Posts Tagged ‘ all time top 5 ’

All Time Top 5 : Ironic Cover Performances

May 24, 2011

As a classically trained musician, I came to the serious concert stage through the garage. As such, I struggled with my own personal musical identity for sometime. How do the different sides of my experiences, interests, and training coalesce to form one musician? Let alone, how do I interpret the music of JS Bach when I’ve also been musically informed by Built to Spill and Thelonious Monk?

All Time Top 5 is a bi-weekly feature written by Those Who Dig where we combine our love for High Fidelity, lists, and musical trivia into a totally arbitrary article of rankings. It’s a win-win.

A few summers ago I had a sort of revelation on this topic while watching David Rawlings and Gillian Welch cover the Johnny Cash and June Carter classic, Jackson. Their rendition of this song struck me as both true to the iconic Folsom Prison recording and uniquely personal at the same time. At this moment I felt a great sense of relief as it occurred to me in a new light that I too could perform canonical repertoire regardless of performance precedents. In other words, their performance showed me that I could be true to my own technique and musicality, while not feeling overwhelmed or pressured by the iconic recordings that preceded my own work.

Thank you David Rawling and Gillian Welch for this experience. I know performances can be interpreted by audience members in different ways, but I wonder if they ever thought that their performance would directly aide my work to interpret and perform the Fantaisie Elegiaque opus 59 by Fernando Sor – a really beautiful composition I was working on at the time.

As homage to this experience, I’ve dug through my itunes mega-catalogue and picked out my Top Five Ironic Cover Performances. This collection of five is my favorite examples of artists borrowing material from unexpected sources and then lending their own unique and personal interpretation to it. I have decided that bootlegs from live concerts should be omitted from consideration since the live stage is typically reserved as a one time only kind of experience, and because studio recordings require more forethought and express a desire for longevity. I also wanted to make clear that while it might be ironic for these artists to reach into unexpected genre categories for inspiration, there is nothing sardonic or insincere about these covers. You dig?



Ted Leo – Since You’ve Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)

Kelly Clarkson released the original recording on her second album Breakaway in 2004. A year later, Ted Leo covered the song and mashed it up with Maps from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I have to give props to Steve from TWD for turning me on to this recording back when it was released. He is a huge Ted Leo fan and was all over this one. The reason I include this performance in the Top Five is because of how true to the original Ted Leo remains when he performs it – the obvious divergence into Maps aside. The performance is successful because Ted strips it down to its acoustic skeleton and sings it loud and proud. Ted Leo saw past the American Idol image that this song was originally branded with and gave it back as a great pop tune with an infectious hook.



Johnny Cash: Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode)

Originally released by Depeche Mode in 1989 on their album Violator, Johnny Cash brought new life to the song in 2002 on the album American IV: The Man Comes Around; his final living album. Let’s face it, Cash was prolific and everything he touched in his final years became gold; he was pop music’s very own King Midas. From Soundgarden to Simon and Garfunkel, the breadth of his musicality new no bounds. I had a hard time choosing just one Cash cover for this list but I settled Personal Jesus from Depeche Mode because quite frankly, no one saw this coming and it fit his style, personality, and religious fervor perfectly. Nice work Mr. Cash.



The Smashing Pumpkins: You’re All I’ve Got Tonight (The Cars)

The self-titled album from The Cars in 1978 gave us the original cut, but The Smashing Pumpkins released their recording as part of the box set The Aeroplane Flies High in 1996 which was a kind of expansion pack for their studio album Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness. The thing I enjoy most about this recording is that it illuminates to me a piece of Billy Corgan’s mindset and musical influences during the time when he was writing some of his most influential material. After hearing this recording I listened differently to the Melancholy album, and really enjoy knowing that Rick Ocasek may have had a bigger hand than we ever knew in crafting some of the most iconic sounds of the mid 1990s.



Nickel Creek: Spit On a Stranger (Pavement)

The original recording is found on Pavement’s final studio release Terror Twilight from 1999. However, it was covered by Nickel Creek in 2002 and released on their Grammy winning record, This Side. Chris Thile and company have the kind of slick musicality and technique that allows them to tackle whatever musical ambitions they have. Furthermore, bluegrass outfits seriously covering Pavement is my definition of progressive in music. Additionally, this is the only example (to my knowledge) of Nickel Creek recording with an electric guitar and it works completely to add just enough dirt to the instrumentation to remain true to Pavement’s original sound world.



Yael Naim: Toxic (Britney Spears)

Finally we arrive at number one. Why did I choose a Britney Spears cover as my number one? Two words, shock value. I, like everyone else on the planet, only ever heard of Yael Naim because Apple picked up her insanely catchy song New Soul and featured it in one of their commercials. I was not adequately prepared for this to be part of that album, and was more than pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. Moreover, this is the cover on this list which is most removed from its original in terms of instrumentation and interpretation. If you haven’t heard this before or have already decided that you hate it, go at it with a blank slate and see if you can love it for what it tries to be, and not what it is.


Honorable Mention:

The Bad Plus – Iron Man (Black Sabbath)

This should be my number one, but I don’t like the idea of calling it a cover; it seems somehow better than that. The Bad Plus is remarkable in their creativity and eagerness to explore all musics through the medium of jazz trio. The original is of course from Black Sabbath and their 1970 studio release Paranoid. What you are hearing at the opening of the track is pianist Ethan Iverson performing one hand on an intentionally out of tune upright piano before bombing the musical theme with his other hand on a standard grand piano. However, the most incredible moment happens after the drum break at 4:26. Here the chords are filled out in the major mode and the song takes an unexpected uplifting turn before ending on a murky low register chord pile. It’s really a spectacular recording and it typifies the grace and ingenuity of The Bad Plus. If you don’t already know them, you are missing out.


As always, we love reader feedback and would like to know what you think and what your top five is as well. Hit us up on the response option and let’s keep the conversation going.

-words by Dave


All Time Top 5 : Jazz Records For People Who Don’t Like Jazz

April 26, 2011

“There are only two kinds of music, good and bad.”

Duke Ellington made famous this quote and I firmly agree. I like to think there are redeeming qualities in every genre of music and that people who like music probably like all music, in spite of their own preconceptions. From J.S. Bach to the Iggy Pop and John Coltrane to The Unicorns, good music is good music, whatever you want to call it.

All Time Top 5 is a bi-weekly feature written by Those Who Dig where we combine our love for High Fidelity, lists, and musical trivia into a totally arbitrary article of rankings. It’s a win-win.

Nevertheless, my mother does not like jazz. I always felt that changing her mind was just a matter of introduction. In other words, if I presented her with that perfect record or concert experience, she would change her mind to all jazz. During my undergraduate she came to visit and take in a jazz show with myself and a few of my friends. The concert was Gary Thomas (tenor sax), Paul Bollenback (electric guitar), George Colligan (keyboard), and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums). It was an absolute happening. It was one of those rare performances when every musician on stage was locked in and performing at the peak of their own capability. After the show we stood around the lobby for a while without talking – the show had knocked us flat. When I finally asked what my mother what she thought, her answer was succinct. “Fuck.”

This is not only my favorite concert review of all time, but it was also exactly what I was looking for. The musicians that night reached out to an audience member and changed her mind about an entire genre with their performance. As April is jazz appreciation month I wanted to share with you my list for the top five jazz records for people who don’t like jazz. I hope to share within this list a small sampling of the canonical and the contemporary as a means of making accessible an entire category of sound to an audience that are not entirely comfortable with jazz, or wouldn’t classify themselves as fluent in the genre.

I don’t intend to make this a history or music theory lesson. The point of this list is to share sound for the sake of sound, and not to get tied up in the extra curricular knowledge in and around these records.



Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

“So What”

In my opinion, the intimacy and immediacy of this record are what make it so important and accessible to the listener. The featured personal are: Miles Davis (trumpet) Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) & Jimmy Cobb (drums). Miles Davis champions cool with this album. He did this by slowing down the harmonic motion of his compositions and allowing the musicians the opportunity to focus on note choice and melodic interest.



Bill Evans Trio – Portrait in Jazz

“When I Fall In Love”

Bill Evans sounds like a coffee shop and I personally have a very treasured routine that includes breakfast and Bill Evans. The trio on this recording consisted of Bill Evans (piano) Scott LaFaro (bass) & Paul Motian (drums) and they perform jazz standards better than anyone. Like the Miles Davis, I believe that this record needs to be on this list because of its accessibility. The simplicity of melodic direction and clarity between the composed and the improvised help to maintain the listeners attention and absorption. Interestingly enough, both Kind of Blue and Portrait in Jazz were released in 1959 only eight months removed from each other.



Happy Apple – Back on Top

“Very Small Rock”

I have three words for this record: intelligible, contemporary, and badass. This trio is atypical in that it is composed of David King (drums) Michael Lewis (saxophone) & Erik Fratzke (electric bass). There is nothing polite about how these three play music. There is no such thing as a polite drum or bass accompaniment to facilitate the improvised section. These three drive each other relentless towards creativity and artistry. I imagine this record as a foothold for the potential jazz fan who is coming from the perspective of harder rock and heavier distortion.



Roy Haynes – We Three

“Sugar Ray”

Another exemplar trio album, the featured musicians are: Roy Haynes (drums) Phineas Newborn Jr. (piano) Paul Chambers (bass). I recommend this album because it is slightly off the beaten path of the jazz canon and maybe you have been waiting for something other than Miles and Coltrane. This record is also unique because the drummer is the marquee name. In spite of this, there remains an equipoise of importance among the ensemble, and this is really their selling point. This is an ensemble, it is not a collection of soloists. We three is one cast working in harmony to perform music with subtly and discrimination. Give this one the time it deserves; don’t miss it.



Keith Jarrett – The Melody At Night, With You

“Someone To Watch Over Me”

This one is an absolute gem. It is a solo piano album and it creates its appeal from exposure – exposed melodies as well as exposed harmonies. This bareness is what makes it comprehensible. In addition, the austerity of Jarrett’s playing and his ballad-centric song choice give the performances a highly sentimental appeal. This is an ideal record for a bottle of wine and the company of your affection. Trust me.


Live with these records. Do not listen once and move on. Spend the time to get acquainted with these records intimately. Discover the nuances of their style and sound. Create personal associations with these artists and how they fit within the context of your life. They will not only mean more to you this way, but your listening skill set with expand to include not just what is jazz, but also how to listen (really Listen) and absorb this music.

As always, we love feedback and want to hear from you. If these records have touched you and your library and an indelible way, let us know how. Of course, I have inevitably left out huge chunks of jazz history and if I breezed past your favorite record, feel free to leave a response and recommendation. You dig?

-Words by Dave


All Time Top 5 : Jukebox Songs

April 12, 2011

What’s up, everyone? I’m Steve, writer at Those Who Dig. You may or may not have known that Kyle is just one of three of us Digsters because he’s been holding it down here at the PCC thus far. Anyways, this week it’s my turn to make a list (something I like doing way too much, despite the occasional agony) for All Time Top 5. Today, I present to you my favorite tunes to rock on the jukebox.

All Time Top 5 is a bi-weekly feature written by Those Who Dig where we combine our love for High Fidelity, lists, and musical trivia into a totally arbitrary article of rankings. It’s a win-win.

For Kyle and I, as well as our other brother-in-Dig, Dave, the jukebox has been and remains a key component to many of our nights out. I’m sure it is for most of you reading this as well. There is something very alluring about having the chance to create your own soundtrack to the night, especially for those of us obsessed with music. We all have songs that get us in certain moods or that we believe can accomplish a certain purpose. Maybe you’re feeling good and riding high. Maybe you’re having a rough night and need to bring things down. Maybe you just want to dance. With a few quarters or dollars, the jukebox has it all covered.

I’ve spent time thinking about what makes a good jukebox selection, as it’s clear not every song does, even if it’s a great song otherwise. I don’t know that there’s an empirical series of universal rules, but I’ve realized my personal favorites meet some or all of several key criteria. Those are:
Familiarity & age (I rarely play new music or music “obscure” to a general bar crowd)
consistent tone (doesn’t matter what that tone is)
average length (I’d say between 3 to 5 minutes)
high energy vs. groove (sometimes just one, but often both)
personal connections

Got it? Cool. Let’s get to the tunes.



The Wallflowers – One Headlight

This makes it because of a sort of inside joke among one of my circles of friends that I doubt will translate if I took the time to explain it. So I won’t get into it, except to say that ultimately through this situation, it became a thing for us to always put this song on when we were out. This is what I mean by personal connection. Beyond that, 90s rock will always meet the “familiarity” factor since that was my and many people my age’s (who tend to fill the bars I’m at) introduction to music.



Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane

Besides 90s songs, I gravitate towards certain classic rock tunes when playing the jukebox. Not only are they even more universally familiar, they just sound so good to me in this context. Plus, I always secretly hope everyone in the bar will join in on the chorus because it sounds perfect for a big group of people to just shout along. Hasn’t happened yet unfortunately. Maybe someday.



Smashing Pumpkins – 1979

Here’s my top song that fits what I mean by “groove.” It won’t set the night afire, but it’s strongly rhythmic and gets your head nodding. I like it for the more relaxed nights or when things are winding down. I also like it for its versatility. It works on the nights that aren’t all that great, which do happen, as much as we hope otherwise. To me, this song about the times of angst and boredom while growing up nevertheless also feels appropriate for those moments of adulthood when I’m a victim of inertia or things not going the way I wanted.



The Clash – Rudie Can’t Fail

Ok, let’s bring things back up shall we! I find “Rudie Can’t Fail” to be an excellent way to do just that. It is probably the best and most vivid example of that elusive blend of energy and groove, largely due to the Clash’s gift for channeling the sensibilities of ska and reggae into the fury of punk. You can dance to it, you can rock out to it, or you can just sit back and smile. I love the guitar riffs and the horns, which give the song a nice kick.



David Bowie – Rebel Rebel

If the Clash makes me happy and a little amped, “Rebel Rebel” is what really gets me going. I think this is the perfect jukebox song. It’s not so short you feel it ends too soon but not too long that you don’t want to play it again right after it ends. The riff is classic, it gives the song an immediate energy which sustains all the way through. The tone / mood is celebratory, defiant, and infectious. It makes the night feel like anything is possible and that all of it will be good. Simply put, it’s just a damn good song. Every quarter I’ve ever put in the jukebox to play it has been worth it.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite juke jams. Leave it in the comments below or share with me via twitter (@ThseWhoDig for the site and I’m @SteveWhoDigs).

All Time Top 5 : Album Closers That Weren’t

March 15, 2011


Here are the things that I love oh so much about High Fidelity, and miss in my current musical universe:

-constant list-making

-knowing endless trivia and stories about every band and song


So for the Paper Crane Collective, I figured I’d combine all these things into a twice-monthly Top 5 list. Every other Tuesday, Those Who Dig will present a list on various topics, genres, themes, news stories, or whatever we feel like writing about that day – along with commentary, stories, and tunes!


I have a very specific idea of what I feel an album closer should be.

This probably stems from the fact that I’m the quintessential album purist. Since I was a youngin’ I’ve always insisted on listening to albums from start to finish in the order they were intended (shuffle is a sin!). Even if I only got through part of an album, the next time I listen to music I always start with that album exactly where I left off. Might be a bit of OCD coming through. A big part of the reason for starting Those Who Dig was to focus on and share music that brought back the album as an album. What this means is a thoughtful layout of track order, rhythm, mood, tempo, and structure. It doesn’t necessarily mean a concept album, just a group of songs thoughtfully strung together in a meaningful order. The opposite of, say, Teenage Dream.

A huge part of an album’s cohesive success is it’s closing track. Sometimes, though, the band just gets it wrong. That doesn’t mean the album is any less great or the song suffers, it’s just that moving the song down a few spots would have given a sense of completion, or would have saved the album from an early peak.

Here are five examples of brilliant songs on brilliant albums that would have been even more brilliant as the last track. The list will also give you an idea of characteristics I feel the perfect closer should have.



Wilco – “I Got You (At The End of the Century)” from Being There

“I Got You” is high energy, has a happy, sing-a-long chorus, and a head fake ending. It’s a grand, sweeping statement of love to perfectly close out an album. Except it’s track seven….on disc one.



Phoenix – “Love Like A Sunset” from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

This list may not exactly prove it, but generally I feel like the best album closers are epic, indulgent affairs. “Love Like A Sunset” is a building, brooding masterpiece that weaves it’s way to a climactic eruption of romance and subtlety. As it is, it serves as space in the middle of an album of tightly packed pop jams. It would have been better as a slow burning send-off.



The Avett Brothers – “Salvation Song” from Mignonette

The Avett’s best album was loosely based on the story of an English yacht whose crew was stranded after a shipwreck and ended up turning to cannibalism. The soon-to-be-huge band would have done well to end an album with such menacing undertones with a mission statement of sorts. “Salvation Song” is the perfect introduction to the boys’ emotional honesty and grand goals and would have perfectly set up everything that has come after.



Al Green – “I’ve Never Found A Girl” from Let’s Stay Together

An album aching with heartbreak and full of pleas to make the girl stay, this track drops in the middle of the sorrow and proclaims the girl found, the love won. Al was probably trying to pull up the listener amidst all the blues, but the effect of this song would have been more profound as a lingering hope closing out a dark period.



Bob Dylan – “Ballad of a Thin Man” from Highway 61 Revisited

This one is bound to piss people off. The undisputed king of perfect closing tracks (“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “I Shall Be Free”, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”) got it wrong on this one. Instead of the boring, meandering, reference-dropping 12 minutes of “Desolation Row”, he could have ended with the hazy, hallucinogenic manifesto of 60’s counterculture, “Ballad of a Thin Man”. I still love you, Bobby.

-Words by Kyle


Those Who Dig’s All Time Top 5 : Musical Collectives

March 1, 2011

Here are the things that I love oh so much about High Fidelity, and miss in my current musical universe:

-constant list-making

-knowing endless trivia and stories about every band and song


So for the Paper Crane Collective, I figured I’d combine all these things into a twice-monthly Top 5 list. Every other Tuesday, Those Who Dig will present a list on various topics, genres, themes, news stories, or whatever we feel like writing about that day – along with commentary, stories, and tunes!


Well, we over at Those Who Dig are just pleased as punch to be included in this awesome Collective of badass bloggers. We’ll be comin’ at ya two Tuesdays every month with our All Time Top 5 feature.

In the spirit of musical brotherhood, I thought I’d focus my first contribution to PCC on the Top 5 Bestest Collectives in music history. Well, that might be a little bit of hyperbole, but these are my favorites, anyways! I tried to make the order somewhat relevant, but didn’t really give it too much thought.



The Parliaments

The Parliaments – I Wanna Testify

I guess strictly speaking, Parliament Funkadelic is the actual “collective”. But I couldn’t pass up a chance to use this picture, could I? I guarantee there was no other time in his life when George Clinton was dressed up as a 50′s Elfachaun (that’s a cross between a leprechaun and Santa’s elves).

The Parliaments began their long, odd musical career as a barbershop, doo-wop quintet in Jersey in the 50′s. And they were fucking awesome. When Clinton came into a heated contract dispute, he lost the rights to the name “Parliaments” (for a short time). These dapper gentlemen couldn’t well go nameless, so ol’ Georgy pulled the name “Funkadelic” out of his butt.

Many years and a many joints later, Parliament Funkadelic is the living, breathing embodiment of the musical collective. Clinton has been the only consistent member in this group of rotating members, side bands, and genres. Hats off, George.



Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Godspeed You Black Emperor – 09-15-00 (cont)

The only people in the universe to have seen a 70′s documentary about a Japanese biker gang and like it enough to take their name from it, Godspeed You! Black Emperor take the obligatory “mysterious anarchists collective” spot on our list. We all love them, and there’s plenty who love to hate them, but you can’t deny how purely interesting they are.

GY!BE may also be the only band to rise to prominence after the release of 33 copies of an album on cassette tape. All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Dooling (greatest. name. ever.) led to an expanded group, tour schedule, and the eventual release of the classic F#A#Infinity (I can’t figure out how to insert an infinity sign).

The gents of GY!BE have moved in and out of existence over the years while various members work in various other projects. They’ve been called overly political and they’ve been called anarchists, but everyone agrees that they put on epic live shows.



Elephant 6

Apples in Stereo – Tidal Wave

This would be the ultimate indie-fanboy music collective if it wasn’t for #2 on the list (teaser!!! don’t scroll down yet!!). Elephant 6 is just as loose as it is huge. The recording group founded in Denver by four childhood friends now contains members of the bands Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Beulah, Elf Power, and Of Montreal.

The bros have all linked up on various projects, contributed to each other’s albums, and appeared at everyone else’s shows. It’s the kind of group that makes you jealous you’re not a underappreciated, underpaid, artsy, indie icon.



Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene – Almost Crimes (Live at Radio Aligre-Paris)

Yes, of course they made the list. Broken Social Scene is the greatest group of musicians to collect themselves in the last decade(ish) hit the scene in 1999 and have done nothing but make brilliant albums and launch careers ever since. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning are the original men to thank for the hours of parsing through album after album of dense indie rock.

I first came on board with You Forgot It In People, an album that totally crawled into my 17 year old ears and exploded my brains from the inside of my frontal cortex out. That’s about the time the world took notice of the group’s genre-exploring, sexual-innuendo containing, baroque indie pop as well. Or, I guess, “volcano rock” as drummer Justin Peroff has dubbed it. They’ve won two Juno awards (the Grammy’s for those crazy Canadians), sold a bunch of albums, and made my soul cry.

And that brings us to…..


#1….with a bullet

Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan – Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta Fuck With

You knew it had to be the Wu, right? Has there ever been a more talented group of individuals making more influential music? Well, maybe, but goddammit I love Wu-Tang. Between them and Tribe, my rap sensibilities were shaped at an early age.

The boys of Wu formed their world-dominating collective on the streets of Staten Island in the Shaolin Housing projects (get it?) by the RZA, GZA, and ODB. Apparently Biz Markie (!) was one of the first already famous rappers to hear Wu (then called Force of the Imperial Master) and recognize their talent. After their debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) they blew the fuck up and after a series of albums, solo albums, projects, books, and bling became the Greatest Musical Collective Ever. I still blame them for How High though.

Let’s end this with a reader question…who’s your fave Wu member? Ghostface for me. Man spits fire and wears a bracelet with a massive gold eagle on it. Win.