Random Song of the Day – 10/25/17

Today, Taco:

Two observations I want to make, right up front:

1.) I’m sure there are a few people out there who are either assuming that me calling him Taco is some kind of asinine joke or that he was one of those weird-ass 80’s performers who went by a singular, bizarre name, but nope! Dude’s birth name is apparently Taco Ockerse, which… is a thing, and

2.) I had to search longer than I wanted to for this version of the above music video, because for reasons I don’t entirely understand, when you search for this song, you generally turn up either live versions of the song, or the original version, which features women in blackface singing the “Super Duper” line, no I am not fucking kiddingI don’t know who thought that would be appropriate in the 80’s, holy shit. I understand why he did it, but for fuck’s sake Taco.

So! Taco.

Now, I want to note that this is yet another cover song, specifically a cover of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Irving Berlin, a song written in the 1920’s about opulent wealth that was most heavily popularized by Fred Astaire in the film Blue Skies. I also want to note that basically twenty or thirty acts have covered this song in its lifetime in addition to Astaire and Taco, including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Robbie Williams and Shiny Toy Guns, but I tend to like the Taco version the best out of all possible versions, and not just because of its goofy 80’s aesthetic. Rather, for as weird as this video is, Taco’s video has a very minor something to say about the opulent lifestyle of “the Ritz”: it’s bullshit.

Seriously, watch this video and note how it frames the idea of “puttin’ on the Ritz” against homeless people diving around for a dollar. It’s kind of amazing as a weird social commentary attached to a silly dance version of a popular 40’s song, and I can’t help but love that it’s almost accidentally subversive in its own way, even if that’s not entirely what Taco might have been going for (though the dancers in blackface seeming like a callback to the song’s origins could mean it was intentional… or that Taco’s producers are idiots, which is also possible).

Plus I kind of want a light up cane, sorry.

Random Song of the Day – 10/24/17

Today, She:

She is a band my friend Jonah turned me onto a few months ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I went through and listened to their body of work again, and goddamn if they can’t put together a really interesting vocalized electronic track with minimal effort. I mean, I love EDM of various genres and subgenres, so I’m probably the exact market bands like Plaid, Digital Daggers and She are aiming to please with their work (if they care at all), but it’s always exciting to discover a band that can put together a track that just sounds compelling and enjoyable, which is something She is able to do with relative ease.

Now, She as a band isn’t really notable for the above song as such; the self-titled track from the album, “Coloris,” and “Tokyo Nights” seem to be the tracks most people love from this record, and with good reason, because they’re both great. However, in the above song, “Monochrome,” there’s a lot to love, and it feels like it comes completely naturally, whereas in the in the aforementioned tracks, the artist really feels like they’re putting in a lot of work to get there. To put it another way, Monochrome feels like a simple, but really effective, song, and while part of that comes down to an effective use of female vocals, the song feels really simply composed, in a way that’s not too busy and flows well. The music flows well from one piece to the next, in a way that feels natural and organic, and it’s honestly a song you can feel penetrate you. “Coloris” and “Tokyo Nights” feel like heavily organized, busy numbers, and while I love them as well, there’s something about a simple, organic-feeling song I just can’t deny, which is why “Monochrome” is the song I went to above and beyond any other.

Random Song of the Day – 10/23/17

Today, Scandroid (yes again) because Jesus Christ:

I just…

Okay.

Okay.

On one hand, I appreciate the core thematic concepts. The Scandroid brand is meant to be based around more robotic and sci-fi concepts, so it’s cute that the video features robots doing the Thriller dance. I also appreciate that the main robot is a werewolf robot with a red paint job, because that’s a direct reference to the original video on multiple levels. Finally, putting the lyrics on the marquee of a theater is a neat touch that, again, calls back to the original song and video in a way a lot of creators probably wouldn’t. If you’re coming to this from that perspective, and you can take the song itself out of that context, there are a lot of really great ideas here.

However, the core problem is, it’s fucking Thriller.

Listen, I generally try not to be a musical purist, because experimental or variant music is what helps us, as a culture, to grow our genres and expand music beyond what it was into what it can be, but “Thriller” is basically one of the very few “perfect” pop songs that exists on this Earth. I’m not saying you can’t cover it, or that it’s wrong to dislike it, but I am saying that if you are going to cover it, you need to bring your musical A game or an interpretation no one’s ever come up with, and this is… not that. The music itself is basically just the original tune, but jazzed up a little (in the “tweaked” or “fine-tuned” sense, not as in “he added actual jazz to it” sense), so from jump the best you can be is “as good as.” Further, however, while Klayton isn’t a bad singer per say, he’s not fucking Michael Jackson, and his vocals can’t even begin to touch what was done, so he… just doesn’t try. The vocals are mostly flat or given the robo-vocal treatment, and the end result is a whole lot of nothing.

I mean, I don’t know how else to describe it, but look, just… don’t do this. I know people love Michael Jackson, but if you can’t either spin the song to be unique or, failing that, perform at the level of the original artist, don’t do it. Jesus Christ.

Random Song of the Day – 10/20/17

Today, Scandroid (AKA “Celldweller, again”):

Moving on from “covers that maintain or improve upon the spirit of the original,” we move into “covers that basically remake the original song,” with “Shout,” a song most people will either remember from its original 1980’s release as a Tears for Fears song or, failing that, from when Disturbed covered it back in 2000. Now, I love the original version of the song a lot, because I’m an 80’s kid, but I also enjoy the Disturbed version of the song in its own way, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously (the Ice Ice Baby reference, for example) but clearly knows how to redo the song in a way that, well, sounds like Disturbed.

This, by comparison, just… sounds like the original.

Now, I do want to note that the video clearly shows that Klayton’s either learning on his own how to loosen up a bit, or is at least learning how to do it from Bret Autrey, as the random in-joke toward the end is cute, and the 80’s aesthetic that’s just oozing out of the video is kind of neat. The song itself, though, is… just the original song, with Klayton’s vocals, and while that’s fine, it’s also not anything to be excited about because, again, I have that song, I don’t need a slightly newer and slightly cleaner version.

Also, uh, two things re: the video:

1.) Am… I supposed to take away from this video that the overall message is “it’s liberating for women to leave their lives for a little bit to dress in 80’s aerobics wear and dance in a shitty warehouse to Tears for Fears covers?” because I don’t, and I’m not sure how you would, and

2.) Where in the fuck did that pencil come from Klayton?

Anyway, we have one more cover to get through, so stick with me until Monday, yeah?

Random Song of the Day – 10/19/17

Today, Celldweller:

Yes, it’s more discussions about covers, but this one came up for a reason, so just work with me for a couple of days, yeah?

Now, I’m well aware that I’ve discussed Klayton Scott on this site far more often than any reasonable person would, between a repost of a record review, a Random Song of the Day, and mentioning his work while discussing Blue Stahli multiple times, but I like industrial music so it’s kind of a given that I end up hearing stuff from Scott since, well, Scott’s label Fixt makes a lot of industrial music. I’m also sure that, unless you’re a fan, you probably don’t care very much about his work either; while you’ve almost certainly heard the instrumentals of one of his tracks in a trailer for a film or game, it’s not likely you’re buying his records or anything, because nothing Fixt has released has gone platinum at this point.

Today (and for the next couple of days), though, I want to use Klayton as, essentially, a singular living example of the covers discussion I brought up earlier, due to a cover he released recently that sort of fulfilled the “HAHA HOLY SHIT” quotient. Technically speaking, I could’ve done this with Disturbed a while ago, but given the choice, Klayton is less likely to make people roll their eyes at me, so let’s go with this.

Up first is “Tragedy,” a single released under the Celldweller name over a decade ago (Klayton released this originally as a standalone single, but includes it on the Celldweller 10th Anniversary release, so assume it came out sometime around 2003-2004), which sharp-eyed readers will note I made fun of during the recap of my original review of the Celldweller record. Here’s the thing, though: with a decade’s space between the original release, as well as some consideration after the fact, I have to say it: this is probably a better song than the song it’s covering. Now, no disrespect to the Bee Gees, because screw you they were awesome, but if you don’t remember the original version of “Tragedy,” here’s a link.

Back with me? Okay, now I want you to note, this is meant to be a miserable song, TO THE POINT WHERE ITS NAME IS “TRAGEDY”, and then consider what tone Barry Gibb brings to this track. For most of the tracks in the band’s catalog, Barry is amazingly on point, but in this song? Yeah, I’m… not getting a sense of tragic despair from it. Compare that to the Celldweller version, and well, while the Bee Gees version might be more technically sound (as Klayton still had a major issue with overproduction at this point), the Celldweller version gets the tone spot-on and lays into it hard through the entire thing. Klayton sounds miserable, and it fits the song a lot more than Barry’s vocals do, as does the tone of the music backing up Klayton’s vocals.

So yeah, this is basically a wonderful cover from that perspective. The others that are coming? Not so much.

Random Song of the Day – 10/17/17

Today, Meg Myers:

Myers is a musician I ended up discovering, oddly enough, because a friend invited me to go to a concert, of which she was one of the performers. Now, we ended up not going to that concert (which was just as well, as Laura Palmer was the other performer, and I have… not figured out how I feel about Laura Palmer yet), but this ended up inspiring me to check out Myers independently, and damned if she isn’t really talented. I mean, in a broad sense I suppose that’d be obvious; I was, after all, considering going to see a live show featuring an artist I hadn’t figured out how to feel about yet, so you’d have to assume I think well of Myers or that I’m really stupid, but listen, I smoked for like two decades, so let’s not table the latter entirely, yeah?

Anyway, “Sorry” is the song I tend to like the most from Myers, but “Desire” is the song that’s probably most compelling to my mind, if only because Sorry is, frankly speaking, a bit obvious. “Sorry” is a good song, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a song about a relationship that failed, and it’s the sort of thing that basically anyone can wrap their head around. “Desire,” in comparison, is a raw, predatory song that feels more obsessive (on both the part of the singer and the listener) and primal in what it appeals to, and that’s harder to achieve than you’d expect without getting fairly experimental. It doesn’t quite get where I think Myers wants it to be, mind you, but honestly, it still works really well, and it’s a song I enjoy as much for what it’s trying to do as for what it successfully accomplishes.

Random Song of the Day – 10/16/17

Today, Digital Daggers:

Coming back to a prior statement, this is another band I discovered by going through an extended random YouTube play session, but unlike Icon for Hire, Digital Daggers not only seems to be very active (they have about nineteen releases on iTunes at the moment), but they also seem way more… comfortable in where they are as a musical group. I’m not just saying that because Icon for Hire started off as feeling similar to other acts in an oversaturated market, either; Digital Daggers feels like a band that has a cohesive vision and focus to their work that a lot of other bands, in general, take years to get to.

As an example, I picked “Spark” because it was the first song I discovered from the group, but honestly, you can go to Youtube right now, search for their name, and listen to anything from the band, and it all mostly feels like it’s from a band that understands what they’re trying to be and executes it perfectly. It’s almost certainly cliche to call something “haunting” at this point, but Digital Daggers manages to make the term feel reasonably appropriate, thanks to some really interesting vocal effects and song composition, and this is definitely an act that resonates in a way few truly manage to, to my mind.

Random Song of the Day – 10/13/17

Today, Breaking Benjamin:

We did Breaking Benjamin back in April of 2015, so I don’t have a lot to add to this; I mostly just found this while I was looking into covers of “Enjoy the Silence,” and I don’t hate it, honestly. I don’t think that Ben Burnley quite has the sort of voice to do this song as-is, and it’s still kind of a lazy cover, but it adds just enough to the song that you know it’s Breaking Benjamin doing the cover, and doesn’t shit the bed while doing so.

Plus, if anyone’s going to cover a semi-morose song about a relationship and do it reasonably well, it’s Burnley; see also the Breaking Benjamin cover of “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Dude’s basically the anti-Ville Valo.

(Aside: the cover of “Who Wants to Live Forever” I linked above is both a better and worse cover than this, I find; better because it makes more use of what makes Breaking Benjamin sound unique, worse because Ben has to compare to Freddy Mercury with the cover, which is a much harder bar for him to clear. In case you were curious.)

Random Song of the Day – 10/12/17

Today, Icon for Hire:

Sometimes, when I’m working, I like to let YouTube play songs for a while, just to see if I discover a new band I’d not heard of before in the process of allowing this to go on. Most of the time, I either end up finding tracks from bands I already like or garbage, but every so often I’ll hear something start up that I’ve never heard before and think, “Huh, this is pretty good,” and that’s the case with today’s pick, Icon for Hire. The band has apparently been around for five or six years now, but I honestly first heard anything from them a few days ago, when this track came up in a random play session, and it’s pretty good!

I mean, full disclosure: it sort of sounds like a pop-y version of what Evanescence was doing (or, alternately, a less saccharine Paramore), but honestly, I kind of like that, and there’s something really compelling about the song that I can’t really put into words. It’s also worth noting that, by all indications, the band has, in the past few years, turned from this into something a bit more electronically influenced (possibly because only the vocalist and guitarist are left at this point), which is also interesting, albeit for different reasons. They also apparently are considered, to use a term I picked up from Gloomchen, “Stealth Jesus,” IE worship music that doesn’t want to be considered worship music, but I like Skillet just fine and I haven’t started going to church so I suspect this isn’t going to convince anyone either.