“Box Full of Letters” (Wilco Cover)

Originally posted 2008-12-18 23:39:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to yet another all-new Laptop Session at your web blog for a session-a-day, guaranteed through December 31st, 2008. Now, that guarantee is swiftly running out, but don’t fret. We’ll be introducing a new schedule of performances for 2009 that will not only introduce many new types of posts to the blog on a regular basis, but also maintain a steady and prolific stream of new cover song music videos!

But, let’s focus on the present for now…

I had originally intended to record a Christmas song tonight, but I got busy with napping, fast food eating, Christmas shopping, and TNA Impact! viewing, so I decided to pull out my one and only “backup video.” If I haven’t already, I should introduce this video by announcing my desire to record a cover video for at least one song from each Wilco album. I’ve been listening to this band a lot these past several months, picking up their albums one by one as I find them on sale or used. I’ve already recorded a song from their third studio album, Summerteeth, called “How to Fight Loneliness” — that video is posted in the members only area of this blog (scroll down to the bottom to sign in and/or sign up!). Previous to that, I recorded “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” from their critically acclaimed fourth album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This was a great song — easy to learn, fun to memorize the lyrics for the performance, and I even got a compliment from a former student who watched the video!

Last week, I picked up a copy of their subsequent album, A Ghost is Born. Ironically, I’m listening to that album now and — literally the moment I typed the title of the album (!) — I just heard Tweedy singing “a ghost is born…,” which is in the lyrics to the song “Theologians.” I don’t think that A Ghost is Born is as impressive an album as Foxtrot or as rocking and enjoyable an album as Summerteeth, but I’m warming to it. There’s a great deal of experimentation, particularly on the 15-minute penultimate track “Less Than You Think.”

But I’m not quite ready to record a song from that album yet, so I went back to the first Wilco album, A.M., which is the final album that I own thus far. This album was more of a straightforward country rock effort, reminiscent of their predecessor Uncle Tupelo. Tweedy himself doesn’t sound all that impressed with the album, but I think it’s actually the most upbeat of the Wilco albums I own. It’s certainly the best album to listen to in the car!

This is my version of the single from the album, titled “Box Full of Letters.” I don’t know what it is about this song — something about the combination of the guitar hooks, lower lead vocal that resonates, and the catchy chorus — but I love it.

And it puts me one step closer to having recorded one song from each album!

When I return next week, I’ll have three sessions for the week — barring unforeseen difficulties, I’ll be bringing you three holiday-themed songs to finish out the season for me (musically, at least).

Thanks for reading and watching, and don’t forget to hurry back tomorrow and the next day for great videos from Jeff and Jim. They’ll be “slapping yourself in the face to make sure you’re not dreaming” good!

See you next session!

“Found Out About You” (Gin Blossoms Cover)

Originally posted 2008-03-18 17:26:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Good day to you out there on the internet! It’s Jeff here for today’s installment of The Laptop Sessions.

Today I bring you a great song from a band that is new to our series. The song is “Found Out About You” by the band Gin Blossoms. They have long since disbanded, but many of their hits still get plenty of airplay on the radio and this is a song you probably know quite well. This song is from their 1992 album “New Miserable Experience”.

I have always been a fan of their singles, and among them this ranks as my favorite behind “Hey Jealousy”. The issue with this song is that it doesn’t translate as well as I thought it would to acoustic. Still, I am proud of this version and I hope you enjoy it as much.

Original Wednesday is less than 24 hours away, and I can’t wait to see which song Jim breaks out of hiding!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

Broken Bells’ “Broken Bells” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-04-04 21:21:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

Having never heard a Shins album (or even as much as a thirty-second preview clip of a Shins song), I came to Broken Bells with no expectations or preconceived notions of how it should sound.  To be fair, that isn’t entirely accurate.  Seeing Danger Mouse’s name in the mix made me wonder just how experimental, or just how “far out,” this would be.  When my wondering gave way to actual listening, I found something I hadn’t expected.

Simply stated, Broken Bells is a beautiful collage of influences finely knit together with unique modern qualities that set this record distinctly apart from the jurisdiction of terms like “retro” or “derivative.”

Still, never in one album have I found such a wide range of interesting influences.  Here and there, a pinch at a time, I have perceived subtle flecks of styles from the Beach Boys to Elliott Smith to Weezer to Phantom Planet and back to the Bee Gees, or perhaps the Scissor Sisters.  As was the case with his collaboration with Beck on 2008’s Modern Guilt, Danger Mouse’s more synthetic sounds and beats are finely balanced out by the more conventional instrumentation and sensibilities of the Shins’ lead vocalist and guitarist James Mercer.  Between the two, Broken Bells is a celebration of many sounds that have come before, newly contextualized and altered here to create something new, something all their own.

This is also the rare record that only gets better as it stretches out.  Without question, the first two tracks are the standout efforts of the album.  That being said, the album does lag a bit after them, particularly after “Your Head is On Fire” fades out.  However, as the second half of the album kicks off with “Trap Doors,” it is only onward and upward from there.  By the time “The Mall & Misery” closes the album, it would be difficult to deny another go-round kicked off by lead single and opening track “The High Road.”

Broken Bells' self-titled debut (2010)

Broken Bells' self-titled debut (2010)

“The High Road” is an excellent choice for leading off the album, as well as representing it as a single.  Danger Mouse’s synthesized sounds somehow manage to appear random while obviously being the result of a very purposeful pattern.  Under all the layers lies a fairly straightforward piano ballad, a simplicity that is realized in the stripped-down outro.

From the piano and vocal fade follows the acoustic and vocal intro to “Vaporize,” another standout track on the album.  This is where Broken Bells start to lay out some of the themes that will follow in the songs to come.  As Mercer sings,  “Common fears start to multiply; we realize we’re paralyzed.”  He continues, “It’s not too late to feel a little more alive.”

What an excellent lyrical anchor for an album that is all about shaking up the format.

“Your Head is On Fire” is a particularly fascinating track.  It kicks off with instrumentation and a vocal arrangement that strongly conjures seventies Beach Boys (my favorite!), with a particularly heavy emphasis on sounds characteristic of Dennis Wilson’s solo effort Pacific Ocean Blue.  By the time the acoustic guitars strum in, the song proceeds to a second movement, but it does return for one more retro romp in the outro that would have felt right at home on SMiLE.

The following two tracks — “The Ghost Inside” and “Sailing to Nowhere” — carve out a clearer idea of what the Broken Bells sound is going to be.  Although they are strong tracks, they are the sort of fare you might expect in the half to three-quarters swampland of your typical record.

Instead, Broken Bells comes alive with new vitality in that region, kicking off with the steady beat and buildup of “Trap Doors,” followed closely by the multi-movement “Citizen.”  The latter peaks with an essential question: “From the moment that we’re born, ’til we’re old and tired out: Do we ever know?”

The opening piano riff of “October” may conjure Phantom Planet’s “California,” but it quickly progresses into the multi-vocal attack that Broken Bells have asserted as their own throughout this record.  And the pace isn’t lost on the low-register vocals of the next track, the beat-driven “Mongrel Heart.”

The aforementioned “Mongrel Heart” blends seamlessly into the album’s final stop.  “The Mall & Misery” is an exercise in perfect timing, another gorgeous mixture of beautiful acoustic guitars, lush harmonies, and a bed of beats and other synthesized sounds.  “Use your intuition; it’s all you’ve got,” Mercer declares.  Every lyric resource on the Internet seems to disagree with me, but I read the refrain as “I know what I know will not fill a thimble.”  I won’t even share what the misconception (?) is; I’m quite attached to what I’ve heard.  At the close of the stylistic odyssey that is Broken Bells, what a fitting final thought.

All in all, Broken Bells’ self-titled debut is a sharp, vivid album that presents a series of interesting lyrics and sounds mostly by way of tight but thoughtful little pop songs, the pieces which work together to form a greater whole.

And that’s more than enough to hook me.

“Run” (Snow Patrol Cover)

Originally posted 2008-11-15 23:45:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Greetings from the other side of the midnight chimes — this is your latest (and late) Laptop Session!  Tonight, I bring you a new band to the sessions… Snow Patrol.  Specifically, this is “Run,” the seventh track of their 2003 album Final Straw.  This album was first recommended to me by then-fellow Staples Copy Center employee John Fortin, after he heard the Chris, Jim, and Becky album Live in the Studio.  He said, based on our album, he thought I might enjoy the band.

At first, I liked the album, but I wasn’t crazy about it.  It became one of those albums you go back to every so often, and over time, I grew to like it more and more.  Recently, as I went back to both this album and their subsequent one, Eyes Open, I fell in love with the songs of Final Straw.  The next album is solid, but lacks the hooks and flairs — really, the strength of individual tracks that are great and stand on their own — of the 2003 release.

My sister has also become a fan of Snow Patrol, so I hope that she gets a chance to read this post and check out the video.  Jaime and I have fairly divergent tastes in music, but we have found much more overlap in the past few years — we can especially agree on the awesome-ness of Ben Folds and Elliott Smith!  We actually both had a similar reaction to the new Snow Patrol single, “Take Back the City.”  Specifically, we were hesitant about the new album based on the strength of this track.  I can’t speak for her, but I know that — for me — the song seemed a bit forced at first, as if they were trying to make a hit single that could climb the charts as well as their last big hit, “Chasing Cars,” did.  Really, though, what was most off-putting to me was what I initially interpreted as being a line — “God knows you’ve put your life into it tons.”  Tons?  Really?  Is this the poetry I’m rushing to the store to purchase?

Well, those of you who know me will check this off on the list of times that I misinterpret something due to an accent.  (Stories for another time…)  The line is really “God knows you’ve put your life into its hands.”  Lead singer Gary Lightbody’s Irish accent through me off.  And, while I’m in a confessional mode, can I also admit that one of the factors that has always prevented me from entirely liking the band was the way Lightbody sings?  Yes, it’s true… It took me until a few weeks ago to research and discover that they’re an Irish band.  How I didn’t figure that out before is beyond me!  But, now that I know, I’ve been going through a Snow Patrol renaissance of sorts.

Their 2008 release, A Hundred Million Suns, is — in my opinion — their best work since Final Straw.  I was hesitant to buy it at first, based on their 2006 album and the aforementioned single.  But, I’m really glad I did buy it.  The opening track “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to It” is one of my favorite track ones in a long time.  Track two, “Crack the Shutters,” is one of my favorite songs on the album and would have been my choice for a single (To date, it has reached #9 on the iTunes alternative rock charts!).  Then, track three is the single.  Track four, “Lifeboats,” slows it down a bit and is another of my favorites.  And it goes on from there…

I found it really interesting to read that the band considered this to be a more upbeat and “cheerful” album than previous releases.  I didn’t really interpret it that way, but that could just be my current state of mind.  Regardless, I do agree with their statement that it is their best album to date.

Well, that’s enough ranting and rambling about Snow Patrol for one post!  In other news, I broke down and bought the first season of the Chappelle show, with hopes that Jim will want to watch some of the episodes.  So far, I’ve only watched the first episode, which includes not only my favorite sketch (the Clayton Bigsby, black white supremacist skit) but also the Pop Copy sketch that so wonderfully makes fun of my previous profession as a Staples Copy Center employee!  So, as you see, this post really comes full circle.  It started with a band that was recommended to me by a Copy Center co-worker and ends with me going off to watch Pop Copy!

But, before I go, I should also mention that I have not made my last post of the day.  In fact, there may be as many as two new posts from me in the next few hours.  So stay tuned and come back soon for much more brand new fun on the best acoustic rock cover songs blog in the universe — the Laptop Session!

See you next session!