Archive for the ‘Rock’ Category

Brooklyn-based The National has been around since all the way back in 2001, but I didn’t quite jump on their bandwagon until 2007’s epic Boxer. I can’t remember if it was a friend or boy of interest at the time that swayed me on to them, but whoever it was, I am forever indebted; I’ve been enamored ever since. Matt Berninger is on vocals; brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner on guitar; brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf, on guitar and drums, respectively. If you haven’t done so yet, here’s why should give them a shot.

 

The sound: the best way to describe The National’s sound, is emotive. They’re able to masterfully evoke the sentiments of each track, pulling you deeper and deeper into their thoughtful realm. They don’t commit to any one sound exclusively, but rather to several equally. They sometimes slam the drums, and crush guitar riffs, while Berninger loses his mind on the mic. Other times, the noise is faint, the vocals barely audible, but everything is perfectly timed, building up and up with each line. You never know exactly what you’re going to get with them, which urges you to keep exploring.

 

The lyrics: there’s no hiding that The National puts out some of the most thought-provoking words out there, and with each listen, you gain more insight into their minds. They’re executed so perfectly, so delicately, ensuring every lyric has its moment to shine. Each time, their soft claws sink deeper and deeper into your soul until there’s nowhere else for them to go. You get hooked, addicted to that intense feeling. They get you to exercise that part of your brain your day-to-day life ignores. That part of your brain, that’s full of questions; that’s confused about why things are the way they are, that is full of all your vulnerabilities. They make you wonder. As heavy as that sounds, it’s also incredibly liberating.

 

The vocals: Berninger’s voice can be deep, quiet and heavy, creating a sound that reverberates in your ears, long after the music has stopped. It’s the voice we all use when we talk to ourselves, while trying to sort out everything in our minds. Berninger’s voice can also be louder and more musical, full of emotion and passion, and all the reactions to what he’s feeling. It’s the voice we use when we’re done thinking about everything and just need to let it all out. This back and forth between vocal stylings makes the lyrics and the songs all that much more relatable because we’ve all been there, we’ve all felt that.

 

The albums: when you listen to any of The National’s albums, you really have to listen to them. The albums reveal themselves more and more with each repetition, and the only way to truly understand any of them, is to pay attention. Their live shows take all of this, and heighten it even further. No song is like any other, no album is like any other. Go on their journey with them: they’ll lift you up, bring you down, and make you feel all over, but they’ll never let you go. Once you get them, you won’t be able to forget them.

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It goes without saying, there’s an art to covering another musician’s work. The key is to make it your own, change as you see fit, whilst maintaining the essence of the original. The following artists missed the memo on all that.

“Get What You Give” by Felix Cartal

Why on Earth did Cartal decide to cover such an underwhelming track? 90s one-hit wonder band The New Radicals birthed this back in 1998, had their 15 minutes, then quit the industry. I tried to find a way to defend his choice – he is, after all, a fellow Canadian. But in no universe, did this make any sense. It wasn’t a good song to begin with, and Cartal just made it worse.


“Faith” by Limp Bizkit

What would possess wannabe punk rockers to make a “loud” version of George Michael’s (RIP) 80s classic? Lead singer Fred Durst along with his whiny voice, roam the streets in oversized board shorts, baseball hats, and a pathetic excuse for a goatee. It’s incomprehensible to me why someone of Durst’s lack of abilities felt he was capable of paying homage to peak George Michael. Brace your ears, this is quite the abomination.

“Fast Car” by Jonas Blue feat. Dakota

This track isn’t like the rest, because technically, it’s a remix, and not a cover. But still; even that was a poor choice by this Jonas Blue character. Tracy Chapman’s original was drowning in emotion. It hung on to that bit of hope, that bit of freedom of not having your past drag you down, and it made you feel everything. This version makes you feel nothing.  Shame on you, Jonas Blue (and Dakota.)

“Under the Bridge” by All Saints

Let me get this straight: female pop group All Saints had the audacity not only to try and cover this epic Red Hot Chili Peppers’ track, but to also do it so so poorly. The DJ-scratch over the guitar intro is offensive. They try to make a song about loneliness and getting high, into something seductive and sultry and mysterious, which for some reason requires the bearing of midriffs. They completely fly over the heart of this song, and ignore its soul. How dare you, All Saints. How dare you.

“Light My Fire” by Train

Train: you are a mediocre pop/rock group (at best) that hit the top of your game in the early 2000s, with a couple of hit singles.  The Doors:  released this song in 1967, and are one the most influential bands of all time. They helped define rock ‘n roll, and this was one of the songs that paved the way. This cover is insulting, forgettable, and keeps none of the spirit of the original. So Train, I have to ask: who do you think you are?

 

(Note: all covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and anything by The Beatles or Michael Jackson were omitted – there are just too many horrible ones.)

If you grew up listening to alternative in the 90s, this will be a nice trip down memory lane. If you didn’t, here’s what you missed.

“In the Meantime” – Spacehog

There’s nothing particularly fascinating about this song: it doesn’t relate to a specific memory, there’s no outstanding hook, the guitar-playing isn’t out of this world. It just always reminds me of the 90s, so I had to include it.

“Blurry” – Puddle of Mudd

Lead singer Wes Scantlin showed even post-grunge rockers have a softer, sensitive side. It gave the band some much needed depth, and although it wasn’t their only hit in the 90s, it was definitely their best.

“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand” – Primitive Radio Gods

The main appeal of this track was that it was just so cool: the unnecessarily long title; the almost-dance beat in the background; the random yellings of some guy. What isn’t there to love?

“Inside Out” – Eve 6

Whenever I hear this track, the only thing that pops into my head is their album cover: a large fly on the front, a heart with arrows in it on the back. I will never forget it because I bought the album based on this track alone, and stared at it endlessly, desperately seeking another likeable track. No luck there.

“Through the Looking Glass” – Stone Sour

Hard rockers getting in touch with their innermost thoughts, taking a stab at self-reflection, and discussing feelings, all through vocals full of vulnerability. It was emo, even before emo was emo.

“Curious” – Sandbox

A staple in the Canadian alternative music scene. Plus, how could you ignore the echo-y microphone effects (aka 90s autotune) and the catchy hook?

“Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” – Brand New

It’s fast, it’s slow; it’s loud and in your race, it’s quiet and mysterious. It has it all, which is why I still love this track.

“If You Could Only See” – Tonic

This is lathered in so much 90s nostalgia, I can’t even handle it.

“Freshman” – The Verve Pipe

To be fair, this entire album was pretty good, but this track really stood out. It was seriously heavy, but also seriously great. It hits deep down, no matter how many times you listen to it, no matter how long it’s been since the first time you heard it.

“Popular” – Nada Surf

It’s so high school, so 90s, and so everything.