By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Chris Thile, “Morning Bell”
Chris Thile of Nickel Creek has sold millions of records, won Grammys, earned the respect of his bluegrass-inspired peers, and has come as close to hipster acceptance as any mandolin player can. But nothing tells the world “I’m down with the team” like doing a Radiohead cover. The Creek did “Nice Dream” from The Bends at the 2006 Lollapalooza, but this version of Amnesiac’s “Morning Bell,” recorded for The Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour show in Lexington, Kentucky, is nearly perfect, and reveals the inherent elasticity of Radiohead’s songs — which makes them ripe for covering. Most of the band’s tracks, save the deeper echo excursions of their midperiod music — have a main melody that’s capturable on piano or guitar. Each also has secondary and tertiary melodies concocted and delivered by guitarists Johnny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien, and Colin Greenwood’s gift for crafting structured but meandering bass lines translates well in jazz and Texas swing disciplines. To say nothing of Thom Yorke’s vocal melodies. All those dancing notes hit a lot of different frequency ranges, perfect as the taking-off point for extended improvisation, or as a platform for a more formal string quartet expression. Thile’s version here sounds like Bob Wills on acid, and it doesn’t hurt that the video’s filter effect has that washed-out Polaroid vibrancy of old Hee Haw reruns from the 1970s.
Makko456, “Kid A”
Makko456 is from somewhere in Japan, and he and a partner performed duets of at least seven Radiohead songs on xylophone in 2005, recorded for posterity. Judging by the motionless crowd, this seems to be some sort of recital, and it feels like makko456 is making a grand declaration to his audience: “‘Ava Maria’ is for suckers,” he seems to say. “Check this shit out.” The highlight of the batch, which includes pretty takes on “A Wolf at the Door,” “Paranoid Android” and “No Surprises,” is a soft, lush, Carl Orff–esque version of “Kid A,” from the band’s album of the same name. Doing tracks from Kid A and Amnesiac is less common online because the band was experimenting with synthetic sounds and rhythms on the records, and they’re not as easy to replicate on guitar or piano. The melodies are still there, but it takes some expertise to harness them for guitar. But makko456 and partner are perfectly equipped with xylophones and can dot out the song’s meandering melody, and spin a humming tube in place of Radiohead’s digital whispers. “This is fucking awesome,” exclaims commenter raskolfilms: “You should do Aphex Twin. Only drawback for me, is that I can tell you are a couple of dorks. You stare directly at the sheet music the whole time. Try committing it to memory and you might find yourself subtley reharmonising by the seat of yer pants and soul.”
KoANdre, “Everything in Its Right Place”
The brashness of KoANdre’s version of “Everything in Its Right Place” is manifested in the video’s opening seconds. Specifically, I love it when he takes a big, nervous breath before starting the song, as though he’s standing side-stage at Disney Hall a split second prior to his concert debut. The original of “Everything in Its Right Place” is a wisp of keyboard melody that sounds like it was recorded in a baby-blue room a million miles away from the here and now. But KoANdre is here now, and has grabbed the song as though it were a rattlesnake and he’s trying to squeeze out its venom. He’s sitting in front of a doorway outside somewhere, but we have no idea whether he’s in Bangladesh or Baltimore. He’s just sitting there singing his lungs out. Pretty colors, too.
SukkerJaY, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
“As you can see, the name is John L. Olesen, 24 years old and currently livin in Sweden-Ljusdal. Originally from the nabor country Denmark, from a small town called Haderslev.” These words introduce us to SukkerJaY, a self-taught musician whose YouTube presence conjures not the Nordic North but the American South. Before clicking through his information, I imagined SukkerJaY to be of the Southern persuasion, a backwoods aesthete in a Virginia cabin, who’d thrown aside banjo and the theme from Deliverance for something a little more of the time. Here was a man not unlike Dock Boggs or John Fahey, collecting a song of unknown origin and molding it into something else. SukkerJaY’s version of “Street Spirit” feels so lost and lonely — and touching — that you want to reach through the Tube to comfort him. It conjures not the country blues, though, but the soft harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel (and it seems as though SukkerJaY recorded this beforehand, then edited it into the video). Regardless, with the echo and the purity, and the way the singer stares not at the camera but across what I imagine to be a field or stream, the version is gorgeous.