29 October 2021

29 October 2021 - The Libertines - Music When The Lights Go Out

A popular album track from their second eponymous album, this song was written by Pete Doherty, who also sings the song. 

The song uses music as an analogy for love.  When you hear "I no longer hear the music", think "I am no longer in love with you."  However, the song is much more than that.  It is about the pain of loss, even if the loss is so right - but it doesn't ever erase the good times. 

Still, it's one of those songs that make me tear up just a little bit, because we've all been there.   

28 October 2021

28 October 2021 - Willie Nelson - Buddy

Let's not beat around the bush.  This deep cut was made popular on the television show Parks and Recreation.  It was one of Ron Swanson's favorite songs and appears twice during the series.

A tribute to the value of a good friend and how they can help with the pain of a heartbreak, Willie Nelson wrote it for his 1986 album, Good Times.  The whole album was meant to be a departure from the Nashville sound that had pigeonholed him for the first decade of his career.  In that respect, it was a success - Nelson became a superstar.

27 October 2021

27 October 2021 - Jessica Simpson - With You

I know what you're thinking.  

Don't worry.  I'm thinking it, too.

This song, which came out about the same time Jessica was on the MTV reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, was accompanied by a video that kind of mirrored the action on the show.  Lachey himself appears in the video.  

The song itself was a sweet love song, extoling the good feeling when you find that one person who is perfect, with whom you can be yourself.  Written by Simpson, Billy Mann and Andy Marvel (her producers), it's not a remarkable or different pop song.  It's just a solid midtempo pop tune with an element of funk to it. 

26 October 2021

26 October 2021 - Nanci Griffith - From a Distance

You probably thought this was a Bette Midler song, didn't you.

Nope.  Nanci Griffith did it two years earlier.  It's a little bit folkier, with a different feel.   This version of the Julie Gold-penned song was a big hit in Ireland, of all places.   

Griffith passed away this past August, after two separate bouts with cancer.  Her voice will be sorely missed.

25 October 2021

25 October 2021 - 50 Foot Wave - Clara Bow

50 Foot Wave are a power-pop trio founded in 2003.  Principal lyricist Kristin Hersh (the other band members share songwriting credit), also the founder of the closest thing to open source the music industry has ever had, CASH Music, sees this project as somewhat mathematical - 50 feet is the wavelength of the lowest audible (to humans) F tone.  But it's more than that - it's very much an emotional roller coaster.

This song, an early single by the group, is very much a bombastic thrill ride from start with finish, with unabated guitar and raspy growl by Hersh, bass by Bernard Georges, and the drumming of Rob Ahlers.  The personal nature of the song - the lyricist tends to write and perform in first person - is clear.

22 October 2021

22 October 2021 - Lights - Prodigal Daughter

I was going to have a moratorium on any Lights posts for a while.  

But then she goes and releases THIS.

And if I did it for Lorde, I have to do it for #1000

But yeah. New Lights song. The video itself is... provocative. Let's call it that. Drenched in red, it matches this blog. 

The song, expected to be the first single off her next album (due next year) is described by the artist herself as "a banger about finding yourself." Which is absolutely something I would say. 

21 October 2021

21 October 2021 - Lush - Sweetness and Light

As many of you know, I was really into shoegaze music in the 90's.  Still am, in fact. When Lush started out, they were the epitome of shoegaze.  Like, open the dictionary, turn to "shoegaze", and a picture of Lush is right there.  

This was one of their first singles - and their first in the US when they finally released all their UK music here.   When released, the song was actually a turn towards shoegaze - their earlier music had more of a post-punk feeling - with a lighter sound.  In the mix, Miki Berenyi (lead) and Emma Anderson (backing (and songwriter, by the way)) were styled with slightly obscured vocals to invoke a dreamy feel.  

20 October 2021

20 October 2021 - The National - Slow Show / 29 Years

This song is a deep cut from the 2007 album Boxer by Cincinatti band The National.  It is widely considered to be one of the greatest modern love songs ever written.  And, yet, it wasn't a single.  Go figure.  

The song is classic indie-pop, with a dark and brooding accompanyment alongside the sweet lyrics about what real love looks like. 

A personal joy I get is when the live performance sounds so much like the studio one.  On one hand, you want to see some unique elements - and you get that with this 2010 live performance - but also, you can see how tight the band is, and how much an extension of themselves this performance is.

"Slow Show" incorporated lyrics from their 2001 song, "29 Years", which was a more country-tinged song, but you can hear the future sound starting to develop.

19 October 2021

19 October 2021 - We The Kings - Check Yes Juliet

It's pretty common that a band's debut single is their biggest.  This is the case with We The Kings, a Florida power pop-rock band that hit glod - no, platinum - with their very first single.  Released in 2008, the song spent THREE YEARS on charts all over the world.  

Anyone who knows the Romeo and Juliet story - about a strong new love - can figure out the plot of this song without too much thought.  The boy knows what he has with the girl and is fighting so hard for it.  Not only lyrically, but the rises and falls of the pop-punk song in a musical manner convey the feeling of urgency and desperation.  

18 October 2021

18 October 2021 - Vance Joy - Missing Piece

Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy wrote a song that spoke to a lot of us as we were forcibly separated during the COVID-19 global pandemic.  In his words:
“Missing Piece is a song about being separated from someone you love. It can be tough but when what you have is good you know that these separations are just small stuff; you’re both holding the line. It’s about the stillness you find when you are together." - Vance Joy
Written on a Zoom call with Joel Little - how pandemic of them - the song and video both capture that feeling of separation and the joy of reunion with the person that completes you.  

15 October 2021

15 October 2021 - Phantogram - Into Happiness

The pride of Saratoga Springs, Phantogram, have evolved throughout their history.  Their fourth album, Ceremony, released in 2020, was richer and more nuanced than their previous work, while still retaining an electronic edge.  

This song, the first single of that album, was co-written by the two members of Phantogram - Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter - along with producer Boots and William Patrick Corgan - he usually goes by Billy - and was something of an alternative radio hit.  Both Carter and usual vocalist Barthel contribute lead vocal to this song.

Lyrically, the song is brighter than most prior Phantogram fare, although it still teeters strongly on the dark side.  It shows a maturity not seen before. 

14 October 2021

14 October 2021 - BØRNS - Electric Love

I am sitting here, writing this a week in advance.  I have a very busy week next week, so I want to make sure I get every last post to you.  

This 2014 song - which was certified platinum and has hit the charts a FEW times - was the debut single by BØRNS, who is, with that special character, American.  Go figure.  More recently, this song was featured in a TikTok challenge to kiss your best friend.  That is something I wholeheartedly recommend.  

The song has been described as "viral".  It is a funky, strangely beautiful love song, a throwback to the days of glam rock.  It grabs the listener with a haunting rhythm and drops right into a throbbing bassline.

Somehow, with a full band in a live performance, the song is even funkier and grander.

13 October 2021

13 October 2021 - The Box Tops - The Letter

Do you know that feeling when your baby is back at home and you're not, and she lets you know she's missing you as badly as you are missing her, and you have to just get to her as fast as possible - so fast that a train won't cut it?

So does Alex Chilton, who perfectly put that feeling to music. He didn't write the song - Wayne Carson did - but the gruff, bluesy take that Chilton had on the song is the first and still the greatest.  

12 October 2021

12 October 2021 - MGMT - Electric Feel

Look, I still say the Katy Perry version is better.  It objectively is. 

That does not make the MGMT version of this song, the original, not good.  It is.  Really good.  It is a trippy, fuzzed up trip that served as the group's first worldwide hit.  

The song - an electric tale of love - is incredibly complex, and takes a fair bit of skill to perform.  Which is why it's really impressive to see performed live.  

11 October 2021

11 October 2021 - Carpenters - Top Of The World

This song, co-written by Richard Carpenter, went to #1 for 2 weeks in 1973.  And, it wasn't even supposed to be a single -  it was an album cut that ended up being a COUNTRY hit for Lynn Anderson when she covered it herself.   

Lyrically, it's little more than a really simple love song - but isn't that what love is all about?  Musically, although there's a full orchestra as part of the backing band, the song is dominated by the Wurlizer electric piano.  Karen Carpenter's earnest, wholesome delivery really sells the song.  

08 October 2021

8 October 2021 - Love Positions - Into Your Arms

However, Robyn St. Clare of Australian jangle-pop band The Hummingbirds wrote the song.  She and fellow Hummingbird and future Lemonhead (he brought the song with him) Nic Dalton recorded this song as part of their side project, Love Positions.  The song is incredible simple.  It's a love song that succintly expresses the feeling of warmth and security one finds in true love.

The original arrangement of the song is sparse - St. Clare on vocal, Dalton on guitar.  There's a lot of beauty in the light arrangement.

07 October 2021

7 October 2021 - Berlin - Take My Breath Away

When this song came out, Berlin hadn't been heard from much in a couple of years - and had never had a top 20 hit, although a few of their songs (most recently "No More Words") had been minor US hits. 

This song was different.  The love theme from the movie Top Gun, it won the Academy Award for songwriter Giorgio Moroder - who was asked by Jerry Bruckheimer to write the song for the film.

Berlin was not the first choice for the song - The Motels, actually - but when they passed, Moroder thought of Berlin - he had produced "No More Words".  and, frankly, he made the right choice. Teri Nunn was more than capable of what is considered to be one of the greatest key changes in music history (time code: 2:48), something Martha Davis of The Motels could not do. 

The song itself is one that is well known to this day.

06 October 2021

6 October 2021 - Lights - Timing Is Everything

I wasn't planning on a Lights post for a while.  I mean, #1000

Then she posted this on Instagram:

HOW can I ignore this?  Even if I'm a couple of days late.  

You see, Lights's sophmore album, Siberia, was released on October 4th, 2011.  It's ten years old. And I had a complete blind spot to it - largely because I didn't really (at the time) love her first album.  My former co-author Scott quite famously called me out on this.  In fact, I didn't discover this record until THIS YEAR

Before I wrote this post, I did something I don't do very often anymore to any album.  I listened to Siberia end to end.   It has quickly become one of my favorite albums, ever, and this listening didn't do anything to change that.  It is both dark and, well, light at the same time.  The music is stark and brooding at points, but Lights's vocal and lyrics bring the tone way up.

This is a song I often forget is on Siberia and was reminded of on my listening. The title gives the subject away - often in life, things happen - LOVE happens - when the timing is right and two people with different trajectories come together in the same point in time.  It is a beautiful and meaningful work of art.

05 October 2021

5 October 2021 - Barry Manilow - Can't Smile Without You

Let's not bury the sotry here.

This is a cover.   

It should be on Totally Covered.

It's here.  Here is where it's going to stay.   

The Barry Manilow version of this song was not the first - David Martin did that.  But Manilow made this song his own, and this is how he did it. First, he sang the hell out of it.  He just did.  No argument.  But what he added - the sweet whistle at the beginning, a few lyrical changes - really made the song into the classic song that it is.  

Credit, however, needs to go to the original songwriters - Christian Arnold, Geoff Morrow, and David Martin - who really captured in their lyrics what being in love really is.  It is one of the most pure and beautiful representations of this in music.

04 October 2021

4 October 2021 - Cher Lloyd - Sirens

It's been a long time since we visited Cher Lloyd, performer of the most perfect pop song.   Fight me.  

But she actually did that twice, because with her second album, Sorry I'm Late, the 3rd place finisher on X Factor really found a new maturity and strength in her already strong voice.  It was a little weird to hear the words "Cher Lloyd" and "critical acclaim" in the same sentence, and yet, with this song.....

So, maybe I have to say she's got two perfect and very different pop songs.  

So, I was curious.  I mean, this is a great and emotional tour de force of a song - that, by the way, she co-wrote.  But, what happens if you strip all the production out - if you have Cher and a microphone and a sparser accompanyment?

You hear her emotion more.  You hear everything she threw into this song so much more.

01 October 2021

1 October 2021 - Lucinda Williams - Changed the Locks

In 2017, I wrote a post about one of the songs that made me start the Totally Covered blog.  I wrote it from the cover perspective.   Today, I wanted to give you the other side.   

In 1988, Austin TX singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams released a self-titled album.  There were a lot of great songs you know (The Grammy-winning "Passionate Kisses", famously covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter, comes to mind). However, few songs reach the influence of this song, released as a single in 1989.  

The story of the song, with harmonica, guitar and a sharp drum backing, is simple - a woman is taking increasingly absurd measures to prevent herself from falling in love with someone.  The brilliance of this song is that the object of her affection is not assigned any fault, anywhere - it's just an internal fight she's having with herself.  It is the truest musical representation of fighting one's personal feelings I've ever heard.

I called the song "achy" and "desperate" when I wrote about it on the covers blog.  Both are accurate terms, but it's a lot more than that.