a tribute album heard round the world: “stop making sense: everyone’s getting involved”

a tribute album heard round the world: “stop making sense: everyone’s getting involved”

Talking Heads is easily my favorite band. They were the first band that really got me into being a massive music geek, and I can’t imagine where I’d be today without them. So, when I heard A24 was planning a large-scale tribute album of Talking Heads’ iconic Stop Making Sense concert film with a different artist covering each song, I got excited but also quite cautious. I loved the band was getting more exposure to new audiences, but who would A24 pick to cover each song? Would they choose artists that honor Talking Heads’ material but still do their own spin on it to keep it fresh?

I’ll go out and say immediately that many of the musicians featured on the album aren’t necessarily ones that would be on my shortlist for a covers album, but that’s not at all a bad thing. Part of Talking Heads’ appeal is the way they respected and performed countless music styles—sometimes multiple at once. They created a unique sound of punk, funk, dance, and art rock and still had room for inspirations from world music or hip-hop made them so forward-thinking. Choosing artists of a variety of styles complements the multicultural palette Talking Heads had worked with.

(Okay, but if I had to choose who I’d want on the album, I’d choose LCD Soundsystem, St. Vincent, HAIM, and a more contemporary post-punk band like Squid or black midi… I can dream.)

However, there was still another big concern I had with the announcement: it was a covers album. A known, respected artist doing a cover of a song is a tricky balancing act. You must honor the source material, but not too close to where it just sounds like you’re doing karaoke. But, if you divert from the original too much and go somewhere too new, it makes your cover just seem like a pointless exercise and you won’t make fans of the original happy. It’s difficult, but it’s totally possible to accomplish this mix.

With that said, the easy standouts of the album were the ones that got this balancing act down the best. Paramore’s cover of “Burning Down the House” kills with Hayley Williams’ stage presence and irresistible vocal performance, and “Crosseyed and Painless” done by Chicano Batman and Money Mark captures the original’s relentless, nonstop energy. It’s hard to recapture the feeling of such a soulful, heartwarming song, but the version of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” by BADBADNOTGOOD and Norah Jones gets damn close. I’m a fan of the former’s lush 70s soul inspirations and using that with Jones’ comforting presence just makes their cover feel like a warm hug in all the same ways the original did. And, if Talking Heads’ cover of “Take Me to the River” equally combined them with Al Green, then Lorde’s cover of the same song is a satisfying blend of both her sound and Talking Heads’.

Some of the other covers closer to the originals can depend on your tastes. I liked The National’s version of “Heaven” which works well with their atmospheric indie folk sound, and quite like some of Aaron Dessner’s produced work for that one super famous rich white and blonde woman who I won’t name*. (*Forgive me, Meredith.) The Linda Lindas and girl in red do acceptable versions of “Found a Job” and “Girlfriend is Better” respectively without changing much, and I enjoyed seeing an African group represented on the album through highlife band The Cavemen’s version of “What a Day That Was”.

The problem with many other covers is that they’re too different from the originals, and it makes them difficult to judge. I love “Psycho Killer” and I’m fine with Miley Cyrus covering it, but why do it as a Lady Gaga-style EDM song? “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” isn’t one of my favorite Talking Heads songs, yet it’s hard to get behind Blondshell doing a slow burn grunge version of it (albeit with a pretty rad guitar solo at the end). Then there’s some of the out-there covers like DJ Tunez performing “Life During Wartime” as an afrobeats-inspired trap song or Kevin Abstract going as far away from “Once in a Lifetime” as possible.

None of these songs are necessarily bad in terms of their sound or how they changed the originals, but they’re hard to appreciate in contrast to the other songs that try hard to honor the spirit of the originals. It’s not to say some covers work despite being too close to the originals (i.e. Teezo Touchdown’s “Making Flippy Floppy” or Toro y Moi’s “Genius of Love”), but perhaps the album could have functioned better with more direction as opposed to letting the artists run completely free.

Everyone’s Getting Involved isn’t bad, despite what some more closed-minded Talking Heads fans may say. However, it’s difficult to appreciate based on how different each artist approaches the original material. It has enough good covers to make the experience worthwhile, even if it may also leave you scratching your head at points. Still, nothing here stains Talking Heads’ enduring legacy as one of the best bands of its time.

candlebox brings natural ease and sense of appreciation to a beautiful summer evening show in kcmo

candlebox brings natural ease and sense of appreciation to a beautiful summer evening show in kcmo

Since 1990 – give or take a few years here and there – Candlebox (updated lineup: Kevin Martin, Adam Kury, Brian Quinn, Island Styles, BJ Kerwin) has been lighting the stage with its endearing (and enduring) brand of Pacific Northwest grunge rock. Consistently, they’ve brought heavy-hitting sets to dedicated crowds with hints of glam metal and blues in tow.

What the band has not always conveyed in their performance, is a sense of nostalgia or wide-spanning appreciation. Citing the pandemic – and other circumstances over the years – lead singer Kevin Martin took things a little slower, leaving space for reflection during their set at Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO on Wednesday, September 6.

Martin told us about his flawed and wonderful immigrant grandmother and his incredible parents – including a wonderful anecdote about a cradle-robbing father. He later took time to appreciate the people he – and we all – have lost too soon. Grief is a tricky bitch, and we have all been touched by it over the years. A sense of true empathy fell like a blanket over the Theater, on what was – admittedly – one of the most temperate and enjoyable evenings of the summer. (Despite the additional quilt of smog over us, brought down from the fires in Canada. Oops.)

Don’t You
No Sense
Mothers Dream
He Calls Home
Cover Me
Far Behind

With COVID cases on the rise (despite what your local news might omit from its reports), photographers were not allowed a wide variety of angles to shoot from. However, the energy and the wild abandon are palpable through our Candlebox highlights, below.

set off on a rock-fueled, candy-coated adventure with connor mclaren’s “candy rain” music video

set off on a rock-fueled, candy-coated adventure with connor mclaren’s “candy rain” music video

If you have yet to happen upon the immense talents of Connor McLaren, now is your chance. The Indianapolis-based musician just released his first full-length with the indelible Ben Kweller’s label The Noise Company. Today, we get to peep the music video for the single “Candy Rain.”

A casual, meandering pace opens the track as we delve into the love story that is “Candy Rain.” While his romantic interest is metaphorically compared to this tasty concept, momentum builds and instrumentals are layered. The song becomes more of a quintessential rock ballad than originally expected, with a hint of grunge/surf rock influence in the whirring guitars. McLaren’s voice has the same appeal as your favorite 90’s crooners, giving all of his music what seems to be an unintentional – but completely genuine – layer of added nostalgia.

By the song alone, it is quite obvious that McLaren’s musicianship and professionalism far surpass the expectations normally associated with his ripe age of 21. But diving into the music video is a whole other treat. (See what we did there?)

The artist takes an artful approach to this visual release, with isolated color palettes dancing around his shadow profile in some frames, playing with natural elements like the textures in mother nature and the sun in others. Shots of the curly-haired crooner performing in earnest, surrounded by bubbles. Then covered in paint. Then avoiding a literal candy downpour under an umbrella.

The video is a kaleidoscope dream you won’t soon forget.

August 17 – New York, NY – The Footlight
August 26 – Normal, IL – House Show
August 31 – Bloomington, IN – The Atrium
September 2 – Cleveland, OH – Mahall’s Apartment
September 9 – West Lafayette, IN – House Show
September 12 – Nashville, TN – The Basement East
September 14 – Boone, NC – TApp Room
September 21 – Chicago, IL – Bookclub
October 14 – Charleston, SC – House Show
November 10 – Appleton, WI – Appleton Beer Factory
December 22 – Indianapolis, IN – HiFi **Homecoming show – TICKETS

Lead Vocals – Connor McLaren
Acoustic and Electric Guitar – Alec McLaren
Bass and Drums – Ben Kweller
Backing Vocals – Connor McLaren and Ben Kweller
**Written by Connor McLaren, Alec McLaren, and Benjamin Kweller and published by Weed Funded Songs (ASCAP), Charity Chase Songs (ASCAP) and Twelve Sided Die (ASCAP)

lo talker, a comedy of errors

lo talker, a comedy of errors

Athens, GA based collective Lo Talker has our wheels spinning as we head into the weekend with their debut album A Comedy of Errors. An album that takes a look at modern times through a humorous, and often biting, sarcastic lens. Through twelve genre-bending tracks, this quintet boasts influence and talent that makes this feel like their fifth album together, not their first. And perhaps that’s where the magic lies here.

As much personality as they’ve injected into the lyrics themselves, there is so much more to this layered work of art. For example, the meandering tone to tracks like “Heaven In Drag”, “Unkown Transmission Arrives”, and “Sift” brags on the delicacy these incredible musicians are capable of, while instrumentals in songs like “Don’t Hide That Light Pt. II” and “Two Ghosts” play with dissonance and give us more of that noisy, grunge influence despite the soft, mellifluous vocals. They even bring some 80s influence to it with “Silvery – Shadow Or Shadow”, which is dusted with glittering synth for effect.

Rhythmically, our favorite is “Nero In The News,” but “Automatic Love” could just be our new favorite (at home) karaoke banger, if not solely for the fact that you can’t help but smile while listening to it. (Nostalgia pop at its finest, my friends.)

Comedy of Errors is out now. Keep up with Lo Talker here.

jenn grinels, live volume 1

jenn grinels, live volume 1

Right now, nostalgia comes in waves. Enjoying a song from our past, Re-discovering a snack we used to love. Engaging in re-releases with new traits, flipping through memory books, and digging through the past. Memories can be healing, especially in today’s health and political climate, and the memory of a live performance can be fleeting.

Singer-songwriter Jen Grinels plays on our nostalgic hearts with the release of her Live Volume 1 full-length, recorded over three nights in early 2019 at The Music Box in Cleveland, OH, Rams Head Onstage in Annapolis, MD, and Avalon Theater in Easton, MD. The live music experience, something we haven’t been able to indulge in for an entire year, encapsulated in one gorgeous collection.

The light echoes from the sound bouncing off the walls of each venue, the magical eccentricities that live music brings with it. From the first mellow track “I Know Your Heart” through the soulful “Don’t Wanna Be Happy” and “Misery,” to the slow ballad-like presentation of “The Feeling,” Grinels powerfully champions multi-genre entertainment. And she doesn’t stop there, as “Can’t Stay Here” has roots in country with a little grunge flare. The sheer feeling (ha!) that rushes over you while playing this album gives you chills, as you imagine being at a live event in the future, singing into the open night air on a gorgeous evening.

That’s what this collection feels like. Live Volume 1 provides a little bit of hope at the end of this crazy pandemic tunnel. And doesn’t that just feel good right now?

erica reese, “i know now”

erica reese, “i know now”

Bluesy, beautiful rock music. The debut release from Erica Reese – an enchanting, danceable track titled “I Know Now” – is truly a statement for the artist, who comes off as an old soul and someone who has lightyears more experience than she does. Blending a 90s grunge rock nostalgia with robust vocal abilities and a more upbeat tempo has made this track an immediate add to your playlist. Let the soulful lyrics keep you grounded as you enjoy the rhythm of this particularly endearing debut.

vanessa silberman, “something to believe in”

vanessa silberman, “something to believe in”

A new music video for the single, “Something to Believe In” premiered October 30 via Broken 8 Records. With animation by Fuel Heart Productions, the video brings us a visual representation of singer-songwriter Vanessa Silberman’s latest track. From “road warrior” (Ijpr.org) to “super electrified performer” (GUM), Silberman has already earned herself a number of titles that express her unique sound and artistic persona.  

The video illustrates Silberman as a figure sketch embarking on a journey, walking through a variety of different landscapes and destinations. Though a simple concept, the figure’s walk enhances the song with each step. The character’s footsteps beat to a specific rhythm, and in a way, this rhythm perfectly complements that of the song itself. This creates an almost hypnotic effect, inducing a meditative state, which is magnified by Silberman’s mysterious vocals. It almost feels as though Silberman is personally calling upon us; encouraging us to wake up, pay attention and allow her to lead us through this moment as we walk through life together. 

“Something to Believe In”, released on September 30, is Silberman’s 7th single to come out this year. The Brooklyn native sports an alt-grunge edge, and is no newbie to the music scene. Between 2015 – 2019, the artist brought her polished, soft-punk vibe to 19 different tours and over 800 shows across the U.S. Like most of her music, “Something to Believe In” was impressively self-produced, engineered, performed, mixed and mastered, with input and drum consulting from Ryan Carnes. 

Silberman touches on the inspiration behind her song: “Something to Believe In’ is more about capturing the emotion of moody melodies and mysterious feelings than being so direct. Lyrically it touches on finding light in dark places and changing perspectives.”

dead end career club, “cooler than me”

dead end career club, “cooler than me”

Under the name Dead End Career Club, Canadian native Ryan Kennedy drops newest single “Cooler Than Me”. Neo-grunge and garage punk, on this newest track.

This 90s infused fuzz-pop track creates a simple melody leaving the focus on what the song itself has to say. “Cooler Than Me” is about Kennedy recognizing that everyone has done something that scares him, and that being cool is deeper than just the surface.

This track fixates on the “cool” or what society says is cool. When in a weird juxtaposition, listeners hear what we know as cool may not be so cool after all.

Keep up with Dead End Career Club here.