Covering songs is a science. Remaining faithful to the original creator while simultaneously reinventing the wheel as you sing lyrics that were written by somebody else is no easy balance to strike. But it takes an exceptionally unique individual to render a well-known tune almost unrecognizable.
Cat Power’s Chan Marshall is a master at transformative cover songs, which was displayed on her two previous well-loved cover albums, TheCovers Record and Jukebox, where she turned stomping libidinous renegades like The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” into lethargic and yearning dirges.
Marshall’s newest self-produced installment in this series, Covers, transforms and reinvents both well-known hits and beloved obscurities by the likes of The Replacements, Billie Holiday, Frank Ocean, Iggy Pop, Lana Del Rey, Kitty Wells, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, the Pogues, Dead Man’s Bones, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Throughout the album, Marshall draws from each track a well of untouched themes and nuances with lush, dynamic arrangements—a strong departure from her signature minimal sound. The album opens with a swinging piano-laden take on Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion,” trading Ocean’s soulful keening and weeping organ solos for a foggy lounge groove with tentative breaks of snare hits and reverb-drenched guitar.
A remarkable standout moment on the record is when Marshall covers herself on “Unhate,” an unnerving and defiant reinterpretation of the song “Hate” from The Greatest. Unless listeners had the lyrics right in front of them, I wouldn’t blame them for thinking these were two completely different songs. With chopped up vocals over twangy lo-fi strumming and full-bodied idiosyncratic percussion, never has Chan Marshall uttering the words “I said I hate myself and I want to die,” felt more unhinged. The only way I can describe the track is that it feels like you are listening to Marshall perform an exorcism on her past self right before your very eyes.
On her approach to covering songs, Marshall has said “When I work, I don’t look back—I just keep going. Trusting my gut is a survival technique. My approach is elementary—it’s not technical or super academic. My mission is to complete what I see, and as soon as the fibers of that vision are realized, I move on to the next song.” And this organic outlook and radical sense of self-trust is precisely what makes this record sound as fresh as it does.
From faithful tributes to Jackson Browne/Nico’s “These Days,” The Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular,” and Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” to the propulsive, ominous rattle on her update of Nick Cave’s “I Had a Dream Joe,” and the roiling guitar feedback on her cover of Iggy Pop’s “Endless Sea,” Marshall subverts listeners’ expectations at every turn, transcending the art of covering itself and eviscerating any lingering expectations of her that audiences might have held onto in the past.
If Alison Goldfrapp and Portishead conceived a baby while Björk watched, the end product would no doubt be rising dream pop virtuoso KEANA. Based in Los Angeles, KEANA is best known for her delicately fluid and imaginative universe of trip hop and electronic ambience; a crystalline dream sequence-like universe she carefully crafted as the sole writer, producer, and sound engineer of her work.
Her previous singles “Lilac” and “Sway” received critical praise for her hard-hitting atmospheric soundscapes and mystic lyrics, garnering praise from respected publications such as Earmilk and Atwood Magazine.
Now, with her newest single “Teardrops,” KEANA tackles the importance of self-love and positive affirmations in relationships against the backdrop of dynamic percussive sounds and ethereal vocals cushioned in layers of lush synth-lines and subtle horns.
“‘Teardrops’ speaks about realizing someone can only love you as much as they love themselves,” KEANA reveals. “The story is about being in a relationship with a “Fixer-upper,” this person seems put together on the outside but deep down they’re filled with insecurity and fear which often gets taken out on the partner. Eventually I take comfort in feeling my emotions and wish the other person would do the same.”
The lyrics brilliantly blend poetic sincerity and endearingly melodramatic stanzas. “Earlier today, I bathed myself and caressed my skin, pretending it was you,” she cheekily confesses in the opening line of the song. It’s a hilariously relatable and gorgeously windswept ode to allowing tears to flow freely in order to experience the full spectrum of human emotion.
Despair. Elation. Regret. Relief. Rinse repeat. These are the feelings evoked in the initial listening stage when you hear the opening crescendo of synthesized drones and faded hums on the opening track of Bailey Baum’s debut EP, Over It. The title track smoothly transitions from despair into hope as she croons, “Over and over and over, till I’m over it,” over cushioned basslines and dreamy laidback orchestrations, ruminating on the constant cycle of post-breakup recovery, trudging through the five stages of grief until finally landing at the stage of acceptance.
To say that Bailey Baum is having quite the year would be an understatement. Her 2019 single “Simple Feelings” is approaching 2 million streams on Spotify and she has also been praised for her “reflective lyrics, stirring soulful vocals, and clever pop melodies,” in publications like Flaunt Magazine and UPROXX.
Baum released her first EP “Over It” today through Next Wave / Ultra Records. Her most recent single off of the EP “Bad For Me,” is a synth-laden lamentation on the constant tug-of-war between her common sense and the part of her that wants to go back to the way things were before the fatal impact of her first heartbreak.
This new EP is an incredibly clever subversion of the typical heartbreak ballad. Instead of dwelling in the sadness, she goes on a trajectory to find the light at the end of the tunnel. She expertly weaves the ethereal high-register melodies and lush harmonies of BANKS and Lana Del Rey with the razor sharp wit of Guyville-era Liz Phair on songs like “Thinking Bout Me,” and “Not Missing You,” (“Don’t wanna go back/Finally your gone and it’s clear that I’m not missing you”).
“I want the EP to help people feel empowered to get ‘over it,’ while also acknowledging how important it is to let yourself feel everything deeply,” Bailey said in a press release. “No emotion or thought you have is invalid, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel of heartbreak. We all deserve to find happiness and peace and fulfillment and that all starts within yourself. I’m still learning and growing from my experiences, this EP is all about that process.”
I caught up with Bailey over email to chat about the new EP, how songwriting has helped her heal, and what she’s most looking forward to in this new phase of her career.
What are you most excited for listeners to experience once they finally get their hands on this EP?
I’m most excited to see how people resonate with my music. This project is one that came from a really vulnerable place in my heart and sharing it with everyone is definitely scary in a lot of ways but I’ve had so much support from my team and everyone I work with and I’m confident that this project is something that can help other people get through similar situations and feelings of heartache.
What was the first piece of music that made you feel empowered to pursue life as a musician?
I always was always listening to music around my family or on the radio so from a young age it was always a very organic discovery process. I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old and started singing “White Christmas” and told my mom I wanted her to hear it because I thought I could really sing. I stood up on the fireplace in front of my whole family and sang my heart out and that was the moment I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. I started voice lessons soon after that and never quit.
Fiona Apple once said that it’s important to make art that scares you. Since this is a very personal record, were there any personal revelations you had that scared you?
I woke up a few months ago in the middle of the night freaking out because I was so scared for this project to come out. It’s so scary to be open to the world with your emotions and feelings, but the only way I know how to process how I feel is by turning it into music. Sharing my most personal feelings with the world is daunting, hoping that everyone perceives them in a positive way, but I know this is something that so many people can relate to at any age.
You said in your press release that you want this EP to help listeners on their journey to recover from heartbreak while also allowing themselves to “feel everything deeply.” How has music played a role in your own individual quests?
Whenever I feel literally ANY emotion, music is the first thing I run to. Music evokes so much emotion and even though I don’t project it in front of most people, I love feeling deep emotions. Music is that escape for me. I love driving around the city listening to different songs and just singing as loud as I can. It’s not always easy to let yourself feel things, so if you can find an outlet like music has been for me then it truly is the best feeling and the best way to heal.
You’ve been praised in Flaunt and UPROXX and I also noticed two of your songs on Viral Hits playlists on Spotify. How does it feel to see your music doing this well?
I’m so grateful for the support I’ve had on the music. Every little message, article, or other kind of support helps push me to continue going and not give up. There’s so much more I dream to do and accomplish but it really is the little things that help validate my journey and realize that everything I’m doing is reaching people in a positive way.
I really resonated with ‘Bad for Me.’ It feels like a universal experience to feel drawn to people that we know are toxic. How has writing about this allowed you to traverse this particular phenomenon in your life?
I think writing this helped me process the emotions I was feeling, and helped me acknowledge honestly to myself that the situation I was in wasn’t healthy. The truth is that I’m still learning and I haven’t totally figured everything out yet, I’m still making mistakes as I go but I’m forgiving myself at the same time because I know it’s all part of the process.
Something I really enjoyed about the progression of this EP–specifically on a song like “Not Missing You”–is how you seem to come to a genuine sense of closure as the EP goes on. Was that sort of progression intentional?
It was intentional in the way that once we had all the tracks ready for the EP we decided on the best order for them that felt like a progression of a relationship. However, when I was recording the music I wasn’t thinking that I was going to make songs for each stage of a relationship. Everything fell together as I was feeling it all. I recorded these songs at different times over the course of a few years and once I knew that this project was next for me I handpicked the ones that felt the most right and wrote and recorded the last few tracks based on emotions that I was feeling at the time and those just happened to be the last two tracks on the EP that give a feeling of “closure.”