The BEST COVER SONGS of 2011 (The Year-End Review Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-16 10:00:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

What better way to kick off a Monday at the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song music video blog than to unveil the Weekend Review’s picks for the top ten cover songs of 2011.  After all, this is kind of our thing.  And this has been a busy year for covers.  Not only were there two – not one, but two! – collections of Buddy Holly covers released as tribute to the legendary singer/songwriter in 2011, but there were also two covers EPs put out by Relient K.  This is not to mention Brian Wilson digging back to his childhood (farther back than the Gershwin brothers this time) for the inspiration to In the Key of Disney.

A regular amount of covers wasn’t enough for 2011.  No, no: 2011 needed more covers!  Now, as you’ll recall from our mission statement, it has always been the goal of this blog to put an end to the proliferation of bad covers on YouTube.  In keeping with that tradition, we will now take the time to recognize these non-YouTube covers that have demonstrated excellence this year, standing out from the pack of mediocre (or worse) ones:

1)  “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” – Cee Lo Green (Cover of Buddy Holly)

2)  “Caroline No” – America (Cover of the Beach Boys)

3)  “Here Comes My Girl” – Relient K (Cover of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)

4)  “Colors of the Wind” – Brian Wilson (Cover of the Disney song)

5)  “Baby” – Relient K (Cover of Justin Bieber)

6)  “Not Fade Away” – Florence and the Machine (Cover of Buddy Holly)

7)  “Interstate Love Song” – Relient K (Cover of Stone Temple Pilots)

8)  “It’s So Easy” – Paul McCartney (Cover of Buddy Holly)

9)  “Listen to Me” – Brian Wilson (Cover of Buddy Holly)

10) “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” – Brian Wilson (Cover of the Disney song)

 

Honorable Mention:

“Surf Wax America” – Relient K (Cover of Weezer)

“No One Else” (Weezer Cover)

Originally posted 2008-02-22 14:22:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It’s hard to believe “new bands week” is almost over! It’s been a lot of fun — hopefully we’ll do it again soon before we run out of new bands!

My song for today, “No One Else,” is from my second favorite Weezer album, their self-titled debut known among fans as “The Blue Album.” For some reason, I had a hard time getting into the album when I first heard it. When I listened again about a year later, I really fell in love with its sound and energy. It’s about as close to garage rock as my preferences go… I felt this song translated easily into an acoustic version, and it was fun to learn a song from a band I have never covered before!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the seventh day of “new bands week” — Jeff’s up again. And, of course, don’t forget to check back here on Sunday when he releases his new album Greenlight!

Weezer’s “Hurley” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-10-18 21:57:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  3.5 / 5 stars

Simply put, Hurley is Weezer’s return to high energy rock music.

And it’s good.

Okay, so I’ll admit that it is difficult to take an album like Hurley seriously, given the ostensibly random title and accompanying cover photo that is apropos of nothing contained within.  And yet, you should endeavor to get past the cover, the pathetic excuse for CD packaging, and the bad press the album has received from those who, on the heels of Raditude, understandably won’t give it a chance, including — perhaps most notably — one James Burns, a man currently engaged in a campaign to raise $10 million as incentive for Weezer to break up.

I would suggest that he give this album a chance, but it turns out he not only is not but also has never been a fan of the band.

This is such a pity, as Hurley is an album so true to classic Weezer that it makes more sense to compare it to The Green Album (2001) than any of the four subsequent releases.  Aside from the echoes of Raditude on “Smart Girls,” the rock sensibility of Hurley extends past the experimental aura of The Red Album, doesn’t quite match the tone of Make Believe, and is certainly not cut out of the same carefully orchestrated hard rock fabric that defined Maladroit.

Musically, the track listing conjures those early albums: a total running time that barely cracks the half hour mark across ten songs with concise titles, all upbeat rock tracks with distorted guitars that play like a mix between garage rock and clean studio sounds.

As for the cover, I have never understood the criticism lobbed at The Red Album and Raditude.  Because a man who looks like a doll reading a newspaper wasn’t weird.  Neither, apparently, was several depressed looking cartoons wearing the traditional garb of the Orient wandering aimlessly around a snowy mountainside.  And four guys standing in front of a bright blue screen looking like they’d forgotten it was picture day wasn’t odd; that was somehow classic.

Hurley (Weezer, 2010)

Hurley (Weezer, 2010)

Weezer has always been quirky, and that has always been a large part of their appeal.  In a manner that should be palatable to the average rock fan, they have assembled Hurley as a return to that form, with a couple worthwhile variations thrown in for good measure.

The opening track and lead single “Memories” is honest, in-your-face rock music that begins with reminiscences that would have fit in comfortably on The Red Album, but quickly transitions to a catchy chorus and a middle stirred to perfection with a shredded vocal delivery by Rivers Cuomo.

He loosens the reigns vocally on several other occasions, not the least of which is that pinnacle of quirkiness “Where’s My Sex?,” the shtick here being that the word “sex” replaces the word “socks” throughout the song.  The result is a rocking, if somewhat ridiculous, track.

“Unspoken” is an acoustic gem, but even this song can’t help but rock out in the latter half, just as “Time Flies” wants to be the pensive closer, yet is so steady in beat as to evade the classification as a “slow song.”

Although many of the strongest tracks are placed early on the record — “Trainwrecks” being one, if not the, standout song — even the potentially mediocre numbers, like “Smart Girls” and “Brave New World,” achieve cohesion and momentum.  “Ruling Me,” “Run Away,” and “Hang On” are similarly impressive in their focus and balance between simplicity and interesting vocal and instrumental hooks.

This isn’t the new Weezer classic.  It shouldn’t be interpreted as the new Green Album, nor should it be compared to the heights of their career, in 1994 and 2002.  And yet, as much as Make Believe was underrated (and sadly oversimplified as “the one with ‘Beverly Hills’ on it”)  and as much as The Red Album grew on me and quickly became a favorite of mine in 2008, Hurley is arguably the best rock album Weezer has produced in eight years.

If nothing else, it provides proof positive that this band has not gone off the deep end (band-led hootenannies and Rivers Cuomo’s train conductor’s uniform notwithstanding). Hurley can be read as a nod to fans of their rock mentality, and the message is clear: this is a band that can still rock…. when they want to.

Weezer’s “Death to False Metal” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-15 11:00:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  3 / 5 stars

Didn’t I already write a Weezer review this year?  And last year?  And the year before that?

Yes, on all three counts.

So, allow me to begin with the disclaimer that Death to False Metal, though it receives only a half star lower than the rating I granted Hurley, is not as cohesive an effort in comparison.  The individual songs shine in places and come up short in others.  It is, after all, a collection of songs that, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut on their previous studio albums.

What is fascinating about this release — and what grants credibility to Rivers Cuomo’s stance that this should be considered Weezer’s ninth studio album proper — is that the songs haven’t simply been culled from studio tapes, digitized, and hastily thrown together.  As the official press release reads, “The album was created using the basic tracks of 10 previously unreleased recordings — nine never-before-heard songs plus one cover — to assemble a brand new and truly modern-sounding record.”

This is what is most striking about the album on first listen: that it sounds like an album.  Considering that the tracks hail from periods as diverse as Pinkerton, Maladroit, Make Believe, and The Red Album, this could very easily have sounded like your typical “Greatest Misses” compilation.  Some, like Bob Dylan, have pulled off this brand of release, largely due to the fact that their vaults are populated by excellent cuts.  Most, however, release these compilations for the enjoyment of only the most fanatic segments of their audience.

On Death to False Metal, Cuomo and company have introduced a third option: remake the songs as one might restore a car, balancing a faithfulness to the original design with an attention to more contemporary sensibilities.

Death To False Metal (Weezer, 2010)

Death To False Metal (Weezer, 2010)

As could be expected, even with a band with as characteristic a sound and feel as Weezer, there is still a sense that these tracks have been compiled.  The transition from the grunge of “Everyone” to the glittery pop/rock of “I’m a Robot” is particularly noticeable.  What’s more, both of these tracks fall firmly under the “I-see-why-they-were-scratched” category.  Still, there is an energy to them that is infectious, and if you enjoy this band’s style, you will find yourself turning up the sound.  Although these two songs have the potential to become grating, they also clock in at well under three minutes each.

Elsewhere, the simplicity is appealing, as it is on “Trampoline” and “I Don’t Want Your Loving.”  And “Turning Up the Radio” is yet one more reminder that, simple or not, Weezer are the kings of the epic chorus.

The decision to work from the basic tracks up is what sets this release apart and what makes it a solid album.  If you want to split hairs about the quality of individual songs, even in comparison to other Weezer tunes, then you could lose yourself in the criticism and find, in the end, that you’d missed the point of the album.

The point, as supported by the opener, is to turn up the volume and enjoy a set of songs that have been filtered through the Weezer of 2010, which — contrary to what critics (myself included) were concluding as recently as a year ago — is actually saying a great deal.

The packaging itself is impressive as it so very rarely is with this band.  Much of the obvious has been stated and restated as concerns the cover, but little has been noted about the presence of lyrics, pictures, drawings, and other elements of intelligent design within the booklet.

The fact that two staples were required for assembly is, in itself, pleasantly surprising.

So, if you’re tired of what passes for rock on mainstream radio, pick up a copy of Death to False Metal.  It won’t change your life and it probably won’t make your end-of-year top ten list, but it will be an album you’ll crank up and enjoy over and over again.  Even the Toni Braxton cover that concludes the disc is surprisingly consistent with the tenor of the previous tracks.  And, if you manage to block out all memories of nineties radio and half-drunken karaoke nights at your local bar, then you might even think it’s a decent song.

After a questionable 2009, Weezer has returned with two of the most enjoyable and respectable releases of 2010.  Death to False Metal may be an “odds and ends” album, to borrow the language of early band chatter, but it holds its own against the very strong Hurley.