Mark Kozelek Covered Sonny & Cher and It Is Beautiful

In case you missed it in between the Grammys and the new stuff The Strokes and Justin Timberlake bringing you all the Suits and Ties with David Fincher, Mark Kozelek, he of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters, released a new covers album called Like Rats. This isn’t Kozelek’s first foray into covers territory by any means, but it’s first off, very good, and second off, a rather interesting roster of artists. There’s D.C. punk (Bad Brains’ “I”), two very prominent but very different names in progressive rock (Genesis, Yes), the title track from Godflesh, a track each from Danzig and the Misfits, and, of all people, Bruno Mars.

But one of the standouts here is the stomach-dropping closer, a simultaneously gentle and devastating take on Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” And how quickly the warm, fuzzy Sonny and Cher classic turns into a spare, heart-wrenching tale of desperation, of a broken man, down on his luck, clinging to the one thing he has left in this life: his babe. This is how you do covers, people. Kozelek is a reminder that covering a song can actually still be an artistic statement and really create the song anew as opposed to just making overly precious folk versions of rap songs for YouTube, perky college a cappella arrangements or soulless, grinning Glee soundtrack reproductions. And thank God for that.

Stream Like Rats over at Pitchfork Advance while you still can, or watch Kozelek do his thing on Bad Brains’ “I” below.

BoomBox: The Amazing Drift Along A “Gentle Stream”

Tauntingly named, The Amazing is something of an indie supergroup in their native Sweden. Lead by singer/songwriter Christoffer Gunrup and Dungen’s Reine Fiske, the group doesn’t stray too far from the latter’s slightly more trippy sound with his full time gig. Though a little less dappled with psychedelia their latest release, “Gentle Stream,” hews closely to the formula displayed on their 2009 self-titled debut and 2010’s six-song mini album Wait For a Light to Come.

Obvious touchstones reveal themselves quickly through fragile, sotto voce vocals and a languorous flow that instantly recalls Nick Drake and Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon anchor Mark Kozelek on tracks like “Flashlight” and “The Fog.” There’s also a bit of Bread’s more rollicking soft rock side on tracks like “Gone” and “Dogs,” and a more recent antecedent would certainly be Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers. (I also thought immediately of the fantastic, but lesser-known Chicago band, Pinetop Seven.)

Though their music may not be as puffed-up as their name would suggest, The Amazing does largely live up to it. Now that I think about it perhaps their name isn’t so much braggadocio as it is a suggestion that slowing down allows you to encounter the surprising and wonderful in the world around you. And that is a bit amazing.

SOUND REFERENCES:

Nick Drake: “Northern Sky”

Sun Kil Moon: "Lost Verses"

Great Lake Swimmers: “Your Rocky Spine”

 

Pinetop Seven: “Fringe”

Mark Kozelek Performs On ‘Jimmy Fallon’ Without Awkward Incident

Mark Kozelek, once lead singer for Red House Painters and now the driving force behind folksier successor Sun Kil Moon, performed two songs (and a special backstage performance) with The Roots for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Monday—marking his TV debut, incredibly—and did not have a meltdown or piss off Questlove.  For a musician with as many anecdotes of bizarre/prickly stage behavior attached to him as Kozelek does, that’s not bad!

While Mark may be foiling certain expectations by not heckling his audiences so much these days, the performances themselves have certainly lived up to snuff, even in the often perilous talk-show environment. Kozelek and company warmed up with a track from Sun Kil Moon’s latest, Among The Leaves, before launching into the pure honey of Red House Painters’ “Mistress,” a tremulous shoegaze track that ripples like water shot through with frail autumn light.

The “Mistress” take is so pretty, in fact, that you feel sure someone—if not zany, apocryphally cruel Kozelek himself—might interrupt and ruin it. Then again, this may be just the sort of pessimistic outlook you have to endure after listening to too many Mark Kozelek records. Whatever, small price to pay.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

A Soundtrack For Watching Curiosity’s Mars Landing Footage

As David Attenborough, Björk, and @bill_nye_tho could most certainly tell you, science is mind-blowing. Today, while you were still complaining about NBC ruining the Olympics, the NASA rover Curiosity landed on Mars and began feeding wide-eyed space junkies everywhere images from the Red Planet in a matter of minutes.

In honor of this exciting development, here’s a rather literal soundtrack for checking out some images from space. Keep watching the skies, y’all.

Afrika Bambaataa – “Planet Rock”
When hip-hop met an interpolation of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express,” it sounded like the future. Fitting for exploring the cosmos, and even more so for a good old-school dance party.

Parliament – “Mothership Connection (Star Child)”
Any space-themed playlist just wouldn’t feel complete without some kind of interstellar jam from George Clinton and his denizens of the final funky frontier. Plus, once you start thinking about Clinton’s amazing Technicolor hair, the one NASA controller’s Mohawk doesn’t seem so strange, and all the emphasis on it when there’s all this other cool stuff going on will have seemed so trivial. Anyway, bring on the funk.

Iggy Pop – “Curiosity”
“Curiosity killed the cat / but satisfaction brought it back.” A fuzzy, piano-tinged celebratory garage-rocker for all the NASA crewmembers who worked so hard to make this a reality.

Sun Kil Moon – “Space Travel Is Boring”
Mark Kozelek and Co.’s lovely, spare Modest Mouse cover is great for that solitary, 2am sort of planet-gazing.

Usher – “Mars vs. Venus”
If there are other beings on Mars, here’s hoping they like Usher.

Cut Copy – “Strange Nostalgia For The Future”
This blippy cut from Aussie electro dance party facilitators comes from their third album, Zonoscope, whose album art sort of looks like a rocket blasting off into space.

Yellow Ostrich – “In The Past I Was An Astronaut”
The double-tracked vocals come in deliberately and ethereally, almost with the rhythm of a planetary explorer taking some very small steps and giant leaps on the surface of the Moon. For such simple instrumentation, the song inhabits a whole lot of space. How apt.

David Bowie – “Life On Mars?”
Yeah, yeah. It’s the most obvious choice, especially given that now scientists predict we will be able to determine whether or not there is life on Mars within the next decade. But from the first gentle piano strains to the cosmic wash of the chorus, all wrapped in a yearning for an escape, there really isn’t a better soundtrack for a journey to another planet.