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Between The Covers

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Tristan Prettyman Covers Barry Louis Polisar’s “All I Want Is You” Leave it to a children’s book author to come up with a simple yet catchy tune that will be stuck in your head for hours after you first hear the lyrics, which are childishly charming despite the allusions to floral reproduction: “If I was a flower growing wild and free/All I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee.” Barry Louis Polisar’s memorable melody might be why acoustic singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman covered his 1977 song - and why you might recognize the original from the intro to Jason Reitman's 2007 film “Juno.” Polisar’s cute and quirky lyrics are treated to Prettyman’s, well, pretty vocals that weave in and out of acoustic guitar and lyrics that don’t bend to the gender of their new singer: “All I want is you, will you be my bride/Take me by the hand and stand by my side.”

Meaghan Smith Covers Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” This smoothed-out, slowed-down version of “Here Comes Your Man” leaves the alt-rock edge of the late 80s behind, but keeps one of its electronic instruments – the Omnichord. The chiming timbre and kitsch appeal of the instrument is embodied well in one of the more playful and upbeat covers of a song about winos and hobos traveling on trains. Canadian indie pop songstress Meaghan Smith’s charismatic vocals and charm are brought to life in the accompanying lighthearted video, where she rides a bike in the sun while being chased by a boy (supposedly “her man”?). The Zooey Deschanel magnetism of the song fits perfectly in the movie soundtrack it was on, (500) Days of Summer.

Peter Gabriel Covers Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” The original song’s tropical frills and tribal beats made it an easy target for Peter Gabriel to cover – that, and the fact that the song’s lyrics mention him by name (“But this feels so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too”). When asked to do a cover of the song, Gabriel replaced one of the lines with "And it feels so unnatural to sing your own name" to rectify the situation. Gabriel’s animated voice is a funny yet fitting addition to the Hot Chip instrumental, as the cover combines music new and old.

The String Quartet Tribute to Peter Gabriel Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Songs That Made the Movie

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Even before The Jazz Singer brought us audible dialogue, film and music have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship. Most of the time it's still up to the movie to do the heavy lifting the drama, the progression, the themes but there are always exceptions. Once in a rare while, there will be a specific song that so wholly encompasses a film's attributes, or comes to define a pivotal scene, that it becomes iconically linked. It's not so easy as pairing a hit song with a hit movie, although that frequently works. We're talking about iconic pairings here; a song has to embody an important theme or legacy of a film while not eclipsing it. For reasons I can't explain, Joe “Bean” Esposito's “You're The Best” is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of integral soundtrack pieces. It's an iconic song perfect for The Karate Kid's training montage, or any montage, really. It's one of those songs that, over time, has been warped into a humorous novelty full of lyrical lumps of coal like, “A little bit of all you got can never bring you down!” which doesn't even mean anything. Still, it is a song and film indicative of that whimsical decade, the 1980's. In the next decade, there was a period of time when a particular brand of sweeping R&B was all the rage and film studios seized the moment. Chief among these tie-ins was Seal's “Kiss From a Rose” on Batman Forever and R. Kelly's “I Believe I Can Fly” from Space Jam. It's hard to call the former song iconic. It's a hit that is faintly remembered today, sure, but the relationship it had with the film is flimsy. It doesn't encompass anything about the film, not its ridiculous camp or its cinematic failure. “I Believe I Can Fly,” though, is all you could want from a movie/song partnership. The mega-hit stood on its own, and it's hard not to tie it to that climactic scene where Michael Jordan embraces the power of cartoons by dunking from half court in 5 seconds, even though it never actually scored that part of the film. But it sure does fit. (Additionally, isn't there something amusing today about the single's cover which features a very serious shot of R. Kelly, Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny?) These kinds of partnerships are rarer to find today as this type of symbiosis seems to have gone out of fashion. Kimya Dawson's work on Juno was important to the film and influenced many soundtracks thereafter, but it still feels like a phase and less like an icon. The Shins blew up with Garden State, but I have a feeling the band will far outlast the film. Today, it's more likely to just see a movie use a song well. Whatever your feelings on the Twilight films, the choice to bookend the films with two versions of Iron & Wine's “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” is pretty inspired. It's more of a case where a song seamlessly melds into a film, rather than being an equal partner in crime.

Vitamin String Quartet Performs Music from Twilight Available at iTunes and Amazon

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