Music in Brief 4219

It's hard to complain too much about Matthew Sweet And Susanna Hoffs' taste in oldies. On their casual duets album Under The Covers Vol. 1 (Shout! Factory), the power-pop pals zip their way through sunny takes on the likes of Love ("Alone Again Or"), The Beach Boys ("Warmth Of The Sun"), and The Zombies ("Care Of Cell 44"), and though the shimmering production sucks some of the oomph out of Sweet and Hoffs' favorite garage-rock and psych-pop nuggets, it's still a pleasure to hear two old pros amiably rewrite the canon… B

Every year since 1996, Yo La Tengo has taken requests from WFMU listeners during the radio station's fundraising marathon, and the "best" of the group's decade-long stint as the world's sloppiest cover band is now available (via YLT's website) on Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics (Egon), a 30-track collection of sometimes painful, sometimes glorious garage rock. There's probably no reason for anyone but torture victims to listen to Yo La Tengo's version of Yes' "Roundabout" more than once, but the band does well by the greatest rock song ever written, The Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner"… B-

The country-heavy tribute record Sail Away: The Songs Of Randy Newman (Sugar Hill) offers a dozen solutions to an enduring problem for artists who cover Newman: how to make his highly literate, not especially catchy oeuvre into something personal. Some of these songs don't change the originals much, like Sam Bush's reverent "Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)," and some kind of obliterate them, like Sonny Landreth's bombastic "Louisiana 1927" and Allison Moorer's over-attenuated "Marie." But the experiment pays off in Tim O'Brien's high lonesome take on the title track and Steve Earle's storming "Rednecks," both of which internalize and recontextualize Newman's criticisms of the new South… B+

To benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 18 North Carolina acts have covered songs by 18 other North Carolina acts for the ingenious compilation Songs For Sixty Five Roses: Re-Working The North Carolina Jukebox (Songs For Sixty Five Roses). It's too bad the organizers couldn't corral some of the bigger coverees (like James Taylor, Randy Travis, and Ryan Adams) to be coverers, though Mac Macaughan does get to pull double duty: He covers Adams' "Oh My Sweet Carolina" with his band Portastatic, and Jason Ross and Two Dollar Pistols respectively provide solid covers of "Mower" and "Driveway To Driveway" by his band Superchunk. The disc is primarily remarkable for its vision of "the North Carolina sound," which encompasses punk and country without losing its cohesion… B+

Another oddball covers collection: the fifth volume of Ubiquity's Rewind! series, which matches experimental dance, soul, and hip-hop artists with "songs that inspired them." Rewind! 5 is a predictably mixed bag, but it has its highlights, including NuSpirit Helsinki's spacey electroclash version of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter" and Psapp's junkyard prowl through "Everybody Wants To Be A Cat," from Disney's The AristocatsB

A far more essential offering from Ubiquity—specifically its Luv N'Haight archival label—is the second volume of Bay Area Funk, which collects rare singles and sessions from the late-'60s and early-'70s heyday of the Oakland/San Francisco soul scene. There's some stunning work on Bay Area Funk 2, including Mary Love's deep blue and groovy "Born To Live With Heartache," Project Soul's super-cool fusion instrumental "Ebony," Soft Touch's seductive "Plenty Action," and The Relatives' feather-light "Lenient With My Love"… A

As enchanting as Mia Doi Todd's 2005 LP Manzanita was, the new remix/remodel La Ninja: Amor And Other Dreams Of Manzanita (Plug Research) may be even better, taking Todd's airy, orchestrated "new folk" and adding electronic textures, courtesy of sympathetic DJs like Nobody and Dntel. The results transform trad-minded songs like "Amor" and "My Room Is White," making them sound like visions from the future, not the past. And the new record even finds room for a fresh cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," a song that practically provided the blueprint for Todd's current sound… A-

Fans of The Wedding Present were justifiably happy when David Gedge pulled his band out of retirement for last year's Take Fountain, and the goods keep coming with Search For Paradise (Manifesto), a collection of Take Fountain's UK singles, including B-sides, remixes, acoustic versions, and a bonus DVD of videos. There are some real gems within, too, like the sweeping "The Girl With The Curious Smile," the blazing "Bad Thing," and the melancholy, trippy "Shivers"… B+

Hey, remember Space Needle? Don't feel bad if you don't, because even in indie-rock circles, Space Needle is best known for being Anders Parker's waystation on the way to Varnaline—and Parker was only a minor contributor to the band. (Next question: Remember Varnaline?) The anthology Recordings 1994-1997 (Eenie Meenie) draws songs from across Space Needle's brief run of fuzzy, cosmic avant-rock, and it's essential for music scholars looking for the missing connection between shoegazer dream-pop, alt-country, and the neo-psychedelia of Elephant 6 and The Flaming Lips… B

It's hard to believe that it's taken this long to anthologize Daniel Johnston properly, but after a recent tribute album and a superb documentary about the mentally ill DIY prophet, popular culture seems ready to grapple with harrowing-but-sweet lo-fi confessionals like "Peek A Boo," "Some Things Last A Long Time," "Man Obsessed," and "Sorry Entertainer." Those classics and others can be found on the well-chosen best-of Welcome To My World (High Wire). A-

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