100 best covers: #82 Travis “Baby one more time”

<< #83    |    #81 >>

So here’s one that you can place firmly in the fun column.

I came across this particular cover during a brief period in 2001 where I was a bit obsessed with Scottish alt-pop band Travis and I was on the hunt for everything they’d recorded. Appearing as a B-side to the 1999 single “Turn”, it was recorded live and you can actually hear the laughter from the audience as they start to recognize the song. The band themselves can be heard snickering at the beginning, especially at the forced falsetto moments, but by the end, they are indeed performing it in earnest.

I also didn’t recognize the tune at first during my first sampling of it. It’s slowed some, performed stripped down to only an acoustic guitar with Fran Healy being joined, gang style, by the rest of the band on vocals. When it clicked, I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing and that’s what I think is so wonderful about it. It’s the surprise factor. A teen pop song performed by a pop band of a different sort and it works. I think so anyways.

As for the original, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to work too hard to jog your memory about it. Which is good because I can’t say I know much about Ms. Spears. However, I certainly have been overexposed to a bunch of her songs over the years and this one was particularly ubiquitous at the end of the nineties. I remember watching the video for the first time in disbelief. It was so obviously a ploy, a riff on the catholic school girl fantasy, but it worked. The song was huge, making her over from a former Mouseketeer to a pop star in the blink of an eye. Still, she likely got too big, too fast, given her tabloid ready lifestyle, and has had to forge more than one comeback over her career.

It’s probably pretty obvious by now which version I prefer. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a hate on for the Britney, nor her version of the song. It’s well written and has a great hook. Her style and sound is just not to my taste.

Do you have an opinion on the matter? I’d love to hear it.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #23 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! “Hysterical”

<< #24    |    #22 >>

Here at number twenty three of my Best tunes of 2011 list, we have “Hysterical” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. For this post and song, I’m going to plagiarize myself a bit from some words I wrote back in 2011.

In the fall of that year, I drafted the first of what would become many best albums of the year lists, the first bunch being for my old blog, Music Insanity! (yes, I still have all the content, despite decommissioning the site). In that first list, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah made a surprise appearance in the top ten. The following somewhat explains:

“When their debut album came out in 2005, it was much hyped by all and hyperboles were unleashed from all directions (e.g., the best indie album ever!). I personally thought the hype a bit much but did really enjoy the album. It sounded to me like it was informed by the geek rock post-punk bands of the late 70s and early 80s, bands like the Violent Femmes, the Talking Heads, and Devo. It was peppy, poppy, and sat nicely in just the right space on the weird scale. Unfortunately, when “Some loud thunder” came out two years later, I couldn’t get into it. I was never able to put my finger on why but I guess to me, it just didn’t sound like the same band.

“Fast forward to 2011 and I had all but given CYHSY up for dead because I hadn’t really heard much from them in three to four years. In September [of that year], they released “Hysterical” (self-released domestically, but with indie label help in Europe, like their previous albums) and I gave the band another chance – as I often do for bands in whom I have seen shades of brilliance. This time around, I was pleasantly surprised to find CYHSY back to energetic pop that I fell in love with in 2005. It was as if that second album had never happened.”

I’ve since grown to appreciate “Some loud thunder” but still enjoy the band’s first and third albums better. “Hysterical”, the title track on the latter of the two is great example of the energy we can find there. Frenetic, danceable drumming over washes of synths, the melodic and jangly guitar work, and overall “new retro” sound. But what really holds the music together is the vocals of Alec Ounsworth, whose voice and singing mannerisms are the amalgam of Gordon Gano and David Byrne.

Turn up the Geek rock and bring the noise!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Live music galleries: Young Galaxy [2012]

(I got the idea for this new series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop*. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Young Galaxy live at Osheaga in 2012

Artist: Young Galaxy
When: August 4th, 2012
Where: Trees stage, Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal
Context: Young Galaxy played their last show for the foreseeable future this past weekend in Ottawa, having recently announced an indefinite hiatus. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the show because I was in Toronto for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, so instead, I’ll reminisce a bit and post pics about the time I saw them six years ago at Osheaga. It was one of the excruciating schedule conflicts I had to navigate that weekend: see The Raveonettes for the first time or see Young Galaxy in their hometown. I’ve never regretted my decision. They’re not only one of my favourite Canadian bands but one of my faves from all time and they’ve always been great live. This performance was the year after “Shapeshifting”, their first collaboration with Dan Lissvik, was released and signalled a shift towards a more electronic sound. Brilliant show, all told. 
Point of reference song:
We have everything

Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy
Stephen Kamp of Young Galaxy
Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy
Matt Shapiro of Young Galaxy
Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy
Andrea Silver and Stephen Kamp of Young Galaxy
Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy
Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy