During a recent conversation with one Red Cell (a Santa Fe arts giant, blogger, promoter and all-around champ), we broached the topic of weird song covers. It started with some trash-talk of Björk's newest music, led to a joke about how if she and Beck did an album together they could call it Bjeck and wound up with the idea that unexpected covers are cool. Also, frankly, I was really busy this week and didn't have a whole mess of time to go around conducting interviews and stuff. Anyway, here we go:
"Lost Cause" by Beck
In the 2013 video game Beyond: Two Souls, developer Quantic Dream continued their mission to craft experiences that blur the lines between game and cinema. In Beyond, Ellen Page plays the hero (seriously, they captured her face and movements; Willem Dafoe, also), and during a section that finds her homeless, there's a scene with her busking. Sitting in the snow in Minneapolis with a guitar borrowed from a street performer, Page launches into one of the most starkly stripped-down and heart-wrenching renditions of the Beck breakup classic from 2002's Sea Change. Even casual Beck fans ought to give this one a listen.
Reel Big Fish
"Gigantic" by The Pixies
Yeah, yeah—you hate third-wave ska and Reel Big Fish is too goofy. Fine, go on hating them, just know you're missing out on one of the most unexpected and bizarrely excellent covers of all time from the 1999 Pixies tribute album, Where is My Mind. By adding a throwback Euro-techno beat and a vocals-through-a-bullhorn touch to the beloved Kim Deal number, RBF not only forges into dance territory (which, let's face it, third-wave ska was pretty good at already), they demolish genre lines and add a hefty dose of fun. This one might even sound better than their "Take On Me" cover, which is also awesome.
Seattle School of Rock
"Transitions From Persona to Object" By Botch
OK, so you won't find this on any album, and I'm sure a great number of you are thinking, "Who the hell is Botch?" Well, first of all—Botch rules. The sadly defunct Seattle band practically invented metalcore before there was a term for it (and before it sucked) with mathy hardcore explosions and bizarre experimentation. In 2014, students from Seattle's School of Rock realized this with a plucky rendition of this particularly excellent (and pretty complex for kids) number. It's admittedly sloppy and not for everyone, but the selection of such a song shows they probably had cool teachers and, most importantly, they really mean it. Lucky you.
"Me and My Arrow" By Harry Nilsson
1971's The Point was this ultra-weird, post-Yellow Submarine psychedelic animated film that attempted to marry pop music with cartoons without aiming it specifically at children. The criminally underrated Harry Nilsson provided the songs, all of which were excellent but, perhaps, none of which have endured quite like "Me and My Arrow," a peppy tune about the friendship through the eyes of the film's protagonist and his dog, Arrow. Cue Albuquerque's Heather Trost who has performed with Neutral Milk Hotel, Hawk and a Hacksaw and, on her debut release from earlier this year, Agistri, did Nilsson justice with her own version. It isn't that the song is a secret by any means, more like it's not very often that you'll hear a Nilsson cover, at least one this well-done.
The entirety of A Little Touch of Scmilsson in the Night
While we're talkin' Nilsson, it's important to mention that in 1973, good ol' Harry once recorded an entire album of standards and love songs. Timeless classics like "It Had to Be You" and "As Time Goes By" plus many others made their way onto this bad boy, and it's basically the perfect mellow-out record. Nilsson, we'd also point out, has one of the most beautiful voices in the history of rock. Go forth and become obsessed now. And while these songs aren't really "weird" in the strictest sense, it's still unexpected and cool. Deal with it.