Until we meet again
On Radio Redhead, Vol. 1, indie singer-songwriter Karen Elson transports listeners across time and space. Released on December 18, the EP is an early holiday gift that’s simple yet sophisticated in its presentation. Elson’s latest release includes the singer’s personal renditions of five classic ballads, honoring the likes of Cher, Elton John and more.
Elson kicks off Radio Redhead, Vol. 1 boldly. In her cover of Cher’s smash hit “Believe,” Elson trades the original’s iconic pop influences and autotune for more transparent, elegant instrumentation that masterfully showcases her expressive, powerful vocals. Matching Cher’s vocals is a formidably tall order, but Elson certainly does “Believe” justice. The result is touching, tastefully stripped back and understated, yet driven inexorably forward by Elson’s restrained power.
Next up, Elson reimagines ABBA’s “Lay Your Love On Me.” Gone are the dramatic, quintessential 1980s drums, synths and bass, replaced by piano, acoustic guitar and an intimate rhythm section. Surprisingly, Elson does include a synthesizer solo. Though far more modern both sonically and stylistically, the inclusion is a heartfelt homage to ABBA’s original. Elson’s version of “Lay Your Love On Me” retains the original’s magic, updating it for a modern audience and more personal setting.
Composed of only five songs and barely 20 minutes in length, Radio Redhead, Vol. 1 is short, sweet and incredibly potent. It’s a cover album that’s strongest at its most ambitious, and nowhere is it more daring than in Elson’s rendition of Elton John’s “Sacrifice.” It’s almost impossible to compete toe-to-toe with Elton John on any front, but Elson does an admirable and impressive job of channeling the ballad’s reflective, bittersweet tone while still making the track her own. Interestingly, Elson’s version ends up sounding somewhat sadder than the original, thanks to her delicate, breathy vocals and a graceful piano accompaniment.
Later, Elson’s take on Robyn’s pop hit “Dancing on My Own” is perhaps the most significant stylistic departure on Radio Redhead, Vol. 1. Whereas the original balances poignant lyrics and subject matter with a danceable synth pop beat, Elson dials everything back a notch. Elson’s version captures the heartbreak of dejection and rejection through haunting, anhedonic vocals and acoustic instrumentation.
Though released as its lead single, Elson’s ethereal cover of Vera Lynn’s 1939 classic “We’ll Meet Again” is the EP’s closing track. In a recent press release, Elson spoke to the song’s timelessness. “It feels so poignant for the times that we’re in: with COVID, with so many of us being separated from friends and family, it just felt like the right song to sing at this time.” Radio Redhead, Vol. 1 is the first definitive sign that maybe–just maybe–everything’s looking up for 2021.