Sacred & Profane – Art, Beauty & stuff that doesn't suck

"Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your poetry" -Oscar Wilde

The art of the cover song March 11, 2009

There is undeniable magic in the creation of a classic song, and masters of the craft, songwriters like Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy and Neil Young, receive their much deserved respect. The art of re-imagining another writer’s song requires a creativity that, while less appreciated, is uniquely magical.

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Cover songs sometimes aim to retool the originals sonically through production or harmonically by altering the chord structure or melody. This is the simplest and most accessible approach…Sometimes performers take a song popular among fans of one genre and introduce it to new fans of a different genre. Genre-hopping transfers of success happen all the time between Pop and Country (not that there’s really much of a difference anymore.) This is the most financially profitable approach.

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The most enduring and effective covers, though, seem to be born out of a performer identifying a subtle beauty or character that no one, not even the writer, was able to hear and breathing new life and meaning into it.

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These are the covers, contrasted with their seed, that I want to highlight in this ongoing category- versions that capture something so unique that listeners more closely connect and relate to them than the originals…

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The first song “Ocean Breathes Salty” was written by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and originally appeared on their brilliant 2004 album Good News for People who Love Bad News. Indie Rock renaissance man Mark Kozalek, the sole member of Sun Kil Moon, released the risky Tiny Cities that consisted entirely of his interpretations of relatively obscure Modest Mouse songs.

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Removing the songs from the wild, agitated hands of Modest Mouse, Kozalek uncovered these extraordinary abstract and dare I say…tender songs that rarely trace back to their source. Kozalek, I think, could put music to a phonebook and make it beautiful and melancholy, but his imaginative work on Tiny Cities is quite an accomplishment nonetheless. Which version do you all like the most? Do tell…Enjoy!

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imgmodestmousegood tiny-cities
04-ocean-breathes-salty1 11-ocean-breathes-salty

When you click on the links for the songs, you’ll be taken to another page. Click the link again!

 

 

Your body may be gone, I’m gonna carry you in.
In my head, in my heart, in my soul.
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both live again.
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t think so.
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Well that is that and this is this.
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get.
You get away from me. You get away from me.
Collected my belongings and I left the jail.
Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell.
I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile.
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The ocean breathes salty, won’t you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul.
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both grow old.
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I hope so.
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Well that is that and this is this.
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get.
You get away from me. (You get away from me) You get away from me.
Collected my belongings and I left the jail.
Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell.
I had to think awhile. (I had to think awhile) I had to think awhile.
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Well that is that and this is this.
Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed,
when the ocean met the sky. (You missed, you missed)
You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye. (You missed)
When the earth folded in on itself. (You missed)
And said “Good luck, for your sake I hope heaven and hell (You missed, you missed)
are really there, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.” (You missed, you missed)
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death? (You missed, you missed)
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death?
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The ocean breathes salty, won’t you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul.
The more we move ahead the more we’re stuck in rewind.
Well I don’t mind. I don’t mind. How the hell could I mind?
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Well that is that and this is this.
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get.
You get away from me. (You get away from me) You get away from me.
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Well that is that and this is this.
Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed,
when the ocean met the sky. (You missed, you missed)
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?

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3 Responses to “The art of the cover song”

  1. David Ceco; Says:

    “Tiny Cities” is an impossibly good album.

  2. David Cecil Says:

    It seems I cannot even spell my own last name, which makes me an impossibly dumb human.

  3. themoonisdown Says:

    mark kozalek is awesome. red house painters, anyone?


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