Category: Band of Horses

The Denison Witmer Covers Project, Part 5: Denison covers Band of Horses’ Is There A Ghost

October 10th, 2008 — 01:30 pm

Our partnership with Philadelphia singer-songwriter Denison Witmer bears more wonderful fruit today: Denison has sent along a cover of Is There A Ghost, the lead track from Band of Horses release Cease to Begin and, according to Rolling Stone, one of the 100 Best Songs of 2007, and I’m happy to report that this newest coversong is already stuck in my head.

Denison’s take on Is There A Ghost is a strong addition to a growing collection of solo acoustic covers, all of which can be heard below. But where the other recordings in Denison’s cover series have generally been immersive, establishing a tone and inhabiting it, the highly repetitive lyrics of the song here work against such a singular approach. The language of the original is in its delivery, most especially the chilly echoing shoegaze atmosphere, and the way it downshifts into its long, driving, anthemic peak just before the song’s midpoint.

Denison’s take on the song is powerfully atmospheric, too. But given his deliberate, stripped-down approach to covers, this is a very different atmosphere. The cover starts ragged, lo-fi and low key, as if just awakened; it is very much of a set with the earlier songs he has recorded for this project, though warmer and lusher in tone from the very first moment. Instead of being split in two, it coalesces slowly over the first verse, the sound becoming first richer, then building energy over the last few measures before fading away.

By taking on a subtle, acoustic reflection of the original’s pacing and energy, starting farther back, and working within a much more focused range of emotional build, Denison creates a wonderful warmth without losing the tension which makes this song work in the first place. In the end, we are left with a perfect fragment, a short, almost tender study in exhausted hope and acceptance. If the point here is to get us excited about the impending album, it’s working.

[Update: as of June 2009, all files from the Denison Witmer Covers Project are available here]

Previously on the Denison Witmer Covers Project:

New Denison Witmer album Carry the Weight drops on November 11th; the first single, Beautiful Boys and Girls, is already available in digital form.

Since we’re on the subject, how about a few bonus tracks and linkbacks? This Grizzly Bear cover is about as folk as Band of Horses gets, but it’s worth the listen. And finding both Denison and new Band of Horses second guitarist Tyler Ramsey covering the same song was too perfect to miss:

  • Band of Horses cover Grizzly Bear’s Plans
  • Denison Witmer does a gorgeously ringing, pensive cover of Jackson Browne/Nico hit These Days on his 2003 covers album Recovered…
  • …and Tyler Ramsey does a languid alt-folk These Days, too.

We’ll be back next weekend with another installment of the Denison Witmer Covers Project. Coming up Sunday: our Covered in Kidfolk series triumphantly returns with a set of songs about movement.

1,136 comments » | Band of Horses, Denison Witmer, Tyler Ramsey