Listened American IV: The Man Comes Around Turns 20 by Tom BreihanTom Breihan from stereogum.com

The American recordings are a slightly misleading legacy. Johnny Cash wasn’t the mythic poet of darkness that those Rick Rubin records made him out to be — or, rather, he wasn’t just that. Cash was an entertainer. He could be funny and pious and corny. For decades, Cash thrived within the Nashville studio system; he was never an outsider artist. But those American records, American IV in particular, tapped into something powerful and primal about Johnny Cash’s voice and presence. They gave him a different kind of life. And that dark-specter version of Cash might be the one that people remember best today. Maybe that’s not fair to Johnny Cash, but Johnny Cash doesn’t care. He’s dead, and his legacy was secure long before American IV. In some of his last months on earth, Cash gave the world a profound meditation on loss and mortality, and even if the album only captures one side of Cash, that one side is heavier than heaven.

There are some covers which are about the original artists, while other covers make the song anew. Cash’s American Recordings provide a new take on tracks like Mercy Seat, Rusty Cage, Personal Jesus and Hurt. I also love how Rick Ruben focused on creating the right conditions for Cash.

On the other side of such covers is how the original artists appreciated the covers. I find Trent Reznor’s response pretty funny:

When Reznor first heard Cash’s version, he still wasn’t sure what to think: “It felt like I was watching my girlfriend fuck somebody else.” (Trent Reznor isn’t always articulate.) But when Reznor saw Mark Romanek’s video for Cash’s “Hurt,” he immediately understood that “Hurt” now belonged to someone else.

Listened PMP#129: Wherefore the Cover Song? by Mark Mark from prettymuchpop.com

Is re-playing or re-recording a song written and performed by someone else an act of love or predation?

Mark is joined by Too Much Joy’s Tim Quirk, the Gig Gab Podcast’s Dave Hamilton, and the author of A Philosophy of Cover Songs Prof. P.D. Magnus to talk about different types of and purposes for covers, look a little at the history, share favorites, and more.

For more, visit prettymuchpop.com. Hear bonus content at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by subscribing via Apple Podcasts to the Mark Lintertainment Channel.

Sponsors: Find a top-rated doctor by visiting ZocDoc.com/PMP and downloading the free ZocDoc app. Check your rate for a loan at upstart.com/PRETTY.

Pretty Much Pop podcast team speak with Prof. P.D. Magnus about his book A Philosophy of Covers Songs. Throughout, they explore various aspects associated with cover songs. The way often start as cover bands, at the very least starting as a fan. The history of covers, including the notion of ‘coverage’ and playing the music people wanted to hear, as well as covering/hiding over other artists, making black artists white. The choice between a straight note for note cover versus a rendition, with the challenge as to change and what to keep. Extending from this, the cover can serve as a meditation on the original or even an answer, which is the case with Aretha Franklin’s cover of Otis Readings Respect. According to Magnus, there are three aspects associated with experiencing a cover, turns the listening onto something new, shows the listener something new in the song and creates a communal experience.
Replied to Why Arthur Schopenhauer thought music was the greatest of all artforms by Tim Brinkhof (bigthink.com)

Music is different from all other artforms because it alone is an expression of itself rather than something else. Notes and melodies, unlike phrases and colors, do not try to represent anything but can instead be appreciated simply for what they are. Rather than representing the Will through indirect means as depictions of its real-world manifestations, Schopenhauer believed music was a direct manifestation of the Will itself.

It is interesting to consider Schopenhauer’s discussion of music as the universal language and what this means for covers and interpretations? Here I am left thinking about Walter Benjamin’s discussion of the translator who always only ever touches the circle.
Bookmarked How “Downtown Train” Ruined Rod Stewart’s Friendship With Bob Seger (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Pondering how Tom Waits seemingly created the perfect tune for other people to sing. Major rock stars were fighting with one another to cover “Downtown Train.”

Ernie Smith on the song that paid for Tom Waits’ pool.

“‘Downtown Train’ bought Tom Waits a swimming pool,” Stewart told Ultimate Classic Rock in 2013 as he was about to release a new album. “And ‘Picture in a Frame’ will pay for a new roof on his house. Really, I can’t say enough about Tom—he has such great imagery, which is an area in which I could do a bit better.”

Replied to What’s “interpolating”, and how did it force Olivia Rodrigo to share Deja Vu writing credits with Taylor Swift? (triple j)

A close cousin of sampling, interpolation is less of a direct copy-paste of a song and more the borrowing of melodies and lyrics to create a new tune that sounds… wow, just so familiar.

There seems to be a fine line between interpolation and inspiration. There are so many songs that are inspired, but go without recognition.
Listened
I wondered what a ‘heavy’ St Vincent album might sound like, maybe this is a taste?

Appearing on Radio.com’s New Arrivals show (via Uproxx), St. Vincent explained that she was “dead set” on creating a “heavy record” as the follow-up to 2017’s ‘Masseduction’. “Like just heavy the whole time – like, ‘Hey kids, you like Tool? Well, you’ll love the St. Vincent record’, you know?” she said.
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I also am intrigued if Jack Antonoff had an part to play in this recording or if St. Vincent simply self-produced it?

Listened Ska Horns & Madonna Melodies | Strong Songs: A Podcast About Music from Strong Songs: A Podcast About Music

Mailbag time! We’ve got listener questions about Madonna earworms, National piano parts, Breath of the Wild music, online vocal teachers, the French horn, The L…

In a Q&A episode, Kirk Hamilton addresses the question of why jazz soloists never repeat their solos when playing a track live, whereas rock artists do. He explains that it is about the intent of the performance. Jazz solos are usually a part of a conversation with the rest of the group, whereas rock solos like Stairway to Heaven, Sweet Child of Mine and Comfortably Numb are carved out expressions. It is therefore less about the genre than it is about the intent. As Hamilton explains, “you do not turn up to a dinner party and read off a page.” It is for this reason that you will find some rocks artists who do actually improvise.

This reminds me of a conversation between Annie Clark and the late Andy Gill about structured music and free-form music. I am also reminded of my experience of seeing Aphex Twin and the misconstrued expectation that there would be any semblance of the familiar. I guess if you want a particular sound, go listen to the historical record, whereas if you would like a conversation, see the performance?

Bookmarked How Tribute Bands Celebrate Music History (daily.jstor.org)

Everyone who’s had to dress up as a historical figure for a school project knows that history is just a bit more understandable through reenactment, whether it’s through a biopic, a famous site where people in period costumes walk visitors through the past, or a battlefield reenactment. It also …

Listened 2021 studio album by Taylor Swift from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is the first re-recorded album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, released on April 9, 2021, through Republic Records. It is a re-recording of Swift’s second studio album, Fearless (2008), and the first of six re-recorded albums Swift plans to release, following the dispute regarding ownership of the masters to her first six studio albums.

Fearless is the first installment of Taylor Swift’s re-recording of her first six albums. With bonus tracks and previously unrecorded material, it is a lengthy album, perfectly designed to maximise streaming services.

In some respects the new tracks, produced by Antonoff and Dessner, feel like a continuation of the work done on Folklore and Evermore.

Dessner and Antonoff’s production believably reframes these Fearless outtakes as folklore deep cuts. It’s proof of how thin the line between a twilit country radio ballad and shimmery indie-tinged folk-rock can be.

Ben Thompson compares the exercise with what Dave Chappelle did when he asked them to not wqtch his show. Thompson wonders if she will or even needs to remake any more of her albums.

It’s easy to see how this plays out going forward: Swift probably doesn’t even have to remake another album; she has demonstrated the willingness and capability to remake her old records, and her fans will do the rest. It will behoove Shamrock Capital, the current owner of Swift’s masters, to buy-out Braun’s share of future upside and make a deal with Swift, because Swift, granted the power to go direct to fans and make her case, can in fact “change history, facts, and re-frame any story [she] want[s] to fit with any narrative [she] wish[es].”

Bookmarked The Long Tail of Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’ by Eric Ducker (nytimes.com)

While this popularity may expose classical music fans to the sometimes overwhelming, occasionally terrorizing music of Aphex Twin, the exchange also flows the other way. “It’s a gateway to Debussy, or some of the other amazing piano pieces that are out there,” said Reitzell, the music supervisor. “If you like that piece, man, I’ve got 30 more for you. That is the most beautiful thing about music. That song will probably outlive Richard’s entire catalog in a way.”

But Moran hears an even more fundamental reason modern listeners have turned a haunting piano piece with minimalist influences into a digital era phenomenon. Before our interview, she transcribed “Avril 14th” again to refamiliarize herself with it. Holding up the piece of paper, she noted its chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. “Honestly,” she said, “this is like a pop song to me.”

Eric Ducker reflects on the 20 year anniversary of Aphex Twin’s track Avril 14th from Drukqs. My favourite cover is Simon Farintosh’s arrangement for classical guitar. I also like Will Van Horn’s recording with the pedal slide.

“Austin Kleon” in Of portals and pansies ()

Replied to

Thanks Amy, another song to add to the karaoke list.

I grew up with The Living End’s cover:

I wonder if it is one of those great songs where every generation has its own translation or cover?

The history of the great works of art tells us about their antecedents, their realization in the age of the artist, their potentially eternal afterlife in succeeding generations. Where this last manifests itself, it is called fame. [71] Translations that are more than transmissions of subject matter come into being when in the course of its survival a work has reached the age of its fame. Contrary, therefore, to the claims of bad translators, such translations do not so much serve the work as owe their existence to it. The life of the originals attains eh~ to its ever-renewed latest and most abundant flowering.

Bookmarked Why Taylor Swift’s Nostalgia Play Works by Shirley Li (theatlantic.com)

The re-recording, which has already topped the U.S. iTunes chart, certainly marks another instance of pop culture’s obsession with nostalgia paying off. Many similar industry efforts—TV reboots, extensions of film franchises, covers of childhood favorites—service fans through cameos and casual references without meaningfully considering the original work’s impact. But Swift, through her stronger vocals, engages with her younger self, scrutinizing her lyrics. She joins in on the act of being a Taylor Swift fan.

Shirley Li reflects upon Taylor Swift’s rerecording of Taylor Swift’s Love Story. She explains that this is more than just a like for like recreation, but instead it is an ode to a past self.
Watched

For many music producers, a loop is often the starting point of a new composition. But how can you give a loop-based composition structure, add tension and release, and turn it into a performance? In this Ableton artist documentary we meet Binkbeats, a music-maker whose whole approach has grown out of answering these questions.

I came upon this video (and artist) while looking for different covers of Aphex Twin. His unravelling of Windowlicker is amazing in the way he jumps from one instrument to another like an orchestra of one.

This music reminds me of Kawehi.

Bookmarked 13 Ways Music Got Us Through 2020 by Pitchfork (Pitchfork)

From Bandcamp Fridays to Verzuz battles, these were our silver linings from a strange, stuck year in music.

Drew Litowitz explores the ways in which the music world responded to the pandemic. This included Bandcamp Friday, a dearth of cover songs, quarantine pop albums, music videos created within constraint, exploration of virtual gatherings, and a growing coalition of artists and music industry professionals pushing back on steaming inequities.
Listened Stream Chris Cornell’s Previously Unreleased Covers Album No One Sings Like You Anymore from Stereogum

The last studio album that the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell completed was No One Sings Like You Anymore, a collection of covers that he recorded in 2016. Although he died in 2017, before it could be released, his family and his estate have decided to release it now as a special holiday gift to his fans.
In addition to Cornell’s cover of Guns N’ Roses “Patience,” which was released on what would’ve been his 56th birthday earlier this year, No One Sings Like You Anymore includes renditions of songs by John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, ELO, Prince, Janis Joplin, and more. All instruments on the record were played by Cornell and Brendan O’Brien, who produced and mixed the whole thing.

I think that the title of this album catches everything about this album.
Listened 2020 film by Nick Cave from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Although I did not watch the live stream, I listened to the performance. I really enjoyed the cut-back nature of the performance.

The result is a performance that exists in a strange hinterland, an album that’s unnervingly intimate yet flickers with the strange unreality of a dream. Idiot Prayer is as up-close and personal an encounter with Cave as there’s ever been. But a little mystery remains, always.

In robotics, there is a concept called the ‘uncanny valley’ where the human-like appearance of a robot is only appealing to a certain point.

In aesthetics, the uncanny valley is a hypothesized relationship between the degree of an object’s resemblance to a human being and the emotional response to such an object. The concept suggests that humanoid objects which imperfectly resemble actual human beings provoke uncanny or strangely familiar feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers.

I was wondering about this recently in regards to music and covers. A song produced for a record is going to sound different in a live performance space, even if it is a remix. I wonder if there is a similar ‘uncanny valley’ experience where a song gets too close to replicating the original that it becomes a little lost?