Category: Woodpigeon

Woodpigeon Covers:
Abba, Bjork, Pink Floyd, Gordon Lightfoot, Magnetic Fields and more!

January 23rd, 2010 — 01:42 pm

Exploring the boundaries of folk is a challenge these days, not hardly because the word “folk” is so often abused by a growing bevy of slash-using promotors and artists trying to lay claim to the term and, by proxy, to the authenticity of its community and heritage – even as they offer up music which provides little in the way of respite or even recognizable folk characteristics for the weary folkophile.

Oh, sure, there’s elements of folk music in much of what passes by the modern blogwatcher. The influence of the sixties post-revivalists, for example, is evident in a large swath of the Contemporary Indiepop and Indie Rock world, from Sara McLachlan to Sara Bareilles, from Beck to Ben Harper, from Death Cab to Wilco; we’ve included songs by some of these artists before here on Cover Lay Down, and I expect that they’ll come up again.

But that’s primarily because there’s elements of folk in modern popular music, period. Writ large, it’s in the air. But as the 16-bar 3-chord song structure does not make Rock and Roll a subtype of the blues, neither is the occasional historical lens, a moralistic story lyric, or the inclusion of an acoustic stringed instrument sufficient to suddenly make a given band’s output a form of folk.

It is much rarer to find a band that does not use the term “folk”, yet comes across as obviously within the tradition. Such is Woodpigeon, an ersatz karass based around the guitar, voice, and songwriting of Mark Hamilton, a typically bearded indie lad whose website’s tongue-in-cheek philosophical statements include the ideas that “everything starts off as a rock opera” and “girl voices are instruments. Boy voices are sex objects.”

Nominally an indie pop collective, Woodpigeon’s sound is nevertheless delicately acoustic, and the group is prone to confessional narrative, if framed within definitively post-modern lyrics. Despite its size, the instrumentation is more bare-bones than bombastic, with participants in a given song often contributing little more than a subtle vocal or string drone layer. Though its studio work, most especially in brand-new release Die Stadt Muzikanten, often utilizes the echoey indiepop production values and brushbeats so typical of the genre, both off-record and on-, the group’s music is nonetheless environmentally-grounded and subtly constructed, less beat-oriented than lyrically and melodically driven. And though some of their choices for coverage speak to a clear love of Swedish popsong, others – including two Gordon Lightfoot covers, and a lovely recent take on Mother, Pink Floyd’s only political “folktune” – underscore their connection to the folkworld.

Calgary-based Woodpigeon is an oft-cited favorite of fellow Canadian and indie-lover Chromewaves; we owe Frank a great debt for sharing so much of their work over the past year or three, a good bit of which has included lo-fi off-album covers originally shared on the band’s website. He doesn’t call them folk, either, but I think you’ll hear what I do in this lovely collection.

Regular readers, take note: the vast majority of the above covers are available free on Woodpigeon’s website, making the usual track-by-track album listing essentially moot. For much, much more, head on over, download at will, and bookmark the site for upcoming new web-releases and dispatches.

Of course, Woodpigeon’s in-studio work is richer by far, and worth the bills. Purchase older LPs Songbook and Treasury Library Canada, plus a plethora of EPs, at your leisure, and definitely pick up Woodpigeon’s newest Die Stadt Muzikanten, which dropped just last week. Coverlovers, especially, should keep an ear open for new track Woodpigeon Vs. Eagleowl (Strength In Numbers), which uses Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down as a perfect springboard for the quintessential post-millennial indie grungepop number.

Cover Lay Down posts new features and coverfolk sets every Wednesday and Sunday, plus the occasional otherday. Coming soon: the mailbag is bursting with great new artists; we feast upon the best covers in the bunch.

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