Run For Cover is a weekly music column comparing cover songs to the original version. Prepare for a major bending of rules as we hear musicians throw around genres, tempos, style, and intent. Whether they’re picking up another’s song out of respect or boredom, the results have impressed us.
There’s something about sunny ’60s pop that never gets old. Unlike the soul of Motown or the licks of classic jazz, a beach-ready genre such as this blares with an unbridled optimism. It isn’t just looking forward to whatever the day will bring. It’s ready to let whatever happens happen, even if that means saying “whatever” to some bad news. It encourages carefree indifference in the most fashionable of ways. Pulling it off from start to finish isn’t a walk in the park.
The Canadian indie pop group are still pretty new. Singer and guitarist Molly Rankin started the group as a solo project in 2012 before releasing her debut self-titled LP with four pals by her side in July of last year. Guarded on all sides, she was able to take the world by storm while confronting abandonment, nostalgia, and never-ending uncertainty with a coy smile. It didn’t take long for them to pack their car in Toronto and set off on tours with similar sounding acts like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Peter Bjorn and John.
Their self-aware lyrics and incredibly frank forwardness separate them from the rest of the bunch (see: perpetually Cali-obsessed Best Coast). There’s no indulgent repetition. Everything here is written carefully, note after note, to strike the heart as well as the brain. On “Archie, Marry Me”, they nail their sound. What begins with distant chirping and lonely guitar strums soon splits open right down the middle with ’60s bubblegum pop, spilling everywhere with delicious warmth.
Death Cab For Cutie are in the middle of a reinvention. After longtime guitarist and producer Chris Walla announced he would be departing from the band after they recorded their eighth studio album, Kintsugi, the band was left starting at their future. Kintsugi returns to their earlier sounds while still pushing into a more crafty, concise, harrowing style. As singles continue to roll out for the record before it’s released next week, it’s tough to remember Walla will never be onstage to perform them with the band.
Ben Gibbard, on the other hand, hasn’t changed a bit.
With a properly broken heart after his divorce from Zooey Deschanel in 2012 (too soon?), the Death Cab frontman is still nursing the same teary-eyed heart that he had back when Death Cab was a moniker for his solo project in 1997. Apart from folding the legs of his black frames flat and tucking those glasses into his shirt, the man is still immediately recognizable in both his looks and his sound. His vocals taper the higher up the scale he goes, softening the edges for a comforting, albeit lonely, tone.
In November of 2014, Gibbard performed at Neptune Theatre in Oregon as part of a special fundraising set titled Little Big Show. Collaborating with KEXP, Starbucks, and STG, the series aims to support Seattle’s artistic community and often draws in a large assortment of some of the area’s most notable names. Naturally, when given the chance to play an assortment of rarities and covers, you take it. Alvvays’ playful pop song “Archie, Marry Me” becomes a melancholic ballad in the hands of Gibbard. After beginning with the same chord progression as one of his own songs, “Different Names For The Same Thing”, he shifts his hands on the keys to give their song a heartfelt makeover. He’s always been one to understand that long spread of black and white keys. His cover of “Archie, Marry Me”, however, is a whole other ballpark.
As per usual, Ben Gibbard sings with his heart on his sleeve but keeps the tears at bay. In “Archie, Marry Me”, Alvvays sing the words with a playful bounce, proposing like they’ve got a ring pop in their palm instead of a felt-covered box. Gibbard says each word like his heart is creaking, calling out with the heavy weight of melancholic longing. He says it’s his favorite song of the year. Given how emotionally connected he is with the song when performing it, it’s impossible to argue otherwise. Once again, Gibbard has given us a new song to listen to on repeat when we’re not feeling that great, only this time it’s a cover of an unusually peppy love song.