Some covers sound better than others on no:carrier’s “Ghosts of the West Coast”
Releasing an album with only cover songs can be a dicey risk to take.
On the one hand, people will instantly recognize the songs, but on the other hand, people will instantly recognize the songs.
Sometimes covers become as popular, or even more popular than the original tune, like Kate Davis and Postmodern Jukebox’s take on “All About the Bass” or Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”
In other instances, covers can sink an otherwise solid album. Remember Madonna’s 2000 album “Music”? No? How about her horrid cover of Don McLean’s “American Pie”? It was a blight on an otherwise solid album, something Madonna has since admitted herself.
Which brings us to San Francisco/Germany-based electro-noir pop group no:carrier. Their new album “Ghosts of the West Coast” features four cover songs featuring four separate singers. They’ve got Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” featuring Kalib DuArte, Belinda Carlisle’s “California” featuring Melissa Harding, Tony Carey’s “Room with a View” featuring Lauralee Brown and the Irish traditional tune “She Moved through the Fair” featuring no:carrier’s own Cynthia Wechselberger.
Each song is loosely connected under the “American dream gone wrong” umbrella, but these songs honestly couldn’t be any more different from one another, which isn’t a bad thing, mind you.
“Boys of Summer” has the most listens of all the songs on Soundcloud, but an argument could be made that it’s the worst of all four tracks. For one, “Boys of Summer” has been covered extensively already by such acts as The Ataris, CodeSeven and KT Tunstall, among others.
Secondly, as stated above, it takes a lot more for me to enjoy a recorded cover song than an original track. I also tend to fall in the camp that likes to see noticeable deviation from the original because if I really wanted to hear the original arrangement, I’d find Henley’s version because he did it much better than nearly everyone else.
Be that as it may, no:carrier’s version isn’t bad, per say, it just sticks too close to the Henley version for me to find it all that interesting.
No:carrier’s “California” however, does differentiate itself nicely from Carlisle’s version, turning it more into an electro-pop, dance track behind the stunning vocals from Harding, who brings a classy, sultry quality to it.
The arrangement still doesn’t do enough to really blow me away, but it’s probably my favorite track on the album. It’s worth listening to several times to let it occupy space in your head.
“Room With a View” hits on that same electro-pop vibe and it works quite well. It’s just a little TOO stuffed with electro elements at times, to the point where the vocals can be a bit hard to understand in a few parts near the start. However, it’s catchy and a decent little song.
Finally “She Moved through the Fair,” flows like a steady current of pop goodness from start to finish. Some people might find it too slow — it’s not really a song you can dance to, for instance, but if you take it for what it is, a beautiful Irish ballad, then you can’t help but enjoy it.
This short album likely isn’t going to be on any best of 2015 lists and the songs might not have a whole lot in common with one another, but if you start by asking “can I listen to these and enjoy them?” the answer will almost certainly be yes. So, in that way, no:carrier has created a solid album.
A part of me just wishes they included some original tracks with these covers, and maybe experimented a bit more with the arrangements. They have released other albums with interesting originals, so if you do enjoy these covers, be sure to check out their whole discography, also.