Chloe Swaby‘s label, London’s Downtown Artists, describes her as “a young woman of contrasts.” More than merely a reference to her childhood love for both soccer (forgive us, Chloe, we’re American – “football” means something else here) and ballet, this polarity is reflected also in her effective mixture of English and American folk musicians/songwriters with country- and even power-pop melody lines and hooky choruses.
This combination is apparent in her first single, Racing Car. The studio version (hear it below) sounds made-for-radio, but the real instrumentation and unadorned vocals in this acoustic version give it an added charm without losing a bit of the catchiness. Check it out.
Within the YouTube universe, there is a world of musicians, amateur and professional, who are constantly busy covering, interpreting, and reinventing sounds. This world of cyber-performance has spawned a new species of success – that of the viral artist, who is thrust from the anonymity of his or her bedroom and, brushing away the world wide cobwebs, enjoys a sudden, newfound spotlight. This spotlight, driven also by YouTube’s fellow flagships of social media, sometimes shines very bright – Andy McKee, now one of the biggest names in contemporary fingerstyle, is among the best examples of this.
Yet, despite the unprecedented access it provides musicians and performers to broad audiences as well as to each other, YouTube is not quite the answer for homebody songsters. The reason for this is in the very design: it rewards popularity (in the form of hits), a notoriously unreliable indicator of quality in music. Without a comb and a pair of tweezers, there’s simply no adequate way to extract the diamonds from the YouTube rough. Doing so is part of the mission of The AV, but our challenges are the same as yours, loyal reader.
Enter CoverStruck. Launched just a few months ago, CoverStruck is a music-centric video-sharing website which is explicitly designed to reward quality – as determined by the viewers, themselves often musicians and always passionate about music. CoverStruck is YouTube with taste (and without trolls). In other words, it’s a long time coming.
Growing steadily since its launch, CoverStruck is the only website of its kind to provide musicians with a reliable mechanism for putting their music in front of fellow musicians, both for publicity and for feedback. The best part is that, in this community of musicians, the feedback responds to the performance on its own terms, instead of based upon whatever ADD-influenced standards motivate the many YouTubers who leave their obnoxious commentary just because they get off on being anonymous. You’ll certainly see folks from CoverStruck featured here in the coming months – including the winner of their upcoming inaugural cover competition (follow those proceedings here).
Anyway, and without further ado, here are a few of the talents unearthed by CoverStruck so far:
Ellipsis is a duo who describe their music as “electroacoustic with classical influences.” Click the below frame to watch them play Bon Iver’s “The Wolves (Acts I and II).”
Ryan Knorr hails from Des Moines, IA, where he is taking full advantage of the internet to reach viewers across the country. Also a talented songwriter, watch Ryan cover The Verve Pipe’s “The Freshman” below.
Mitch Rossell, born and raised in the great musical state of Tennessee, possesses just about the most powerful vocal chords you’re likely to detect behind an acoustic guitar. Here he brings that energy to Zac Brown Band’s “Free.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Metallica. I am not going to get into a flame war of “new Metallica” vs “old Metallica,” or anything like that. However, I absolutely loved The Unforiven and Nothing Else Matters. This acoustic cover, by Tijana, Sarah & Branko, positively exudes emotion – the sense of longing, of feeling, far exceeds the original. At 2:31, you can just feel how much the singer is putting of herself into this song. Musically, the guitar follows the same basic patterns from the original, but adds some subtle embellishments and intricacies to the tune, creating a masterpiece cover of one of Metallica’s greatest songs.
Until my pal and fellow AV enthusiast Julz directed me to this video, I was woefully ignorant of the fact that one of the tracks on Radiohead’s new album, The King of Limbs, was around for the better part of a decade before receiving the studio treatment. Whichever version of Morning Mr. Magpie you prefer, seeing and hearing it played by a single instrument highlights a few things which could go unnoticed in just the studio version (a common function of the acoustic version, and basically the mission statement of this site).
To boot: Thom’s characteristic use of odd chords and dissonant progressions to build tension and make a musical and emotional point; the low-E drone (a technique employed to great effect by guitarists from Jimmy Page to Leo Kottke), creating a vague hypnotic sense which reminds me of that point during an unpleasant dream when you become aware that you’re sleeping but have not yet collected your thoughts enough to wake yourself up; and his melodic creativity and versatility, taking a simple verse to unexpected and interesting places.
Which do you prefer? Did they make the right decision dressing this up for the new album? Or would it have been better left alone as an acoustic B-side?
Although it must be admitted that, as Aaron pointed out in his post on Rodrigo y Gabriela’s interpretation of Metallica’s “Orion”, using a guitar for percussion has become something of an “overused gimmick,” it is also true that for every cliche there is one who defines it, for every trend a -setter. And few recent guitarists have innovated more technically and creatively than has Don Ross, who counts the likes of Don Alder (an interview with him is forthcoming on The AV) and Andy McKee among his disciples.
Watching this rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”, it’s easy to see why Ross has acquired the reputation he has. While rhythm is used by some as a method to conceal a lack of harmonic ideas, Ross manages to reconstruct Cee Lo and Danger Mouse’s catchy melody lines with both conventional techniques and with harmonics, to build them vertically with suspended and otherwise unusual chord shapes, and to spice them up with all kinds of difficult right-left syncopations. Pretty cool stuff.