Two covers are gaining huge traction today in the mp3/YouTube buzz-bins of the music blogeratti. The first has sister of Beyoncé, Solange Knowles, shooting high with an epic cover of the Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is the Move.” The other sees Arcade Fire soundalikes Fanfarlo going after the 90s alt classic by Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” How are they?
As of today, Solange Knowles is posed to be the next hipster icon. She DJed at last night’s release party for The xx. She got dropped by Interscope, and she’s now free from the constraints of doing what a label pays her to do. She’s been spotted hanging out around Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bed-Stuy. The Dirty Projectors and The xx are bands whose music is heavily rooted in early to mid-90s R B. Solange Knowles has those roots in her blood. So it makes sense that she’d cover a song like this; the way she did, however, is as unexpectedly shocking as it is solid. By running over and looping the key beat in Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive” — a “wow” moment of rhythmic intuition in and of itself — Knowles sets herself a perfect landscape and well-built, pre-tested metronome to hit every high note and then some the ladies of DP do. It is, without question, one of the most memorable covers of the year. But as music writer/blogger Matthew Perpetua acknowledges, we shouldn’t be surprised: Knowles’ has been this good for a while, and just because her hipster cachet exploded into the atmosphere doesn’t mean she came out of nowhere. Those in the know have known. But besides wishing I’d been one of them before, I’m definitely glad I do now. Right-click and save to download here.
Today’s second cover comes to us from Fanfarlo, a band who has everything down on paper: the internet buzz, the early corporate sponsorship love (also see: Oh, Inverted World-era Shins and McDonald’s), and they sound somewhere between Beirut and The Arcade Fire. Unfortunately, like the girl you fall in love with on idealism alone, not everything’s there in the body, always. See this very noble attempt at covering a great song, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” by Neutral Milk Hotel. NMH is indie rock sacred ground; no matter who covers it, it’s not going to be great. Most people who enjoy NMH are too burned from the fact that the band’s lead singer, Jeff Magnum, basically retired from indie rock without completing the massive, deep, indelible print he started to make on rock music. Which is why a neophyte band like Fanfarlo — who, don’t get me wrong, have some incredible songs — and their attempt to cover a classic look incredibly trite.
The Shins cover T-Rex songs. The Arcade Fire at least goes as far back as Talking Heads or New Order. And Beirut goes after Jacques Brel. Knowles did something unexpected and innovative. Fanfarlo took something old and made it older. Another day, another lesson in cover art.