Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” is very much a product of its time. This isn’t a knock on the song nor me saying it hasn’t aged well. Quite the contrary. It remains a cornerstone of my music library. That’d be like me saying Lincoln is dated. The track, from 1983’s Speaking In Tongues (as well as the soundtrack to their own Stop Making Sense) showcases the precision with which Byrne and company were able to carefully reign in the electronica of the time to beautifully underscore brilliant lyrics—all while their contemporaries were taking synthesizers and computerized beats and empty rhetoric out into the parking lot to do donuts.
This is a subtly perfect love song—one that captures the dizzying, free-associative, share-with-everyone-how-you-feel essence of falling in love. “I feel numb / burn with a weak heart / so I guess must be having fun” and “Make it up as we go along / Feet on the ground / Head in the sky” and “I’ve got plenty of time / you’ve got light in your eyes” speak to a boundless, devil-may-care sense that anything is possible.
I’ve also always admired Byrne’s “I guess” element to this song—the way in which he seems to observe his life from a distance, as though he has no idea how he’s arrived at these moments, like some sort of romantic amnesiac. (In this respect, this song is a close cousin of “Once in a Lifetime.”)
Since 1983, a few artists have taken stabs at covering this tune: Shawn Colvin stripped it down to acoustic-folk honesty, while The String Cheese Incident unnecessarily drew it out into a nine-minute jam session that the song can’t fully support.
Bashi is the first to turn the song into his own.
The violins are deliberate in some moments, accentuating an already-familiar riff, while occassionally sounding deliciously off-the-cuff in others. This only adds to the improvisionational nature of the song itself. Bashi rises above the original within the first minute, giving it a classical gloss at the same time he revives the song’s pulse.
Again, this isn’t to say the song was dead. “This Must Be the Place” has just become easy sonic wallpaper to cue in movies. Certain songs become trapped within the era from which they were produced. You can’t listen to the 1980s anthem “Danger Zone,” for example, and hear it without envisioning the accoutrements of Tom Cruise, MiGs, and missiles. So, what’s since long become an airy confection from the past is now infused with a deliriously raw sense of newness and being in love. Bashi inverts the song in a way that makes it sound as though the song is in love with BEING in love.
Home is where Byrne wants to be in this song, but Bashi is the first person who actually takes us there.
It’s been ages since we first brought you the work of Young Yeller, aka Jesse Brickel. But the Brooklyn native is releasing his first full-length album this summer, and his latest double-A side from that self-titled LP is a dual dose of dreamy electronic tuneage. The sparse boom-bap beat and loads of fuzzy distortion on “War” create the kind of vibe that might be most useful while slow-motion dancing at a glowstick rave. And I mean that as a compliment. “1st Love” picks up the pace slightly, but still employs the same trance-inducing synths and electronic effects. But there’s a guitar lick floating through the ether as well.
Giving these two tracks repeated listens reminded me why I loved the work Brickel did on his 2011 EP enough to put his song “It’s Enough” among my favorite songs for that year: His stuff is as much about feel as it is composition, and Brickel is able-bodied enough as a vocalist to carry these soundscapes toward their desired emotional payoff. In short, both these songs show promise, and are worth your time.
This is the first installment of Cover Up!, something we hope will become a regular feature here at TWJ, where we examine covers that — albeit debatably — surpass the original.
The first album I ever bought, consciously thinking it was an Important Album, was Peter Gabriel’s Us (1992). It was also the second or third CD I’d ever owned, which meant that I was still geeked on just how clean and full everything sounded. Anything on CD impressed me at that point. (I’m looking at you, Michael Bolton’s Time, Love & Tenderness.) Two decades later, Us still sounds as clean as it sounds quietly operatic. And while I went into Us hoping for another single like “Sledgehammer” or “Big Time,” I got a lot more. It’s a denser, far less political and accessible album than So, but it’s also more ambitious and rewarding upon each listen.
The opening track “Come Talk to Me” is brash and bold by equal measure: an epic bombast of bagpipes followed by Gabriel’s gravelly vocals: “The wretched desert takes its form / the jackal proud and tight / In search of you, I feel my way / Through the slowest heaving night.” To say it’s stirring is to understate the obvious. Every filmmaker who never used this as the opening song is a sucker. The track is hell and gone from “Sledgehammer,” but it was mind-blowing to the 15-year-old version of me. It’s as “swirling, curling” as the lyrics themselves—a dizzyingly poetic song that underscores just how oblique Gabriel’s lyrics can be, all the while landing very real, very emotional punches. I used to listen to this song at night, eyes closed, imagining a bleached aerial shot of sand, cacti, and nothing.
Enter Bon Iver.
How Justin Vernon manages to distill “Come Talk to Me” into something better than what Gabriel did is confounding. His lilting voice somehow perfectly captures the desperation that I never heard in the original. It’s pleading and plaintive. The propulsive energy is gone, but the song is somehow purer. The precision of Vernon’s opening is gorgeous — a series of banjos that gradually escalate into something immediate and raw. The echoed vocal tracks resonate with me on a level that allows me to appreciate the original while mourning it at the same time. Bon Iver’s version grows second by second, slowly becoming a superior version in every way. When Vernon asks “Can you show me how you feel now?”, you can almost hear the pain behind the question and, for the first time, I hope someone will answer.
I’m not a morning person. At all.
It’s hard for me to fall asleep and it’s hard for me to wake up. What happens in between those two moments, however, pretty much encapsulates the gauzy meanderings of Kurt Vile’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze (Matador Records). Vile’s latest is a winsome, deceptively breezy album that speaks to neither sleeping nor waking, but to waking up with new ideas, revelations, and perspectives about yourself. It’s the sound of Vile mentally working out his life while he’s dead asleep—his brain slowly processing the past and coming to terms with everything.
If that sounds like hyperbole, it’s not. This is already firmly in my Top 10 of 2013.
The opening track “Wakin on a Pretty Day” immediately has this warm, laconic attitude (“Don’t worry about a thing” pervades the entirety of Daze). The sheer fact that the title track is thisclose to being spelled the same as the album speaks to its ironic laziness. The last time I heard something as effortlessly timeless was Tom Petty’s 1994 Wildflowers, but this isn’t to say Vile’s new album is the second incarnation of Petty’s bright acoustics. It simply sounds like it could’ve emerged from the future or the past. Daze also sounds as fully formed as it is shapeless. There’s elasticity to Vile’s chord progressions that suggest you might not hear the same exact song when you next hear the album.
From the start, Vile sounds as though he’s laboring through the lyrics—not quite here, not quite there. It’s as if it’s hard for him to muster the energy to finish the nine-minute opening track, but that’s what makes it so compelling. He’s as bemused as he is disaffected: “Phone ringing off the shelf/ I guess somebody has something they really wanna prove to us today.” He seems more concerned with “what kind of wisecrack I’m gonna drop along the way” and this speaks to the album. There’s no urgency, there’s no plan, there’s nothing to prove to anyone. It’s beautiful in its own dingy, barely-awake way.
There’s an undercurrent to Waking On A Pretty Daze that finds Vile gaining insight into his own mortality. The phrase “dark days” appears so many times —“Snowflakes Are Dancing”; “Pure Pain,” etc.— that it’s clear Vile’s been through something deeply unsettling. “Shame Chamber” is a particular standout to this end (“Everyone is saying I should probably give up / And, hey, I wouldn’t wanna waste no time / But I couldn’t look myself in the mirror / Then again, why would I? / It’s just another day in the shame chamber / Living life to the lowest power”). He’s been staring into the abyss but the album finds him, gradually, becoming okay with the “shame chamber” of life.
“KV Crimes” is as deliberate and straightforward as the album gets, which isn’t saying a lot. It even starts a half-second late, finding us in the middle of its first jangly guitar licks. It’s also uncertain what crimes Vile has committed, but he’s “ready to claim what’s mine rightfully” — which he does — all the while imparting such advice as: “You better get over this one with a load on.” It’s such a slippery tune with purposefully unpredictable guitar solos that it’s over before you figure out what crimes he’s trying to acquit himself of.
He stretches words well beyond their syllables (“daydreaming,” “overcome,” and “dejected” each melt into the next verse) but it’s somehow fitting. Everything about the album comes across as a morphine drip where the way the lyrics are presented is less important than simply having said them.
“We All Talk” starts off like a clogged sink. There is a brief, impenetrable series of synth beats, but then it pulls you right down into it seconds later. (“Yeah, I’m going, I’m going, I’m gone” is pretty appropriate.) The album’s two purely acoustic tracks (“Pure Pain” and “Too Hard”) couldn’t be more different. The former shifts directions so many times that you almost feel the title’s message, while the latter is something like a soliloquy. “Never Run Away,” a phrase he repeats over and over, speaks to either his confidence, or a deep-seated fear he intends to pass off as confidence. It’s an ode to love that also doubles as a song about insecurities over what you hold most dear.
The album’s closer, “Goldtone,” recalls “Ghost Town” from his previous effort, Smoke Ring for My Halo, in which he insisted: “I think I’m never gonna leave my couch again / ‘Cause when I’m out, I’m only in my mind.” Apparently, he’s left the couch since then, because there’s a distinct sense of penitence in it. “I might be adrift / But I’m still alert / Concentrating my hurt into a goldtone / Golden tones” says it all.
Daze isn’t immediately accessible, but that’s the point. It’s about distance, uncertainty, and allowing Vile to process these thoughts at his own pace. What seems so vivid, clear, and tangible in your dreams quickly becomes faded, illogical, and disconnected when “waking up on a pretty day.” Dreams evaporate, and that’s exactly how Wakin on a Pretty Daze reveals itself: it’s the sound of dreams whose slippery details are hard to recall, but which you desperately cling to before they vanish entirely.
It’s been a few weeks since I posted about Brooklyn-based band Haerts and their song “Wings,” and my love for the song hasn’t faded one bit. I’ve been putting it on mixes for people I know, blaring it on long drives and repeating it in my headphones while at work. There’s something about “Wings” that saddens and uplifts me at the same time, akin to the feeling of breaking free of one’s routine but still longing for that sense of familiarity, of belonging. The child’s perspective in this new, official video for the song allows the viewer to get a look at some powerful moments and then soar above them a few moments later. Perhaps it’s a visual metaphor for the sudden ability to rise above one’s own personal difficulties. I’m sure we’ve all wanted that literal power when times have gotten tough, too. Watch the video above, and stream the song below.