Triple Servings: “Wicked Games” — Served by Chris Isaak, Washed Out and the Koala Bears

Triple Servings: “Wicked Games” — Served by Chris Isaak, Washed Out and the Koala Bears

Triple Servings: “Wicked Games” — Served by Chris Isaak, Washed Out and the Koala Bears

Country and soothing adult contemporary joined perfectly for Chris Isaak’s 1989 hit song, “Wicked Game.”

The hazy melody coupled with Isaak’s dreamy baritone made for the ultimate, slow-burning chart topper. And let’s not forget that music video — a smoky-eyed and scantily-clad Helena Christensen rolling around on the beach with Isaak, all directed by legendary photographer Herb Ritts.

In the summer of 2011, chillwave artist extraordinaire, Washed Out, produced his own unique, standout version of “Wicked Game.” Ernest Greene, the man behind the “Washed Out” moniker, kept the song essentially intact, but bumped the song up into the new millennium of chill electronica, adding a few echoey layers and backup vocals.

Australian electronic indie band, the Koala Bears, add their own spin to the Isaak country song by giving it a faster pace—thanks to a drum machine—and by adding an original spacey electro background against female vocals, which gives the song a whole new feel.

Chris Isaak

Washed Out

The Koala Bears


Triple Servings: “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss” — Served by The Crystals, Courtney Love and Grizzly Bear

Triple Servings: “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” — Served by The Crystals, Courtney Love and Grizzly Bear

The Crystals

Courtney Love

Grizzly Bear

Triple Servings: “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss” — Served by The Crystals, Courtney Love and Grizzly Bear

If you threw a rock into the early 1960s music scene, you would hardly go a yard without hitting dozens of dreamy girl groups.

That was the heyday of bands with Phil Spector-pioneered groups like The Blossoms and the Ronettes, in addition to groups like the wonderfully-named The Shangri-Las.

But among all the tracks that blend together with vocals and melody, one track has had marvelous staying power, thanks to its simple lyrics of mad, heart-breaking love: “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” by The Crystals.

Started in 1962, The Crystals were a Phil Spector-led group that released pop song after pop song.

However, the captivating melody, coupled with Spector’s lyrics of a girl going back to an abusive lover is a tantalizing tale unlike many of the sugary sweet pop tracks of the ‘60s.

It has the mysterious power of making a feminist both cringe and swoon. It was also brought back to the forefront of everyone’s memories when it was played as the closing track to a recent episode of the gin-soaked TV show, “Mad Men.”

Taking the song into her calloused hands was lead singer Courtney Love for Hole’s MTV Unplugged performance in 1995.

Giving a raw new depth, the song feels even more haunting, thanks to Love’s throaty vocals and the band’s acoustic arrangement. And what’s more is that this time around, the abusive nature of the song’s lyrics really grab a hold of you when Love sings things like “If he didn’t care for me/I could have never made him mad/But he hit me/And I was glad.”

Experimental indie rockers Grizzly Bear recorded a cover of the song in 2007, taking it back to that melodic, hollow place they’ve carved out so well. Lead singer Ed Droste’s pure, deep vocals simply pour out the vocals over top ambient, folksy instrumentals.


“Ring of Fire” — Served by Johnny Cash, Appetite and Stacie Buhler

Few singers have left indelible marks on whole genres of music like Johnny Cash.

The Man in Black released his first album, “Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar” in 1957 and went on to deliver almost 100 more albums, among them numerous collaborations, Gospel releases and movie soundtracks.

Cash imbued the spirit of early rock‘n’roll, embedding his country sound with rockabilly and blues influences. And he stayed relevant up until the end of his life, seeing a great success with a Nine Inch Nails cover of his song “Hurt,” which was released in 2002, just a year before he died.

However, one of Cash’s most long-lasting hits is “Ring of Fire,” a plucky, trumpet-filled medley about the burning power of love.

One of the most famous covers of the track was produced in 1968 by Eric Burdon and The Animals.  Although their much deeper blues and  trumped up psychedelic guitar version is one of our favorites, there are two recent notable covers of the Cash track that deserves some attention.

One of the most originals covers that I’ve heard is by Sacramento-based singer Teddy Briggs, aka Appetite, who has put his own spin on the track  in a wholly original and fresh way. Appetite's version features echoey, layered vocals, heavy percussion and dreamy melodies, breathing new life into the classic.

Another version that takes the track down a sweeter route is by chanteuse Stacie Buhler. Buhler’s voice has a sweet folk-meets-Southern trill that captures the full romance of Cash’s love song.

Both covers are available to download for free.

1st Serving: Johnny Cash[divider] 2nd Serving: Appetite [divider] 3rd Serving: Stacie Buhler [divider]

Triple Servings: “I Wanna be Your Dog” Served by The Stooges, We Are Like the Spider and Portable Morla

The Stooges

We Are Like the Spider

Portable Moria

What riff is more snarling and explosive than The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog?”

Released in 1969 on the band’s eponymous debut album, the track is one of the best examples of the Stooges’ punk meets psychedelic aesthetic.

Led by Iggy Pop, one of the most influential frontmen of all time, the Stooges went on to release numerous albums that became cult classics and turned them into the legends they are today.

One standout cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”  is by Portland-based electro-rock duo We Are Like the Spider. Their cover is a bit more on the electronic side, but still holds on to the gnarly riffs and moaning vocals. It sounds a lot like the Jack White-founded band, The Dead Weather. Their version has grim undertones, all covered up with addicting, spiraling reverb-heavy riffs.

Taking the track almost completely down the electronic route is little-known artist Portable Morla.  Her version of the track is decidedly electro, with her vocal approach is about merely stating the lyrics, in a less sing-song way. Her voice is low and alluring, taking the once raw lyrics to a softer place.


Triple Servings: “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” Served by the Ramones, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the London Punkharmonic Orchestra

The Ramones

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

London Punkharmonic

Triple Servings: “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” Served by the Ramones, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the London Punkharmonic Orchestra

Sit down any major rock star and they’ll tell you that one of the coolest and most influential rock bands of all time was the Ramones.

With their black on black uniform of skinny jeans, leather jackets and wild hair, the Ramones oozed rock‘n’roll spirit from every pore.

On top of that, they had furiously fast punk rock music to match, encapsulating the frenzied spirit of New York City’s music scene in the ‘70s.

One of the most memorable tracks from the four-piece group is “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” The song has classic Ramones elements, from quickly strummed riffs, to fun and repetitive lyrics.

In 2009, indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs recorded a cover of the track for the album “Heroes,” a compilation album for the charity War Child. The group stayed true to the original spirit of the track, keeping the rhythm and instrumentals the same. Lead singer Karen O does her best Joey Ramone impression, singing the lyrics in her signature minxy coo.

However, for those who wish the Ramones slowed it down a little bit (…if those people actually exist), the London Punkharmonic Orchestra has the version they’ve been looking for.

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker” becomes a beautifully upbeat orchestral number, full of violins and clarinets. The song is sans lyrics, but the spirit remains the same.


Triple Servings: “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” Served by The Smiths, The Cranberries and the Dum Dum Girls

Triple Servings: “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” Served by The Smiths, Dum Dum Girls and Amarante

The Smiths

The Dum Dum Girls

Amarante

Triple Servings: “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” Served by The Smiths, The Cranberries and the Dum Dum Girls

One of the pivotal scenes in the romantic, yet self-professed ‘not a love story’ indie film “500 Days of Summer” is when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character falls head over heels in love with Zooey Deschanel’s manic pixie dream girl persona when she professes her love for The Smiths.

The song in question was none other than the desperately morbid, yet love-filled “There is a Light that Never Goes Out.”

Although the Smiths are simply one of those bands that will have lasting power until the end of time, the slight mention of the popular Smiths’ song brings back an extraordinary sense of nostalgia, as if the last time you heard the song was yesterday.

Lead singer Morrissey sings heartbreaking, youth-encapsulated lyrics like, “And if a double-decker bus crashes into us/To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die.”

Thanks to its compelling lyricism and stirring instrumental arrangement, the song has been covered by two groups that create their own lovely versions.

Recently, indie dream-pop band, the Dum Dum Girls took an indie rock, shoegaze-y approach to the track. Lead singer Dee Dee eerily sounds like a perfect, female version of Morrissey.

Another version that stands out is Fresno-based husband and wife folk duo Amarante, who put their own unique spin on The Smiths’ song.  Their cover is accompanied by a cheerily strummed acoustic guitar and the vocal talents of both male and female.


Triple Servings: “Seven Nation Army” Served by the White Stripes, the Flaming Lips and Ben l’Oncle Soul

Triple Servings: “Seven Nation Army” Served by the White Stripes, the Flaming Lips and Ben l’Oncle Soul

Triple Servings: “Seven Nation Army” Served by the White Stripes, the Flaming Lips and Ben l’Oncle Soul

It’s hard to imagine modern rock‘n’roll without Jack White. The guy is a guitar wizard and one half of the White Stripes, an influential band responsible for taking bare-bones, blue-eyed soul to the masses.  And he didn’t stop there; the rocker created two other bands—The Raconteurs and the Dead Weather—and founded his own label, Third Man Records, that churns out vinyl records nonstop.

Undoubtedly one of the Stripes’ greatest achievements is the anthemic, riff-heavy jam “Seven Nation Army.”

Released on “Elephant,” the band’s fourth album from 2003, the song was an instant chart-topper and won a Grammy for Best Rock Song.

Though the song has been covered to death, a couple of bands have managed to capture the song’s essence and make it their own.

Legendary alt-rockers the Flaming Lips covered the song in 2005 for their “Late Night Tales” compilation album.  “Late Night Tales” is a music series that puts out compilation albums by a variety of artists, DJs, and bands, like Belle & Sebastian and MGMT.

The Lips took the original lyrics out and instead replaced it with the lyrics to “Moving to Florida” by the long-lasting noise rockers  Butthole Surfers, in addition to changing the title of the song from  “Seven Nation Army” to “Harry Potter’s and George W. Bush’s Severed Head Army Mix.”

The original lyrics contained political references, and fittingly so, the Flaming Lips replaced old names like LBJ with newer ones like Colin Powell. Lead singer Wayne Coyne barks out the lyrics in a gruff voice, while the famous riff is scuzzed up and paired with the shrill screams of an ambulance.

Changing the mood of the song completely is French soul singer Ben l’Oncle Soul. Soul is a rising star in the R&B world, having only just released his eponymous debut album through Motown Records in 2010.

His version of the song is completely stripped of the guttural guitar riffs and pounding drums. Instead it’s full of Soul’s beautiful, buttery voice, backed by playful trumpets and organ trills.

1st Serving:
The White Stripes
[divider]
2nd Serving:
The Flaming Lips

[divider]
3rd Serving:
Ben l’Oncle Soul

[divider]
[pro-player width='190' height='30' type='sound']http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j7huh5Egew[/pro-player] [pro-player width='190' height='30' type='sound']http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zW8OZD3-Ds[/pro-player] [pro-player width='190' height='30' type='sound']http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDNG4ewIkXk[/pro-player]

LISTEN: Arctic Monkeys—“R U Mine?”

LISTEN: Arctic Monkeys — “R U Mine?”

LISTEN:  Arctic Monkeys — “R U Mine?”

Almost ready to embark on a whirlwind tour opening for U.S. rock ‘n’ roll juggernauts the Black Keys, the Arctic Monkeys released a rip-roaring jam this week  titled “R U Mine?”

The song also comes with a black and white video courtesy of Focus Creeps, the crew responsible for all of their videos from the “Suck it and See” era.

The video shows the band posturing like everyone’s childhood idea of a rock star. Lead singer Alex Turner and drummer Matt Helders speed around in a car, playing air drums, with Turner eventually getting out of the car to play some wicked air guitar.

Tying the video all together is an introduction by Steve Jones (a founding member of legendary punk band, the Sex Pistols) on his now-defunct radio show, Jonesy’s Jukebox.  Take a LISTEN.


Triple Servings: “I Will Always Love You” — Served by Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson

Triple Servings: “I Will Always Love You” — Served by Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson

Triple Servings: “I Will Always Love You” — Served by Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson

Served by Dolly Parton

Triple Servings

Served by Whitney Houston

Triple Servings

Served by Jennifer Hudson

Triple Servings

Many people will forever associate the song “I Will Always Love You” with the late, great Whitney Houston. And how can you not? Her voice reaches impossibly high vocal heights that most people can only dream of.

However, the song was actually penned and performed by another musical legend: Dolly Parton.

Originally released for her album "Jolene" in 1974, Parton received critical praise and enjoyed a spell at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Parton’s original version is full of her signature quavering voice and country flavor.

But when Whitney Houston recorded the song for the soundtrack to her film debut, The Bodyguard, in 1992, the song took on a whole new life.

Houston’s version focuses almost solely on the strength of her voice alone, opting for an acapella intro. In addition, the chorus did what Parton couldn’t. Houston stretched it out, putting lengthy emphasis on each word. What’s more is that each chorus was higher than the last. It was a love ballad in its truest form and will forever remain a testament to the power and brilliance of Whitney Houston.

After her surprising death this past Saturday, producers at the Grammys must have been scrambling to find a singer with a voice powerful enough to pay tribute to Houston. The answer was Academy Award and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson.

Hudson sang “I Will Always Love You” at the Grammys this past Sunday, with sadness visibly etched on her face. However, she powered through a beautiful rendition of the song, sticking as closely as possible with Houston’s original version.


LISTEN: The Shins — “September”

LISTEN: The Shins — “September”

LISTEN: The Shins — “September”

There’s no band that evokes the sense of familiar nostalgia like The Shins. The group gained mainstream popularity in the early 2000s when their songs were featured in films like Garden State and A Guy Thing as well as on TV shows like The OC and The Gilmore Girls.

After a five-year hiatus, they delighted fans everywhere last month with the announcement of their upcoming album, Port of Morrow, which will release on March 20.

The Shins just released the song “September,” and with it, a delightful music video.

The song is quiet and rhythmic, giving off a sweet acoustic vibe. The video is a sweep of simple footage that focuses on displaying the lyrics of the song.

There’s a storytelling element to the lyrics, with lead singer James Mercer singing “It’s not the darkness that can’t touch our lives/I know it will in time, but she’s no ordinary valentine/And when the sun goes down she sheds a darling light.”


LISTEN: Madonna’s Superbowl Sunday Performance (Video)

LISTEN (And Watch): Madonna’s Superbowl Sunday Performance

LISTEN: Madonna’s Superbowl Sunday Performance (Video)

Rather than giving everyone a typical Listen for today, I’m going to suggest that everyone watch the day’s most talked-about performance: Madonna killing it at the Superbowl halftime show.

Madonna mesmerized in gold and black Givenchy, and joining her onstage were LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cee Lo Green.

Her Madgesty proved that at 53 years old, she can hold it down with the best of them while she performed classic tracks like “Vogue,” “Like A Prayer” and her new track with M.I.A. and Minaj, “Give Me All Your Luvin.”

Also, blink and you’ll miss it, but M.I.A. flips her mighty bird right at the camera after her verse.

Watch the video below:


Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit

It’s the one holiday that never fails to generate a wild range of emotions. It’s good when you’re dating, and bad when you’re single.

Folks, it’s Valentine’s Day — and it’s getting closer and closer.

MO’s latest mixed tape has everything you could need — songs for the single folks coping with a foreboding sense of loneliness in a sea of couples, and songs for the hopelessly in love, ready to celebrate the day to its fullest.

And don’t worry, you won’t find the heartwrenching ballads of Adele anywhere on this list; I’m not trying to break anybody’s heart.

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit“The Last Goodbye” — The Kills

This song is almost the quiet, empowered second part of “Wake Up Alone.”  The Kills (made up of fearless duo, Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart) released this track on their latest album, “Blood Pressures.”

Here’s another song for all those lovelorn singles who just want to curl up with a bottle of wine and watch Casablanca on repeat. The song is a slow piano ballad, with Mosshart singing about how it’s the last time she’ll go back to her lover.

Best Lyrics: Can’t quite see the end/How can I rely on my heart if I break it/With my own two hands?

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit“The Lovers” — Arctic Monkeys (Rod McKuen cover)

Here’s the Valentine’s Day song that will make everyone feel lovey-dovey, regardless if they’re alone or in a couple.

The simple melody and lyrics penned by Rod McKuen are fantastically whimsical in their utterly romantic take on seeking the “dark enchantment” of love.

And though the words belong to McKuen, the song is best sung by Alex Turner, lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys. His delicate croon spins the simple tale of lovers seeking their other halves.

Best Lyrics: They pray to wishing wells and stars/they ride the hurricane of hope/not looking back but on they go/towards the distance and deceiving/and all the while they keep believing/that they are special and apart.

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit“Wake Up Alone” — Amy Winehouse

Okay, I know I promised no Adele, but I can’t resist adding another Brit powerhouse to this playlist. Amy Winehouse’s personal life may have been in shambles, especially towards the last days, but no one can deny her sultry and beautiful voice.

Winehouse’s retro-chic style imbued everything that she did, from her clothes, to her hairstyle, to her music.

“Wake Up Alone” is no exception with its late ‘50s-esque R&B influence.

With Winehouse singing about waking up alone and how sad it is after the feeling of once having someone there, this is the song that will bring on the tears,

Best Lyrics: This face in my dreams seizes my guts/He floods me with dread/Soaked in soul/He swims in my eyes by the bed/pour myself over him/moon spilling in/And I wake up alone.

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit"I’ve Just Seen a Face” —  The Beatles

Now, let’s move on to something more positive for the hopelessly in love folks.

Is there any better song that describes the feeling of new love better than “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by the Beatles?

Its quick, joyful melody captures everything that a new relationship is about: overwhelming joy, encapsulating admiration, and that feeling of never wanting to be apart.

Best lyrics: I’ve just seen a face/I can’t forget the time or place/Where we just met/She’s just the girl for me/And I want all the world to see we’ve met.

Mixed Tape: 5 Songs to Get You in the Valentine's Day Spirit"Love on Top” — Beyoncé

And now to end this list on the most positive of notes, I present to you the unrequited joy of Beyoncé’s “Love on Top.”

Fresh off of her last album, “4,” she has no problem singing at the top of her lungs about the love of her life. It’s a morale booster and one of those sing-in-front-of-the-mirror-with-a-comb-for-a-microphone anthems.

And even if you’re single, it’s still a fabulous song to listen to, just because she’s got an amazing voice. All hail Queen B.

Best lyrics: Baby it’s you/You’re the one I love/You’re the one I need/You’re the only I see/Come on, baby it’s you.

Honorable Mentions

“Let’s Get it On” — Marvin Gaye

“Colour of the Trap” — Miles Kane

“Loving You” — Minnie Ripperton

“Skinny Love” — Bon Iver


LISTEN: Jack White — Love Interruption

LISTEN: Jack White — Love Interruption

LISTEN: Jack White — Love Interruption

As all good White Stripes fans know, February 2 marks the anniversary of the talented twosome’s retirement from the music industry (I know I’ll be holed up in my room, crying silently while “Elephant” spins on my record player).

And yet, Jack White released a new solo single today called “Love Interruption.” Be still my beating heart.

It’s not a hard rocking jam, but rather a happy track full of acoustic guitars and chiming pianos. It also features vocals from a female singer on almost every lyric.

The digital version of the track will be released tonight, and there’s also a 7” that will be released on February 7 along with a  non-album track entitled “Machine Gun Silhouette.”

“Love Interruption” will also be included White’s upcoming solo album, “Blunderbuss,” which is scheduled for release on April 23.

It’s great to have you back, Jack.


Triple Servings: “Katy On a Mission” Served like Katy B, Loadium Beats and Arctic Monkeys

Triple Servings: “Katy On a Mission” Served By Katy B, Loadium Beats and Arctic Monkeys

Triple Servings: “Katy On a Mission” Served By Katy B, Loadium Beats and Arctic Monkeys

Served by Katy B

Triple Servings

Served by Loadium Beats

Triple Servings

Served by Arctic Monkeys

Triple Servings

Let me preface this edition of Triple Servings by saying that artists crossing genres is not a new thing. Sometimes it’s horribly upsetting and ill-fitting (punk goes crunk, Kid Rock going country, and other things I wish had never happened).

But when a pop song, like Katy B’s “Katy On a Mission,” is turned into a beautiful acoustic melody by a band like Arctic Monkeys, it gives the song a whole new life.

Brit singer Katy B is a pop chanteuse whose club-ready pop jams and got her mainstream attention in 2010. Her track, “Katy on a Mission” is as club-friendly as they come, lightly tinged with dubstep.

But, since dubstep isn’t really dubstep until it threatens to make your ears bleed, listen to one of the many dubstep covers of the track, easily found on YouTube. Snap on some headphones and let the atmospheric, dreamy, ambient beats take you over. The cover by Loadium Beats is particularly seizure-inducing, yet fun and listenable.

Now comes the twist. While on BBC Radio 1 earlier this week, Sheffield-based rock suit, Arctic Monkeys took on the track and gave it a decidedly more rock‘n’roll take. The beginning has a whole nouveau-rockabilly effect going on, while lead singer Alex Turner croons and hits high notes that fans aren’t accustomed to. It’s one of those covers that no one could ever dream up, but works spectacularly.


LISTEN: Arctic Monkeys — “You and I” Featuring Richard Hawley

LISTEN: Arctic Monkeys — “You and I” Featuring Richard Hawley

LISTEN: Arctic Monkeys — “You and I” Featuring Richard Hawley

Brit rockers Arctic Monkeys delighted fans with a brand new song and music video for “You and I,” the b-side to their latest single “Black Treacle.”

The track primarily features vocals from legendary English singer Richard Hawley and his imperfectly perfect quaffed pompadour and smoky, bourbon-soaked voice.

The song is decidedly more hard rock than past AM ventures, and is chock full of their signature smart lyricism. In addition, lyrics like “If I had a heart/You’re the one that should break it,” sound ten times cooler when growled by Hawley.

Check out the video as well, which features the band riding motorcycles and driving sports cars, while also showing footage of Hawley and the boys recording the track in a studio.