on strings duty. It’s a nice break from the drum-heavy bombast of Ryan Tedder’s original production.
You can find “Halo” on her latest double album “Rarities”, collecting her rare tracks from over the years.
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)
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.
Swedish indie-pop veterans Acid House Kings have been enjoying a resurgence lately. They just reissued most of their back catalogue, as well as invited friends and fans to remix their most popular track “This Heart is a Stone” (it was on a Korean ice cream commercial featuring Drew Barrymore don’t cha know). Out of the whopping number of 12 remixes, here are my two cherry picks. The Perfect Nines mix goes for the jangly C86 Sarah Records sound which I adore, while the Sunny Intervals opt for relaxing Sunday-morning vibes. Both give a fresh take on the original without straying too far from its roots. Have a lovely listen below.
STREAM: Acid House Kings – This Heart is a Stone (Sunny Intervals Remix)
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.
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.
Last week, Jack Peñate unveiled a video for new song “No One Lied”, shot and recorded in one take at his home. Now, the UK singer/songwriter has kindly offered the track as a free download. The song is a stripped-down, poignant, heart-on-sleeve moment that’s sombre and tender at once. I hope this means a new LP is on its way soon. His last full length, the Paul-Epworth-produced “Everything Is New” was such a fantastic but overlooked record.
Now excuse me while I go blast out “Be The One” again. That was a choon!
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)
Controversial rising popstar Lana Del Rey did her first ever UK radio session today for BBC Radio 6, joining Huey Morgan for a chat and performing acoustic renditions of “Video Games” and “Born To Die”. And yes, she sounds just fine and at ease with herself – not that this evidence will stop the online vitriol though, unfortunately. You can stream the full session and interview on BBC, but if you’re not UK-based and can’t access it, I have ripped both songs for your convenience. Listen and download the utterly lovely session below.
My modest advice for future live TV performances? Get a stool, honey. Maybe stand up for the last chorus – no one would see it coming. It works for Westlife after all.
A member of the BBC Sound of 2012’s club, Lianna La Havas is hotly tipped as one to watch by British media. I first heard of the 22-year-old London native through her buzz single “No Room For Doubt”, which I thought was pleasantly nice enough. However, I wasn’t feeling the tracks on her EP as much. Even though she has a great soulful voice, her materials didn’t sound terribly exciting. The Corinne Bailey Rae comparisons also did her no favors.
Well, I would like to take that back. I shouldn’t have written her off so hastily, because her new single “Forget” totally flipped my premature verdict on its head. The song is much more sonically interesting than I expected – a slick, funky midtempo with a Latin twist. The simple, understated performance video gave her space to present herself as a star, taking command of the screen with moxie and sass. It helps that she’s very videogenic and charming, too. I am glad that she’s capable of versatility, beside the acoustic folky stuff. Apparently, she’s been working with Matt Hales (Aqualung), so I look forward to at least a piano ballad. With her album scheduled to arrive in May, you have plenty of time to get acquainted with Lianne and her music. Check out the video, download an acoustic live version, as well as her sweet cover of Everything Everything’s “Final Form”.
STREAM: Lianne La Havas – No Room For Doubt (feat. Willy Mason)
I was first introduced to First Aid Kit via their sublime performance of “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight” on Youtube. Two years have passed since then, the Söderberg sisters had gone on to release a debut album, as well as recorded a single for Jack White‘s boutique label Third Man Records, which is a quite impressive feat. While they surely both have grown and matured much, two things remain the same: their world-weary, melancholy folk harmonies, and their habit of hanging out in forests. Their upcoming sophomore album, “The Lion’s Roar”, was recorded in Nebraska, promising a full-band sound, and the lead single of the same name might in fact be the best thing I’ve heard from the duo so far. It still astounds me to hear these two Swedish girls sing the blues like they were born and raised in the South all their lives. Age and geography ain’t got nothing on them! If you’re a follower of the nu-folk wave of Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver, you’re in for a treat. Watch the gorgeous music video for “The Lion’s Roar”, or stream the radio edit right below.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Radio Edit)
Pictured above are the three sisters from Watford, collectively known as The Staves. This British trio should soon be on every folk-pop fan’s lips with their debut album scheduled for release next year. If you like the likes of Laura Marling, The Pierces, Birdy etc., then their new single “Mexico” will most certainly appeal to you. Basked in a warm glow of harmonies, the song is a thing of understated beauty. The melodies tread lightly and unobtrusively, yet they draw my full attention and reduce me to silence every time. There’s not necessarily new ground to break, just beautifully crafted mellow music for your listening pleasure.
Watch the music video for the track below, and keep in mind that all the effects were achieved in camera!
STREAM: The Staves – Mexico
The Staves’ new EP is out on December 11.
Despite not having blogged about her at all, I have slowly developed a soft spot for Birdy, aka Jasmine Van den Bogaerde. The English 15-year-old has got herself quite a unique niche in delivering stirring covers of indie faves like Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”, and The xx’s “Shelter”. With her debut self-titled album out on November 7, she is giving away a free download of album track “White Winter Hymnal”. Such good timing it is too, considering the Northeast’s unfortunately early winter this year. The Fleet Foxes cover boasts a fuller production than her more minimally arranged singles, and it’s a reliably lovely, soothing ditty. Download it below.
I must confess to thoroughly enjoying all her singles so far. There’s something special about Birdy that sets her apart from your average Youtube bedroom warbler. I like her quietly subversive practice of picking these supposedly low-key, marginally obscure indie songs, belting them out for the unfamiliar masses, and granting them new life as future X Factor audition staples. I couldn’t care less if her cover choices are of her own picking or painstakingly narrowed down in a dungeon somewhere by A&R monkeys. At the end of day, it’s melodies being beautifully sung, and that’s enough for me. I expect the album to be essential winter listening.
Watch the video for her latest single, a version of Cherry Ghost’s “People Help The People”, and peep the tracklist after the jump.
When Lykke Li was on tour down under, she popped by Triple J HQ for an acoustic live session. For the station’s “Like A Version” segment which is basically an Aussie version of Live Lounge, she delivered a haunting cover of The Righteous Brothers‘ 1965 classic “Unchained Melody”. The perennially brooding Swede’s got that uncanny ability to sing like she’s alone in a cavernous cathedral, even if she’s just sitting comfily in a studio. With this melancholy performance, Lykke has officially joined the Melody cover club, previously inhabited by the likes of Gareth Gates, Clay Aiken and Air Supply. I quite like how she bluntly answered “No” when asked if she likes the movie “Ghost”. Lykke’s got no love for claymaking doomed lovers! Listen to her version below, and grab it for free if you like.
MP3: Lykke Li – Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers Cover)
Are you still clinging to what little’s left of summer sunshine? Well, the new Kings of Convenience video won’t make things easier. Here’s what Erlend & Eirik have to say about this rather unexpected present:
“This song is from Declaration of Dependence, that was released almost 2 years ago. We thought it deserved a video and 2 weeks ago the weather-forecast was good. We called up our friends (who has got some rather advanced video shooting equipment) and made this one-take video, on top of Eirik’s roof. The audio is the album-recording of the song. Bergen is not always as nice as this, but it’s days like this that makes us want to live here.”
Now that’s a lovely way to bid adieu to summer.
For the occasion, how about a nice bonus b-side? Here’s their rare cover of Badly Drawn Boy’s “Once Around The Block”, originally released on the Toxic Girl single back in 2001. That’s 10 years ago!
For the first single off his third album, Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan went back to basics. “For A Nightingale” is a stirring acoustic love song, with a no-frills but sublime simplicity very much akin to my favorite song of his, “Be Good Or Be Gone” (the latter’s video is a must-watch by the way). A suitably lovely tune for a mellow Sunday.
Fionn Regan – For A Nightingale
“100 Acres of Sycamore”, his forthcoming third album, is out on August 15.
Fresh off the oven, here is Robyn‘s cover of Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”, which just aired on Radio 1’s Live Lounge with Fearne Cotton today. At first I thought it was an odd choice, as I think the original is not quite one of Coldplay’s finest moments, but I really do like Robyn’s synthy take of it. Then again, like Coldplay, she has always proudly worn her heart on sleeve. You see, it’s a good thing tears never show in a pouring waterfall… (okay that needs a bit work). I have ripped both the cover and the live performance of “Call Your Girlfriend” for your convenience. Download away!
I’m glad Radio 1 is supporting the new single, she deserves another bonafide hit. Have you seen the Greg James parody of the video yet? Good viral promotion!
As a bonus, I’ll throw in her earlier Live Lounge acoustic performance of “Dancing On My Own”. It’s a shame it wasn’t included on Body Talk to complete the acoustic trilogy. You can find it on the Live Lounge Vol. 5 comp, though.
Robyn is currently on tour with Katy Perry in the US.
Danish songstress Fallulah stopped by Dermot O’Leary’s show on BBC Radio 2 yesterday to perform a live session, which included a special folky rendition of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Gold Lion”. I never thought about how the song would sound like with banjos and accordions, but she and the band did a splendid job covering it! Apparently, her debut UK single is “I Lay My Head”, out in late August, and the album “The Black Cat Neighbourhood” should follow by next year, even though it’s been out in Denmark for a while now. She said she’s not even signed in Britain yet, but I suppose this will be rectified soon. Stream/download the cover below, and check out two of her latest videos after the jump.
Freshly signed to Mute, UK’s boy-girl duo Big Deal got me hooked with just one simple yet brilliant track. “Homework”, their debut single, is a pristinely beautiful acoustic track, very much in the same vein of Kings Of Convenience. It’s the perfect song for a lazy spring afternoon. The gorgeously-shot video certainly helps, too. I like the teen angst angle in their lyrics, and the intimate, minimalist approach brings to mind The XX, or a lightweight Raveonettes. So far, they have released a couple limited vinyl singles, all of which sounds really nice. If they can find the right balance between the acoustic and the fuzz for the album, they might very well become one of my favorite new acts. Watch the video for “Homework” below, and download a b-side, “Locked Up”, after the jump.