Latest News: Regina Spektor

Available Now - Songbirds: A Tribute to the Women of Modern Rock

By 15

1. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs 2. Help I'm Alive  - Metric 3. 1234 - Feist 4. Dancing On My Own - Robyn 5. I Follow Rivers - Lykke Li 6. Myth - Beach House 7. The Greatest - Cat Power 8. Video Games - Lana Del Rey 9. Fidelity - Regina Spektor 10. Rolling in the Deep - Adele 11. Rehab - Amy Winehouse 13. Shake It Out - Florence + The Machine

Get it now in iTunes

Read more

Songs Through Time: Hallelujah

By 18

There is definitely a danger in covering a song too many times. It can become grating the way overplayed songs on the radio can be grating, and at its worst, it can dilute the power of the original.  Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” is certainly in the overcovered class, (Cohen himself has entertained the idea of calling for a moratorium on covers, though he ultimately decided otherwise) but because of its invincible gravity and writing, it has remained a sweeping and meaningful song since 1984. The original is a little weird. Because it was overshadowed in pop culture by Jeff Buckley's later rendition; many fans of the song haven't even heard it in its first form. It's obviously a product of 1980s production, something Cohen hasn't totally shaken even today, with blunt, fuzzy bass sounds and those distant plastic drums. It's understandable why some may not prefer it to later modernizations, especially given its comical appearance during the Watchmen movie. But no matter how close it comes to MIDI quality instrumentation, it's hard to take away from the deeply poetic lyrics: “She tied you to a kitchen chair/ She broke your throne and she cut your hair/ And from your lips she drew the hallelujah.” John Cale was among the first to get the ball rolling with a cover in 1991, which was recorded for a Cohen tribute album. It's a merely pleasant and basic piano rendition, which might be why it's fallen by the wayside, but it's still notable for including many verses that Cohen chose to omit from his own recording. I think of it as an important baton pass, because it was these lyrics that were passed into Jeff Buckely's iconic version. Were it not for Cale popularizing the new verses, things may have turned out differently in 1994 when Buckley's Grace came about. Here's what makes Jeff Buckley's 1994 cover so good, perhaps even better than the original in some aspects: He understood that the lyrics and melody were the most devastating parts, and built his cover to emphasize those elements. A bright but timeless electric guitar is all the accompaniment he requires, while his voice is given depth with a slight echo. It suits the atmosphere of divinity, and suddenly, the song doesn't just sound great, but important. He reveals the song to be an event. His singing style is sort of like a restrained R&B voice, creating wellsprings of emotion in every line. Cohen's voice was a bold baritone with a lot of weight on the original, but Buckley's singing made the song cinematic. It was such a landmark that many have tried to add their own efforts into the pile with varying degrees of success. In recent history, Britain's Got Talent breakout star Susan Boyle had a version of the song on her Christmas album, The Gift. It plays on the song's heart with calculated vocal work, a slow plodding grand piano and, a choir of children, but it all feels too obvious. While undeniably pretty, adding all of these garden variety flourishes washes out some of the personality and intimacy until it sounds like any other ballad. During the Hope for Haiti telethon came about, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris performed “Hallelujah” as a duet to some acclaim and better sales. It's a more appealing cover for adding some subtle tension and rising action; when the refrain of “Hallelujah” comes in, that little piano build in the back infuses a tiny bit of urgency that isn't normally inherent into the song. They have the good sense not to milk all the building melody for big, loud hysterics, and understand the song to be affecting in its subtleties - not in how you hit the high notes. Rufus Wainwright, Regina Spektor and dozens of others have tried their hand at the classic, but unlike other popular cover subjects like I Go To Sleep or Love Will Tear Us Apart, the results are never radically different. The reason is likely that the song simply doesn't work in wildly different styles, so it presents a different challenge for artists. What small changes can you make that make your version worth listening to? This is a science that requires far more skill. In a song this popular, not everyone is going to succeed, but the winners stand taller on the mountain of failures.

Be sure to check out

Strung Out Vol. 8 Featuring "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen Available at iTunes and Amazon

Read more

Peter Gabriel Gets His Indie On, New LP Scratch My Back

By 7

Oh, I really should apologize to Peter Gabriel. I had pretty much written him off. I thought he was done, at least in the current-pop-culture-relevancy context. I don’t mean to downplay the immense contributions he’s made over the years because, really, kudos to him, man. I just thought he was, ya know, done. But then he goes and pulls a Johnny Cash and surprises the hell out of all of us. But with once-a-decade studio LPs, nothing should really be all that shocking. That said, PG’s newest release, Scratch My Back, is shocking, in a great way. First of all, the LP consists entirely of cover songs. And the picks are insane. No one would’ve pegged the former Genesis member for picking these 12 songs, out of all the songs in the world to choose. He credits at least some of his exposure to indie music to his daughter and after hearing Gabriel’s cover of Flume by Bon Iver, I’m about to send that girl some flowers or something; it’s amazing, quite simply. His choice to use only orchestral arrangements in lieu of traditional pop instruments makes some songs simply more interesting, while really doing something amazing for others; He takes Regina Spektor’s Apres Moi, to newly dark, cinematic, lofty places that the original song hinted at, even if he does lack her signature stop-motion vocal acrobatics. Without getting all fangirl, it is sufficient to say that the rest of the album holds up just fine. Release date is February 15th, 2010. Stream the album here.


01 "Heroes" (David Bowie) 02 "The Boy in the Bubble" (Paul Simon) 03 "Mirrorball" (Elbow) 04 "Flume" (Bon Iver) 05 "Listening Wind" (Talking Heads) 06 "The Power of the Heart" (Lou Reed) 07 "My Body Is a Cage" (Arcade Fire) 08 "The Book of Love" (The Magnetic Fields) 09 "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" (Randy Newman) 10 "Après moi" (Regina Spektor) 11 "Philadelphia" (Neil Young) 12 "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (Radiohead)

Read more

Recent Articles