mr|ten has inspired some of you to go back and check out the original versions of the songs we covered for our 10th birthday. In this series I’ll put the originals and covers side-by-side with commentary. (Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4)
Things We Know Now
howie&scott’s original, from the 2xCD signs.comets:
- I thought of this as a very poppy song on signs.comets… you know, with a time signature change and verses/choruses of varying lengths. Super-poppy!
- It wasn’t until Cari Ann and I were searching for candidate songs for her to sing that I realized the arpeggiated verse riff really outlined some straightforward chords that might translate to autoharp
- Scott adds a lot to this with the unorthodox drum part, solo (of course), and harmony vocal that I love. That really creative harmony takes the chorus to another level
- That “I know your heart is in my teeth” lyric is pretty strange, when I stop to think about it. I don’t remember where it came from – maybe a dream – but it’s always meant for me a warm, intimate, but frighteningly vulnerable feeling
Cari Ann’s cover:
- Gorgeous vocal, of course. The totally stripped-down arrangement puts the spotlight directly on her voice for the whole song, and she carries it beautifully
- I pushed her a bit during the recording session – she may have been a little frustrated with me by the end of it – but I think the result sings for itself
- Some nice changes to the bridge melody
- Mic’ing the autoharp was a bear; the muted strings make weird, dissonant noise as the pick rakes over them, and it was hard to find a mic position that minimized that. I ended up using a dynamic mic on it for that reason
Original from It’s A Trap by Sally Ride:
- This song is about my real emotions regarding a real thing that happened in my life. That may sound unremarkable, but it actually makes “Just Observing” a very unusual song for me; I almost never do that. Just scanning the track list for It’s A Trap, there is only one other song on that record that’s simply about me and something that happened. Of course, in both cases the lyrics aren’t literal. This song is really honest but not nice, like fluorescent light.
- The lack of drums (or even a steady pulse), backwards-Cory vocal, and structure (verse/verse/bridge/verse, no chorus!) are other weird things about this tune
- I don’t imagine this is anyone’s favorite jam, but I love it because it nails the emotion I wanted it to capture harder than most
Scott Morris’ cover:
- Scott asked for suggestions for his cover. At first I thought it would be hard, but as I thought about his skills and started listening, I came up with a ton of songs I was excited to hear his versions of.
- He adds an entire theme that isn’t in the original (the first two chords and their subsequent recurrences and variations), and uses the bass to create complex chords that go far beyond the source material to great effect. The theme suggests the original’s bridge, but is distinct. The original bridge doesn’t appear; the theme and verse alternate with various textures to create Scott’s dynamics
- Such a cool pitter-patter beat. Makes me think Scott could have a second career as some sort of downtempo electronic artist
- This gets stuck in my head constantly; that’s a big accomplishment for an instrumental track!
Bust My Teeth
Continuing on with White Air’s version:
- The shifting textures and production are what makes this song work for me. There are so many different sounds (going far beyond the obvious, and awesome, possessed children’s choir).
- The lyrics of the final verse get obscured by the “Liar, liar…” theme; I eventually had to ask Greg for them
Sally Ride’s cover:
- This is my second cover of a song from White Air’s self-titled record on mr|ten. As I was collecting ideas and trying things to see what worked, both this and “Am I Getting Thru To You?” were working for different reasons. I went ahead and recorded both, not knowing if the compilation as a whole might need the second one to reach my goal of 10 covers. We got there without it, but both tunes seemed to work in the track list, so I left this in
- I tried to recreate the feel of the original’s production with different echo settings, octaves, and chord shapes on the guitar. It’s not as dense and interesting as Greg’s, but the changes give it some movement…
- …especially on the last verse, where the guitar drops out. The original faded out from there, but I brought back the “chorus” and lyrics from different parts of the song, including the “Liar, liar” phrase which I thought was too important to omit