Celebrate 40 years of 4AD with a variety of spectacular covers
4AD decided to celebrate a belated 40th anniversary with their newest compilation album, Bills & Aches & Blues, which brings together the multitude of artists that have become a part of the 4AD family. The London-based record label, founded in 1980, has released countless songs over the years, from indie, all the way to dream pop and gothic rock. The label’s alumni include artists like the Cocteau Twins, Modern English and the Pixies, and the label currently represents Future Islands, Grimes, Bon Iver and many others. Bills & Aches & Blues includes older songs from 4AD’s impressive history, all covered by current artists under the 4AD label. This 18-track cover album features the songs of The Breeders, Blonde Redheads, Colourbox and many more.
The compilation project starts off with “Where Is My Mind,” a Pixies song covered by Tkay Maidza, an Australian singer-songwriter. The track has an amazing electronic beat, with an uplifting tone. Maidza might’ve managed to make the already powerful “Where is my mind” refrain even more catchy. Maidza’s rendition is full of synthy beats, ready for either a full-body cathartic dance session or an introspective listen after a bit of an existential crisis. The Birthday Party’s “Junkyard” follows, covered by U.S. Girls. This cover adds a completely different vibe to the song. The Birthday Party is an Australian punk band with intense instrumentals and loud growl-like singing, whereas the U.S. Girls adds a warm, perhaps easier to swallow version of the song. Instead of loud guitar riffs, this song is built on softer cymbals and reserved drum beats. “Seabird,” the Air Miami song performed by Maria Somerville, is soft and slightly eerie. It starts off with ocean water sounds, which is maintained throughout the track, along with reverb echoing throughout the song. “Cannonball,” covered by the Tune-Yards, has a punk rock feel to it, blended together with some electronic and indie sounds. It’s a lot to keep up with initially, but the track is truly a brilliant burst of energy.
The great part about this album (and covers in general) is that you can hear a piece of each artist’s musical identity in their rendition of each song. Spencer.’s cover of “Genesis” has a wandering indie dream pop weirdness to it, making it distinctly his own. He is, of course, covering Grimes’ song, which features her signature soft, airy voice. Both versions of the song aren’t far off from each other, but they’re still each distinct in their own ways. Helado Negro’s version of Deerhunter’s “Futurism” is chilled out and subtle. It’s soft and gentle, in a dream-like way, which is completely different than the original version. Once people get to Colourbox’s “The Moon Is Blue,” they’ll know exactly who’s singing. Samuel T. Herring’s (of Future Islands fame) iconic, deep voice has a way of wrapping people in a song. This track has all the great parts of a Future Islands song, from the synth to the slight rock tone. Herring’s vocals are as infectious as ever. Grimes makes a second appearance on the album with their song “Oblivion,” covered by Dry Cleaning. Dry Cleaning adds a nice deep echo to the song, layering on the reverb, which is a huge difference between Grimes’ version of the song, which spotlights her signature high voice.
Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox covers “Mountain Battles” by The Breeders. The song is incredibly eerie, exploring a mixture of haunting keys and strings before ceasing. Cox tends to go from incredibly intense to super loud all at once. The Breeders’ original song creates an uncomfortably silent experience, and Cox does that while also creating an uncomfortably loud experience as well. It’s a track worth experiencing for oneself. The song that follows is Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren,” performed by SOHN. It’s slow, but comfortably rests on an echo that sounds solemn or forlorn. SOHN’s voice is soft but beautiful, infusing even deeper personal meaning into the song. Ex:Re’s cover of “Misery Is a Butterfly” is still soft, but not as quiet or gentle as SOHN. It starts off with a mellow violin, which guides the track throughout its runtime. It’s incredibly calming, and envelops the listener, following the voices of Ex:Re to who knows where. Big Thief’s cover of “Off You” by The Breeders marks the end of the album. It’s a mellow way to conclude the project and truly a delight to listen to. It seems slightly more upbeat than the regular Breeders’ version, with a light guitar riff beaming its way throughout the song like a ray of warm sunshine.
Bills & Aches & Blues is a fabulous agglomeration celebrating the art of indie music and the amazing artists under the 4AD label. It’s a great way to remember the artists of the past as well as the plethora of talent in the industry today. Here’s to many more years of 4AD!