Music For Your Mama

With Mother’s Day upon us, I figured a mother-centric post was in order. Here are some songs for mothers, songs about mothers, and even some songs with the word “mother” in them. I am trying very hard to resist the urge to add Flight of the Conchords, “Mutha’uckas” to this list right now. Somehow, I don’t think Mother would approve…

1. The Beatles, “Julia”
This 1968 release off the White Album was written by John Lennon for his mother, Julia Lennon, as well as his future wife, Yoko Ono. He is the only Beatle to appear on the recording and it marks the first song he wrote for his mother, who was killed in a car accident in 1958. The first two lines, “Half of what I say is meaningless/ But I say it just to reach you, Julia,” were adapted from the poem “Sand and Foam,” by, poet Kahlil Gibran. “Ocean child” refers to the English translation for Yoko’s name and all in all, it truly is “a song of love”.

2. Elliott Smith, “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud”
This soulful track off of Figure 8 tells the tale of a successful rockstar debating whether or not his mother would be proud of him. Lines like, “there’s a silver lining in the corporate cloud,” allude to the fact that he has sold out and is ill at ease about the decision he’s made. The track is likely referring to Smith’s contract with DreamWorks Records in 1997.

3. Bon Iver, “Flume”
The meaning of this eerily beautiful song is somewhat ambiguous. Many interpretations have been offered for the opening track off of Justin Vernon’s self released 2007 album, For Emma, Forever Ago. Vernon once described his lyrics as “sounds that eventually turned into words”. With lines such as, ” I am my mother’s only one/ It’s enough/ I wear my garment so it shows/ Now you know,” Vernon confesses to a kind of vulnerability which is present throughout the album as a whole. Lyrics appearing later in the song, “I am my mother on the wall, with us all,” seem to reference a photograph or family portrait.

4. Scissor Sisters, “Take Your Mama”
Introduce your mama to some disco glam pop and “take your mama out all night/ Yeah, we’ll show her what it’s all about/ We’ll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne/ We’ll let the good times all roll out/ And if the music ain’t good, well it’s just too bad.” Thanks to the Scissor Sisters though, the music is good and it will have you dancing in no time. Give this electric track from their self titled debut album a listen!

5. The Shirelles, “Mama Said”
This 1961 single off the album The Shirelles Sing to Trumpets and Strings, reached #4 on the Billboard Top 100 list. It is a jewel of a song from the New Jersey girl group. Revel in this glorious golden oldies piece of pop music and always listen to what Mama says! I know I do.

Happy Mother’s Day from Euphonie!

Also recommended:
The Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper
Jeff Buckley, “So Real”
The Smiths, “I Know It’s Over”
Kate Bush, “Breathing”
Devendra Banhart, “Hey Mama Wolf”

*Special thanks to Mama Caseley (Curtis), Mama Roth, and Mama Kamens

Appreciation! Covers We Covet, Volume 1

The art of the cover song is a delicate subject. Many people believe it is impossible to achieve a perfect rendition of a song already recorded by another artist. Others believe that a band’s ability (and chutzpah) to play a classic song is the true test of their strength as a group.

I have a love/hate relationship with cover songs. In many cases, I believe the cover song is one of the best parts of a band’s live set (ie. The Decemberists/Death Cab for Cutie/Stars performing Fleetwood Mac’s “You Can Go Your Own Way” to close the Central Park Summerstage show in 2005). In some other cases, I find the cover song an overdone and unnecessary practice (especially if it is cliche ::cough cough Every Indie Act Covering “Womanizer”).

In order to make a cover song work, as far as I am concerned, the artist has to inject their own style into the song instead of just playing the song exactly as it originally appeared. The artist has to believe in the original as well as taking steps towards exercising some artistic license.

Here is a list of some notable cover songs (with corresponding mp3s)…

  • Matt Pond PA covering Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” mp3

Recently I have realized that Neutral Milk Hotel’s songs are very often covered by my favorite artists. (Jesse Lacey of Brand New, for one, has been known to cover “Two Headed Boy” in his solo show set list). The song, “Aeroplane,” is one of my favorite songs off the album by the same name. This cover is a beautiful acoustic piece sort of close to the original version. From listening to so much Matt Pond PA recently, it is a fair assumption that MPPA is heavily influenced by Neutral Milk. But injecting violins into the melody, he adds a sense of softness and romanticism to the song. It is what MPPA does best.

  • Bats for Lashes covering Kings of Leon’s”Use Somebody” mp3

Recently posted on Stereogum, this cover features many of the things that I love about cover songs. First off, it is a female vocalist singing a song originally recorded (and performed) by a male-fronted band. Secondly, the tempo is slowed down slightly. Thirdly, one or more instruments are added (an organ and a tambourine). Although I don’t listen to much Bat for Lashes (and am a casual KOL fan), this cover is a great example of a cover where the song is softened up successfully.

  • Stars covering The Smiths’ “This Charming Man” mp3

What? A Smiths cover? Someone attempted to cover the Smiths! That is preposterous! No. I am just kidding (even though many think – Morrissey included – The Smiths are one of those untouchable bands). Stars fuses the melody with electronica sounds. The whispering vocals of Torqui Campbell accompanied with the ever-so-charming (haha) Amy Milan is a new spin on Morrissey’s signature style found in this song. Yes, it is possible to appropriately cover The Smiths. Stars have done it. Death Cab for Cutie too (in a version of the same song – download here).

  • Peter Gabriel and Hot Chip covering Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa mp3

When I originally heard that this cover existed, I thought it would be one of those cover songs that came off silly. I mean, a 59-year-old famous English musician who is name-dropped in an indie song covering said indie song as a duet with an electronica-dance-pop band? However it is one of the greatest things I’ve heard in a while. He covers the song with a bit of humor and even inserts, “But this feels so unnatural to sing your own name” at the part where one would expect to hear “But this feels so unnatural, Peter Gabriel too.”

  • She and Him covering The Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better” mp3

When a female vocalist covers a song written from the point of view of a man, it is expected that any “her” pronouns will be turned into “him.” In this case, “girl” is replaced with “guy.” This version has a country twang and slow finger-picking tone, unlike the original (which is only slightly twangy due to the harmonicas). The tone is casual yet dreamy. In addition, it is one of the few times on “Volume One” where M. Ward actually takes a verse (in this case, the chorus). There is even a bit where Zooey lets out a giggle. Too cute Zooey, too cute.

Coming soon: Top 10 Bruce Springsteen cover songs…