Over at NPR Music, we’re wading through 2009’s best music: the best albums, songs and miscellanea from the past year. It’s admittedly obsessive and music geeky, but hey, that’s what it’s all about.
My main contribution to our coverage is a round-up of the year’s best cover songs, a genre that I can safely say is one of my favorites. This year seemed better than most with an outstanding number of great compilation and tribute albums featuring a wide array of cover songs. Take a look at the list — including my favorite ongoing project, Beck’s Record Club — and see Youtube videos of all my song choices here:
All summer Beck has been slowly trickling out tracks from his Record Club as he Nigel Godrich and cast of other friends and musicians have covered The Velvet Underground & Nico in its entirety. He has also been releasing ‘acoustic’ versions of his 2008 album Modern Guilt, interviewing Tom Waits and Will Ferrell and unearthing found music. And just last night he unveiled his second Record Club effort, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, accompanied by MGMT, Devandra Banhart, Binki Shapiro (of Little Joy) and others.
Needless to say, the dude’s prolific.
One of the other main projects on his revamped website is Planned Obsolescence, in which he releases a new mixtape or DJ set of sorts. Perhaps because I was distracted by the other goodies, I overlooked most of these. But the latest effort, “No. 9: Sapphire Metallic And Silicone For Michael Jackson” really blew me away last night.
Fusing together a mix of dance music, ambient and industrial electronic, hip hop, funk, a bit of indie rock and 60’s psychedelia, these sets are a great way to hear some new music, stuff you’ve heard before and some curios. It’s a great juxtaposition hearing all of this seamlessly mashed up, and truly mimics the feeling of scanning the car radio dial looking for a decent song.
Unlike other single song remixes or Girl Talk-esque uber-mashups with dozens (hundreds?) of cluttered samples that change just as soon as you figure out what song it’s from, Beck’s sets breathe much easier. It’s all a bit less frantic and the songs play out for just the right amount.
These DJ sets are worth hunting down, as they’d make a great playlist for a party, workout mix or even an early morning commute.
Also be sure to check out “No. 7 Summer Tapes,” all devoted to summer songs, including an inspired highlight where Beck segues a cascades through several versions of “Summertime Blues.”