30 January 2006

this is how he do it

tiny cities made of ashes : sun kil moon
click below left to listen. 3m 41s
tiny cities made of ashes : modest mouse
click below right to listen. 3m 13s

It's not often that you find a cover version of a song that's practically unrecognizable from the original. In most cases, what differentiates one from the other is the genre of the respective artists, like the White Stripes doing a demented rock version of Dolly Parton's country classic Jolene, or Skinny Puppy transforming Borderline by Madonna into an electro-rock travesty. Still, the rhythm, the pace, or sometimes both are usually the same, and anyone who knows the words would be able to follow. That's not the case with Mark Kozelek's cover of 11 Modest Mouse songs in Tiny Cities, his latest album under his band Sun Kil Moon.

Kozelek is not new to covers; he's done tributes to musicians as varied as John Denver, AC/DC, and Simon and Garfunkel. But this is the first time he took only one element of the songs – the lyrics – to create his own versions of them. In each song from Tiny Cities, gone are the electric guitars and Modest Mouse vocalist Isaac Brock's verbal vomit of philosophical thought. Kozelek placates them with his own brand of acoustic-guitar wistfulness and tempered, if slurred, singing. In some, he cuts the length of the songs down to a third. "If you listen to a song like Exit Does Not Exist, those words are coming out like an automatic weapon. It's really, really fast," he tells Pitchfork. "It's beautiful, but it's something that, if you're not into Modest Mouse, it's just going to go right by. I've slowed them down, and there's enough space in there that you can really hear what's going on. It becomes my own colors, you know?"

In Tiny Cities Made of Ashes – click here for the lyrics – what was menacing and foreboding has become a mixture of irony and resignation. It made me wonder, how many ways can the same set of words be expressed differently? If three different people sang Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 in three different ways, the outcome would probably be the same: they would all be sentimental and overflowing with love. With musicians like Kozelek, that may not be the case.

12 January 2006

she whose name must not be spoken

Been busy and lazy this past coupla weeks, though I've been listening to a lot of good new(ish) music lately, like the four songs below. Not much to say, really, but I thought posting songs with little or nothing to say about them is better than not posting at all. So here you go.

unsingable name : mike doughty
click on the image below to listen. 4m 17s

complicated situation : black rebel motorcycle club
click on the image below to listen. 2m 37s

over and over again : clap your hands say yeah
click on the image below to listen. 3m 09s

no woman no cry : jonathan butler
click on the image below to listen. 6m 05s

04 January 2006

happy new year all, and wish us well.

pocketful of rainbows : elvis presley
click on the image below to listen

For the reason I'll say in a while, I'm starting the year with a comfort song. With a title that suggests of childlike cheer, complete with pre-recording banter between Elvis and his producer, this song is so blissfully infectious it makes you want to reach into your pocket and hope to find something candy-colored. You also gotta love the man's voice here, playfully alternating three or more vocal ranges, which is so unlike the crooning Elvis we know from his more popular ballads. It's a comfort song for me because (much like comfort food) it's something I know by heart and that lightens up my mood. R, my significant other, and I could wrap ourselves with the warmth of this song for what we have before us. No, scratch that. We choose to be as optimistic as this song because of what lies ahead. Of her, especially.

Just days before Christmas, R was diagnosed to have breast cancer, and was told that surgery was need within about a month, which today means some time in the next couple of weeks. We're being very positive about it. R is very strong emotionally, more so than I am, I must say. Naturally, she was devastated at first, but my love and admiration for her grow everyday as I see how she deals with it with unflinching spirit, never losing her humor and grace, never shedding a tear or breaking her voice even as we speak about what she will go through in the next few days, and the weeks that will follow. Lumpectomy, radiotherapy, possible chemotherapy are words we never thought she would have to deal with. But we have accepted the fact and we're together in all respects in getting through this. This is just another trial which we have the strength and faith to bear. Our pockets are filled with rainbows, and our hearts are full of love.