Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra have followed up their 2014 album, Cope, which combined indie rock melodicism with hard rock heft, in a novel way. Their new LP, Hope, is a track-by-track reimagining of Cope as a much quieter and more subdued affair, replacing crunching guitars and pounding drums with delicate acoustic picking, soft horn and piano arrangements, and the marked influence of both rootsy Americana and intricately assembled chamber pop. It’s a daring concept, but the band’s managed to pull it off, creating an album that not only sheds a different light on Cope but may even be an improvement, at least to some listeners.
In keeping with Hope‘s theme of radical musical reinvention, MO has assembled a playlist of covers songs that offer a far different experience than the originals (plus a Paul Simon demo that shows how much Graceland‘s “Homeless” changed between inception and completion).
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1) “Goin’ To Acapulco” – Jim James & Calexico
A haunting rendition done with the loose sensibility that Dylan seemed to bring to the studio by sheer force of will. Jim James’ vocal delivery soars through the chorus over Calexico’s horns. This song also can’t be heard without picturing the scene in I’m Not There with a white-faced Jim singing this as a dirge for a young dead girl. Jim: Please sing this song at my funeral.
2) “The Party’s Over” – Phosphorescent
I first heard this version at our first show in New York and was very happy to see it finally make onto one of his records. Matthew would get the lighting guy to turn all of the lights off, he’d put on a blazer covered in christmas lights and sing the chorus over and over again. It definitely stuck in my head and (at times) has weaseled it’s way into our set with us putting our own spin on it.
3) “Cortez The Killer” – Built to Spill
Built to Spill: The only band any of us could trust to cover this song and do it any sort of justice.
4) “The Man Who Sold The World” – Nirvana
A great reimagining of a song sang in a way that was almost more of a nod from one artist to another than a cover—like Nirvana was trying to pay Mr. Bowie a compliment in a moment where they knew that most of their generation was watching.
5) “Thirteen” – Elliott Smith
Whenever I hear Elliott Smith cover a song, I find myself trying to listen to the song in a new way because I feel like I missed something about the original version that was beautiful. I feel like he heard music in a such a unique way, and here’s a good example of a cover that allows the listener to look into somebody else’s grasp on music.
6) “I See A Darkness” – Johnny Cash
Such a beautiful version of a song that, in its simplicity, tugs on your heart in a dark and heavy way. Sung by someone so close to death doesn’t make it any lighter, but he sings the chorus almost in a joyous way, like the darkness was a good thing.
7) “Wonderwall” – Ryan Adams
A massive hit in its own right, Ryan Adams took his gift of singing the saddest sh– on the planet and reminded us why we liked it so much in the first place.
8) “Between the Bars” – Madeleine Peyroux
The first time I heard this rendition I didn’t recognize it at all until the chorus. I knew that I knew it but I wasn’t sure where from, which is a clear indicator of a great cover. She turns Elliot Smith’s words and puts them in a seedy smoke-filled European bar. A cover that can certainly stand on its own two legs albeit a little drunk at the same time.
9) “Homeless (Demo)” – Paul Simon
Almost like looking through a pinhole into what was clearly a very creative period for such a great songwriter. It feels like they probably sang that round a million times before they recorded the final version. In this demo you can really hear the “lullaby” quality that developed as the song grew into the version that made it to the record.
Manchester Orchestra HOPE U.S. tour:
10/31/14 – Memphis, TN – New Daisy Theatre
11/04/14 – Austin, TX – Scoot Inn
11/06/14 – Tempe, AZ – Mesa Arts Center
11/07/14 – Los Angeles, CA – Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
11/08/14 – West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour
12/03/14 – Chicago, IL – Irish American Heritage Center
12/06/14 – Philadelphia, PA – Temple Performing Arts Center
12/07/14 – New Haven, CT – Center Church on the Green
12/08/14 – Somerville, MA – Arts At The Armory
12/09/14 – Brooklyn, NY – The Bell House
12/11/14 – Charleston, SC – Memminger Auditorium
12/12/14 – Durham, NC – Hayti Heritage Center
12/13/14 – McMinnville, TN – Volcano Room of Cumberland Cavern
**All Dates With Chris Staples
Correction: This post was updated to correct the year Cope was released.