22 (OVER S∞∞N) – Bon Iver
Still Trying – Nathaniel Rateliff
Take Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons, add them together, plus a dollop of genius lyrics and a tonne of soul, and you get the sound of Nathaniel Rateliff. Intrigued? You should be.
This American singer-songwriter from Missouri has been around for a while, but I’ve just discovered him. He is just what you want in the alt-folk genre we’ve all grown to love today. He’s got the grungy and powerful voice and knows how to build a song up from a soft guitar riff and whisper to a full foot-stomping, make-you-wanna-shout style folk track.
Still Trying is a magic song from his 2013 album Falling Faster Than You Think You Can Run that does just this. It’s calming yet stirring at the same time. I know that’s an awful contradiction but somehow Nathaniel Rateliff reaches that in this song.
If you want more upbeat and shouty folk music listen to his 2015 album Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, if you want more gentle tracks like Still Trying then stick to his earlier albums. I like both styles for different reasons and all his work makes for compelling listening.
I Need A Forest Fire – James Blake and Bon Iver
When it’s a track by James Blake and Bon Iver you just know I Need A Forest Fire is going to be a good song before you even hit play. The excitement I felt when hearing that these two were collaborating again was immense, their last coming together gave us the wonderful Fall Creek Boys Choir, now we can rejoice again, because I Need a Forest Fire is even better.
The song comes from James Blake’s latest album The Colour in Anything, which dropped earlier this month. It starts with a spooky church organ keyboard melody which soon melds into the pairs signature experimental style with synthesizers taking over. But there’s no stopping Justin Vernon’s chilling vocals from shining through. His voice is ethereal as it bursts across the ever developing bass of the song. Blake works his magic throughout, layering up sound upon sound, voice upon voice, until the song culminates in a moment of wild noise before fading into silence.
I Need A Forest Fire is an outstanding song which will send shivers down your spine each time you listen to it. It’s getting a thrashing from me, trust me and add it to your latest playlist ASAP!
- Justin Vernon and Sean Carey – I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt
Recorded live at AIR Studios and released on YouTube in 2012. This song is one of my most favourite ever, in both original, and cover form. Listen, it doesn’t need explaining.
2. Angus Stone – River by Joni Mitchell
Recorded for the 2007 compilation album No Man’s Woman. A fresh, modern and emotional take on one of Mitchell’s most covered songs.
- John Mayer – Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
Included in the 2007 live album Where The Light Is, Mayer turned one of the most iconic air-punching singalongs ever into a tender ballad, all without losing the spunk of the song.
- Eva Cassidy – Songbird by Fleetwood Mac
Released on her posthumous compilation album of the same name which reached number 1 in the UK in 2001. A slowed down, slightly country sounding take on Christine McVie’s famous hit. Had a real affect on me during that melt your heart dance scene between the co-workers in Love Actually.
- Muse – Feeling Good from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, the song was made famous by Nina Simone.
From 2001 album Origin of Symmetry, it was also released as a single. Only Muse could manage to take one of the most covered soul songs of all time and turn it into a rock number which just makes you “feel good”. Especially during Matt Ballamy’s spine-tingling falsettos.
- Adele – Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan
From her 2008 debut album 19. Dylan’s version was sweet, but Adele’s version is epic.
- Ryan Adams –Wonderwall by Oasis
You know it’s a good cover when the author of the song -Noel Gallagher (who’s notorious for ripping on other peoples work) – says this about it:
“I went to see Ryan Adams in Manchester… So he’s playing away and he just does ‘Wonderwall’ right in the middle of the set. The fucking place went silent. It was so beautiful. I was just like, ‘Fucking Jesus Christ what a fucking song!’ Afterwards, I told him, ‘You can have that song, man, because we could never quite get it right.’
- Sarah McLachlan – Blackbird by The Beatles
One of the many beautiful covers from the I Am Sam soundtrack, which was made up entirely of Beatles music.
- Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
Always acknowledged as one of the best covers to ever exist, this take on Hallelujah is how I fell for this song and I know I’m not the only one. When do you ever hear Leonard Cohen’s original popping up on every radio station imaginable? Answer = never. Why? Because Jeff Buckley’s version is the go to.
- Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
She recorded the song for the 1992 film The Bodyguard. It spent 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is one of the best-selling singles of all time. Is there anyone questioning why? I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love this song.
- Alex and Sierra – Gravity by Sara Bareilles
The American X-Factor duo and real life couple were favourites in the 2013 season. When you listen to this song you’ll no why, their take on this song is emotion invoking in every way.
- Neil Young – A Day in the Life by The Beatles
This has become a staple on every Neil Young set list. I’ve seen him twice in concert and both times I’ve been completely blown away by this amazing cover. He takes one of the most iconic songs of all time and blows it out of the water with his grungy take.
- Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse – Valerie by The Zutons
Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse took what was a funky little indie track by English rock band The Zutons, and turned it into a super hit in 2007. It’s on the playlist of every bar DJ and gets everyone on the dance floor singing along with each play.
- Ben Howard – Call Me Maybe by Carley Rae Jepsen
Performed in the Radio 1 Live Lounge in 2012. Only Ben Howard could take the girliest pop song of the year and turn it into a slow, crooning masterpiece. My friend and I used to laugh that Jepsen’s version is for the hitting the dance floor while Howard’s cover is there to help you recover from your hangover the next day.
- Ed Sheeran – In My Life by The Beatles
Performed as part of the 2014 tribute show The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A GRAMMY Salute. Sheeran takes a famous Beatles love song and puts his own delicate spin on it with this stripped back version that had Paul and Ringo nodding with pleasure in the audience.
Make It Holy – The Staves featuring Justin Vernon
I stumbled across The Staves last week while pining to be at Glastonbury and I haven’t been able to stop playing their song Make It Holy ever since. What a magic track. It evokes a real emotion in me as it twists and builds.
It’s been a while since I’ve heard a track with such chilling harmonies but this English accoustic folk trio made up of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, know their strengths and compliment each other superbly.
The album Make It Holy features on was produced by Justin Vernon and he accompanies them in this track. His chilling voice shines through as a softer undertone on the big lines and gives the song an extra layer that other songs on the album don’t have. It would be brilliant with just the Staveley-Taylor sisters but when Justin Vernon’s unique grunt is added it has the x-factor. This track is impossible not to love.
Have a few listens and I recommend buying their album If I Was – there’s a lot more where this came from.
The favourite thing I have in my bedroom is a large stack of tickets that sits on my dresser and takes pride of place.
I’m such a concert nerd that I keep hold of every ticket. I love nothing more than spending a few hours looking back through the pile, listening to the music and reminiscing on the best nights of my life. No exaggeration there. The best nights of my life are all concerts, there’s no question about it. However, when I look at the pile, I have so many good memories that I could never chose one particular gig as the best. I just have to count myself lucky that I’ve had so many amazing experiences.
Although my Coldplay butterfly confetti, that fell from the ceiling during Lovers In Japan on the bands Viva La Vida tour in 2009, is looking a little worse for wear, it makes me grin with happiness as I remember the truly magical moment.
My shiny, uniquely designed collection of Big Day Out tickets takes me back to the sun-filled days packed in at Mt Smart Stadium, rushing from act to act, with barely enough time to stop for food let alone a toilet break!
My Fleetwood Mac ticket has me craving a dance in the pouring rain at the Bowl of Brooklands and desperate for November to roll around so I can see them live again.
The Bon Iver stub reinforces my desperate need for new music from what is easily one of the best live acts ever to exist.
I could go on forever.
Memorabilia is the best!
Collapse – Vancouver Sleep Clinic
I was lucky enough last week to get two concerts in one. Vancouver Sleep Clinic opened for Angus and Julia Stone at the Civic in Auckland last week and absolutely blew me away.
No VSC isn’t a band, but is instead a genuis 17 year-old from Brisbane, Tim Bettinson. Taking inspiration from Bon Iver he has managed to create a contemporary electronica sound full of emotion, far more than one would expect from a teenager.
Collapse is the first track from his forthcoming debut EP Winter. It is hauntingly beautiful (especially when turned up really loud). Full of melancholy, the track is a slow and steady song brought together with the use of a synth, keyboard and fantastic drum beat. The tune is written in the classic electronica build-up style, it starts gently, crescendoes into a more vibrant chorus, takes it up a notch further with a moody bridge, before subsiding into a more muted verse again.
Bettinson’s vocals are the star of the show, he sings in a beautiful Justin Vernon like falsetto, slurring his words much like the Bon Iver genius. That’s not to say he’s like Vernon in every way however, for a start you can actually understand what his lyrics mean, and they’re quite lovely!
“It’s so cold, I’ve come out
Where’s the all I have to show
The knowledge that I’ve never known
The garden that I failed to grow”
See what I mean? Once again, I’m still amazed a 17-year-old boy can write lyrics and music with such a mature quality.
He performs like he’s been doing it for years. In his set on Sunday Bettinson and band had the whole theatre enraptured, a hard ask for an opening act. He performed with a real confidence, played instruments like he was born to do nothing else, gelled with his bandmates impressively and sang gloriously. His music really came to life on stage and I was completely sold.
I think if you check him out, you will be too.