The art of covering is a complicated endeavor. It has the ability to alienate fans of the original artists, whilst creating a concrete standard of comparison. Most importantly, it demands an artist to be innovative using a product that already exists.
This leads us to the up-and-coming D.C.-based trio, Columbia Nights (John E. Daise, Hayling Price, Sarai Abdul-Malik). Going through my usual blog stroll, I was inundated with posts regarding their recent cover of “Stormy Weather,” a track first recorded by Swedish band Little Dragon. As a fan of the electronic outfit, I was a bit apprehensive to hear a reinterpretation of one of my favorite records, despite the warm reception the cover was receiving.
And then, I took a listen.[audio:http://royayersproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Stormy-Weather.mp3|titles=Stormy Weather – Columbia Nights]
Instantly, my apprehension turned to admiration. When assessing this record in comparison to its source material, it’s all about the subtle nuances. Columbia Night’s supplemental production was minimal, but incredibly effective. It takes the conceptual idea presented in the title and provides a the literal soundtrack to a storm-riddled summer evening. Even more impressive, they are able to do this without losing the song’s original flavor – the perfect mark of a great cover. An interesting shift comes about through the song’s lead vocalist. With a much lower register than Little Dragon lead singer Yukimi Nagano, Abdul-Malik injects a newfound dimension of boldness into the record. Her voice bears a stark contrast to the song’s austere backdrop, making it a beautiful contradiction. As far as cover versions go, this is certainly the way to do it.
I’m interested to see what the future holds for this up-and-coming collective and so should you.
To learn more about Columbia Nights, visit their site here.
Written by: Paul Pennington