The Late Movies: Covers of the Pixies

The Pixies have had a special place in my heart since I discovered Doolittle in 1996 -- three years after the band had broken up and seven years after the album was released. I used to listen to that tape on repeat as I walked to class, from class, even sometimes in class. I was most pleased when the band reunited years later and began touring -- and they're still at it. If you can't catch the real Pixies live, maybe you'll enjoy these covers of some of their songs.

"Wave of Mutilation" - OK Go

Live, acoustic, in a tent. Note that OK Go have covered virtually every Pixies song I can think of -- just go a-Googlin' and you'll find nice versions of lots of Pixies favorites covered by these guys.

See also Beck's version.

"Cactus" - David Bowie & Moby

Goofy but fun. There's even a clap-along at one point.

"Cactus" - The Swell Season

At Coachella, 2008. Glen breaks a string almost immediately and eventually throws in some lines from "Subbacultcha." Lovely and crazy, just like it should be.

"Debaser" - Rogue Wave

A poppy, upbeat take on the opening track from Doolittle.

"The Holiday Song" - James Mercer

On a local Portland, Oregon radio station (KBOO), James Mercer of The Shins and Broken Bells performs a solo acoustic cover of "The Holiday Song."

"Mr. Grieves" - TV on the Radio

Insanely complex a capella (plus possibly a bass, or a really good bass singer?) version of this track from Doolittle.

"Here Comes Your Man" - Teenage Fanclub

You wouldn't believe how many awful, awful covers of this song are on YouTube after 500 Days of Summer came out. I like this one (pre-500 Days, of course).

"Where is My Mind?" - James Blunt

A very pretty cover -- the keyboards are a nice touch.

"Into the White" - Julian Plenti

Paul Banks (of Interpol) rocks this one out -- complete with cello.

"Gigantic" - The Breeders

Arguably cheating since, of course, The Breeders are fronted by Kim Deal. But still, this is lots of fun. Apparently from Tokyo, 2003. Keep an eye out for Kelley belting out the choruses.

"Winterlong" - Pixies (Neil Young)

In case you haven't heard this sweet B-side, this is my favorite Pixies cover -- in this case, they're covering Neil Young. Live in Boston, 2008?

Post Your Favorites

There are zillions more Pixies covers online -- if you'd like to dig for fire and post it, I'd be blown away. (Sorry.)

New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists

Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice

Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]


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