Thursday, February 15, 2007

Baby, scratch my back.

  • It's not often I don't know a song or can't find its artist. I have an earworm ever since watching the fashion documentary Seamless the other day on the Sundance Channel. It's very familiar, as it's a song I've heard before in the background of other movies or TV shows or commercials. The lyrics are along the lines of:

    "London's swinging/ And London's burning/ And the phone stopped ringing/ And the world keeps turning"

    Strangely, Google isn't helping me, as it only leads me to a Lost fan's post in a forum in which he or she asks if anyone knows what it is. No one has answered.

    The song has a female vocalist whose voice sort of sounds like Beth Orton's. It's not that I absolutely love or hate the song or anything, but it just doesn't seem right having a song in your head for days if you don't know to whom to attribute your earworm distress.


    Edit: I've since been notified that it's "London" by Noonday Underground. Hooray for Internet friends!

  • Now, in the interest of giving you something while I ask for something, I'm going to cut and paste (and slightly modify) something from an e-mail I recently sent to a reader who was asking for help locating cover songs by a particular artist. I've been meaning to do a "How does Liza find so many crazy covers" post for a while, and while not exhaustive, this hits on a few tips of the cover-hunting trade:

    1. One of the first things I do when looking for a cover of a specific song is to head over to All Music Guide and perform a song title search. This will bring you a list of artists who have songs with that title. Of course, sometimes there is more than one song with a specific title, so the best thing to do is to find the original and look at the composer info and then sort the list by composer. AMG is a good resource, but it is not all-inclusive or 100% correct, as it focuses mostly on American releases and more mainstream artists and sometimes automatically lists the artist as the composer on tracks from lesser-known artists, but every now and again, you can find some weirdo thing there. And if the track has a little stereo symbol next to it, you can hear a snippet of the song. Unfortunately, I've found that this only seems to work about half of the time since sometimes the songs are wrong and other times the player just buffers and freezes.

    2. You can also try music download shops like the iTunes store and eMusic and the like. These are particularly helpful because they let you hear snippets of the tracks. Just type in a song title and see what comes up. Preview the song to see if A) it's actually a cover and B) you like the way it sounds. Then, of course, if you like what you hear, you can purchase it for download. I particularly enjoy eMusic because you'll often find foreign or indie covers from artists you've never heard of. You can also search album titles for the word "tribute," which might lead you to tribute albums of which you were previously unaware."

    3. Another favorite resource of mine (perhaps my most favorite) is the German site Coverinfo. Just go there and type the name of the artist whose covers you're hunting in the search field on the left of the page and you'll get a list both of songs they've covered or sampled and songs others have covered or sampled. I really like this site because, again although not all-inclusive or 100% accurate, it usually yields obscure foreign tracks, which I tend to like. Unfortunately, these are often difficult or impossible to locate, but I have pretty good luck at times.

    4. Speaking of locating songs, those of you using P2P file-sharing programs likely are already hip to this, but sometimes just typing in a specific song title and seeing if anyone else has done it. Of course, this gets tricky because lots of songs have the same title as other unrelated songs. The most popular method of cover searchers, then, would be to search the word "cover" along with an artist's name and watching what comes up. This can lead you to things you didn't know were out there. Again, the caveat is that you can't always trust people to label files correctly and the next thing you know a million people think the Gourds' cover of "Gin and Juice" is actually by Phish, which simply isn't the case. If you're hunting for foreign covers, sometimes it helps to learn the word for "cover" in the language you seek. For instance, reprise/s in French and coverversion/en in German. Of course, often simply typing "French cover" or "Spanish cover," etc. will bring things up as well.

    Another P2P trick is, upon stumbling on a particularly rare or foreign cover from a particular user, to browse said user's files and hunt for similar items. (I know SoulSeek allows this, I'm unsure about other P2Ps). Many is the night I've spent awake browsing a Thai or Japanese or German or [insert every other nationality] user's every file in the hopes of stumbling on an English-title track that sounds familiar. (Note: Only about 1/4 of these usually turn out to be covers. Heh. In fact, I've been thinking of starting a "Copy? Wrong!" site dedicated to interesting/horrifying songs I thought might be covers but weren't.)

    5. There are other cover database sites out there, such as Second Hand Songs, but that one in particular is relatively new and not very thorough at this point. And, of course, there's the ever-popular Covers Project, which I'm sorry to say just isn't what it used to be. Even back when it was more user friendly, it was often inaccurate since anyone could submit suggestions. Now it is just seems really weird and limited. for instance, a search of "Celine Dion" returns zero results, despite the fact that there are at least a zillion versions of "My Heart Will Go On"

    6. And, last but not least (for today's purposes anyhow), is trusty ol' Google.
    Key search phrases in quotes will often yield articles, blog posts, forum logs or artist sites featuring such items. Sometimes you can find out about things this way that you haven't found elsewhere. Here's a quick list of typical searches I might perform on any given day (obviously, don't use brackets, simply substitute what you're looking for where the bracketed words are):

    "[artist] cover"
    "cover of [artist]'s"
    "covering [artist]"
    "covered [artist]"
    "covered [artist]'s"
    "[foreign language] [artist] cover"
    "[artist] cover in [foreign language]"
    "[artist] tribute"
    "tribute to [artist]"

    Et cetera.

    Anyone else who has any specific resources or tricks or who knows lots of foreign words for "cover," feel free to share via comments. I hope some or all of you found the above information helpful.

  • Now, for no real reasons except that I'm single and and kind of think Valentine's Day is silly, here is one of my pal Wendy's popular Photoshopped "Single Girl Valentines," which I love:


    Anonymous said...

    Do you ever use the website Not exhaustive, but fun and it gives you a chronological listing of various artists who have performed a song.

    Thanks for your blog, Liza! Sid F'er sent me over way back in the way back and I have enjoyed it.

    Anonymous said...

    ooops! Sorry, Liza. You already mention secondhandsongs.

    An example of when you shouldn't post when you haven't had enough sleep ...


    Anonymous said...

    Googling "intitle:index of" cover mp3 can find some interesting things which a normal Google search might not.
    Usual substitutes for the word 'cover' apply.

    Unknown said...

    Best of Slim Harpo -- Baby Scratch My Back.mp3