Watch This: Vol. 22
by Steven Spoerl
At the very start of the last article to be posted on here, it was mentioned that Heartbreaking Bravery was going through some technical problems and that they’d be made up for sometime relatively soon. That day is today. Some of the issues plaguing the site are still being resolved, today they’ll be circumnavigated unless they’re fixed at some point throughout the course of the several upcoming posts. Also worth pointing out is that the post with that disclaimer was the first one to be exclusively done on a cover. Normally, this place will do its best to feature originals over covers but with “Candy’s Room” being as good as it was, it’s offered a perfect segue to a Watch This that focuses solely on one of the best outlets for covers: The AV Club’s Undercover series. With a new season lingering around the corner, it’s a great time to look back at some of the most memorable installments of that series- it’s also a great way to illustrate the full scope of the kind of music this place will cover when given the chance. This will be the first of a few Watch This installments getting posted today and it’d be difficult to ask for a better way to ease back into things. As always, sit back, float off, do whatever feels natural- just make sure to Watch This.
1. Mac DeMarco – Undone (The Sweater Song)
Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days is one of the very best records to have had a 2014 release so far, operating as both a reminder of his talents and personality. Here, the cover he and his band offer up of this Weezer classic does roughly the same thing; twice as roughshod as the original but brimming with a cathartic recklessness, it’s a perfectly positioned tribute that does both bands justice. There’s an ample amount of slacker goofiness but when the band kicks it into fifth gear for the last few minutes, it becomes its own beast.
2. The Swell Season – Two-Headed Boy
Did anyone in 2012 think they’d be able to see Neutral Milk Hotel ever play this song again? The prospect of a reunion was about as far-fetched as My Bloody Valentine releasing their follow-up to Loveless, so fans scrambled to find worthy covers. Before 2013 happened, there was nothing better than this; an Oscar-winning rags-to-riches duo (Glen Hansard- who came back to the series to take part in another classic– and Marketa Irglova) bringing in their full band and doing more than a little justice to a song several revered as holy. An awe-inspiring take that rivals Neutral Milk Hotel’s heavily emotive calling card classic.
3. Screaming Females – If It Makes You Happy
This was a no-brainer (so much so that it almost missed the cut completely). The explosive chorus, the guitar fireworks (that riff! that solo! just goddamn), the unrelenting passion, powerhouse vocals, and left-field song choice make this can’t-miss material. More than a year after this was posted, it still has the ability to spark all the same feelings it did on the very first view. This is just about as inspirational as it gets. Take note.
4. Ben Folds – Say Yes
It’s still a little difficult to articulate how much Elliott Smith meant to a certain corner of the music world. He departed entirely too early, leaving behind a rich and unimpeachable discography that cemented his legacy. The bulk of his material can still be extraordinarily difficult to listen to and literally impossible to not be affected by. Here, Ben Folds, his friend and former tourmate, tackles the relatively optimistic “Say Yes” with reverence and grace. Even now, more than ten years down the line, Smith’s songs remain as poignant and moving as ever- even in the hands of someone else.
5. Wye Oak (feat. Jonathan Meiburg) – Strangers
There are few songs that hold as much meaning as The Kinks’ “Strangers”. It’s a perfect song, one full of the kind of humanity that encapsulates something as elusively intrinsic as a worthwhile existence. In short, between Jenn Wasner, Andy Stack, and Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg (another performer who would show up to the series again later to deliver a second classic) the song takes on an epic, wide-open feel. In fact, their take on this song was so devastatingly gorgeous that they became one of the first bands to be asked back– and then following that, the first to have their session(s) pressed to a 7″. As hyperbolic as it may sound, it’s hard to argue against “Mother” being one of the greatest covers of all time.