Latest News: Jose Gonzalez

Songs Through Time: Love Will Tear Us Apart

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As it was explored last time, there are certain songs that are forever fresh because they are powerfully covered in every era. These are the songs that wriggle their way into the minds of listeners, and moreso into other creators. They're inescapable and beg to be reborn in new, interesting and revealing ways. One of the most successful, constantly covered songs is the timeless and heart exploding Joy Division hit, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Part of it is that the song was a legend in its own time having been released just before Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis committed suicide. But the song has outlasted the initial myth-making and found new audiences who latch onto something else in its dark reflections, spacious '80s sound and catchy driving melody. When Nouvelle Vague covered it in their 2004 self-titled debut in slick bossa nova form, they stripped it of its urgency and made the tragedy of the relationships seem relaxing, which is a whole new tragedy unto itself. It's a cover that reveals to us that you can change the whole sound and atmosphere, but if the lyrics remain (“Resentments ride high, emotions won't grow”) you can never fully lose the powerful weight of a song. There are different ways to perform surgery on a song. Indie titans Broken Social Scene took a stab at it on the soundtrack to The Time Traveler's Wife, and they removed any semblance of pop riffs in favor of something that brings slow motion drowning to mind. Kevin Drew apparently tries to do a distorted imitation of Ian Curtis' voice, which may be a little odd, but it's a dramatic performance all the same. Nouvelle Vague giggles, and Broken Social Scene bellows. Even simplifying a song to its barest elements will do things to the message. Evelyn Evelyn, a duo made of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley, have the song set to a ukelele and a large, empty room. Palmer whispers sickly into the mic and Webley is a somber monotone, but the most telling change is that this is now a duet. What was once Curtis' painfully personal expression of defeat is suddenly the saddest agreement. It's one thing for one speaker to lose hope, but to hear it in a quiet call & response style shows that “Love Will Tear Us Apart” has plenty of darkness to mine. Yet one of the most notable covers of the song in recent times, and one of the most straightforward is singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez's acoustic take. It's the type of cover that is so effortless and organic that a newcomer might assume the song is meant to be this way. It approximates everything from the building drum hits to the subtle urgency shifts with nothing more than a six-string guitar, and that's amazing and infectious. Breaking a song down to its bare sonic elements, the way a lot of VSQ songs do in fact, has the best results when it retains the pieces that are more than just notes and instruments. It's energy, mindset, story and all the other intangibles that aren't easy to translate. Jose Gonzalez's version isn't quite the new wave despair of the original, but it's remarkably faithful to the other parts that matter most.

String Quartet Tribute to New Order & Joy Division Available at iTunes and Amazon

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Arcade Fire Play Surprise Show in Haiti

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Arcade Fire delighted a tiny audience with a surprise set at a hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on early last week. The 45 minute show included covers of The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time,” Blondie’s “The Tide is High,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and Cyndie Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” in addition to Arcade Fire’s own “Keep the Car Running,” “Rebellion (Lies)” and, of course, “Haiti.” In honor of this surprise cover-heavy set by one of our favorite bands, we give you five of our all time favorite surprising covers. 1. Hallejulah – Rufus Wainwright covering Leonard Cohen Cohen’s 1984 “Hallejulah” was poorly received until a number of covers, (Jeff Buckey’s is also classic), brought the song new life. Wainwright called his cover a “purifying and almost liturgical interpretation” ) 2. Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez covering The Knife José González gave the The Knife’s 2003 dance hit a decidedly more low key feel when he covered the synthy jam on his 2006 album Veneer. Pitchfork Media ranked The Knife’s original version at #15 on their Top 500 Songs of the 2000’s list. ) 3. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston covering Dolly Parton Whitney Houston's 1992 mega hit "I Will Always Love You" was written and recorded by country diva Dolly Parton almost 20 years earlier. The rumor is that Whitney’s record company wasn’t a fan of the song’s a cappella introduction, but those music-free opening notes have become the song’s trademark, as has the famous high note that Houston nails later on in the song. ) 4. Blinded by the Light – Mannfred Mann covering Bruce Springsteen "Blinded by the Light" was the first single from Bruce Springsteen's 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park N.J. The boss’ version was unsuccessful and the song was mostly unknown until Mannfred Mann’s 1977 cover made us all wonder if he was actually singing “wrapped up like a douche.” The lyric is actually “revved up like a deuce.” Springsteen has joked that it was not until Mann rewrote the song to be about a "feminine hygiene product" that it became popular. ) 5. Hurt – Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails Music icon Rick Rubin, producer of Cash's American series and a friend of Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor, suggested the song to country legend Cash. The line "crown of sh-t" was changed to "crown of thorns" to make the song more appropriate for the highly religious Cash. ) Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Tribtue to Bruce Springsteen Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Nine Inch Nails Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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