Such Great Heights (cover)

March 25, 2012 7:32 AM

I've always had a soft spot for this Postal Service song, so here's an acoustic cover featuring resonator guitar, pump organ, and ten copies of me. Lighters out for the last chorus, please.

posted by unSane (21 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Pretty stuff. My brain wants to wrestle angrily with your altered phrasing of the main chorus line, but I like that it's a confident sort of rephrasing. And I love the counterpoint at the end against the variant phrasing.
posted by cortex at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2012

Ha, re the phrasing, I couldn't sing the triplets and simultaneously play the straight time on the fingerpicked guitar, which is how I learned this, so that's just how it ended up. I should probably work on that because the phrasing is part of what sells the original song, you're right.
posted by unSane at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2012

also I can't believe I'm saying this but it really needs a banjo in that little instrumental break before the final chorus
posted by unSane at 10:06 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The phrasing thing is more of a thing that it's just iconic of the original recording. I don't think it's that it doesn't work with the altered phrasing at all—it works fine, and again with the counterpoint at the end works very well even—so much as that it's not going to pass subtly by someone's notice to be remarked upon only on the third listen. It's such a fundamental tweak of a core aspect of the song that it stands out and honks you on the nose. For better or worse, and there are far worse things than a cover where you don't even notice what's different from the original, so hey.

This is one of those songs that I always think about covering and never get around to. Maybe I'll give it a go at some point. I actually had worked out a little bit of a weird sort of almost scat jazz-bop thing that reworked the phrasing of the vocal line really, really aggressively, turned it into like a fast-talking patter, but I liked the first line okay and didn't really fall in love with the idea as it played out over the rest of the song. Maybe I'll come back to it.
posted by cortex at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2012

Most satisfying cover of this song in a long time. I would love to hear a version with more banjo, too, though!
posted by MHPlost at 10:14 PM on March 25, 2012

Charming, mellow and very listenable. A mandolin in preference to a banjo though......

Good production - nice a clean and simple. I'd like to hear this even more stark and dry - remember Rod Stewart's seminal Mercury albums from way back when?

And I love the little buzzing string in the fadeout - that's the sort of tiny little accidental nuance that makes things real.
posted by MajorDundee at 5:55 AM on March 26, 2012

Yeah, there is a very mandolin-y guitar part (capoed way up the neck) that my friend Jason came up with for this... I don't know why I didn't use that for the rhythm part. I wanted the banjo to poke through in the midrange where the flatpicked resonator is now.

Those Rod Stewart recordings! You mean stuff like Every Picture and Gasoline Alley? My brother used to play those continually. Man, they are BONE dry.
posted by unSane at 8:05 AM on March 26, 2012

Yup - them's them. I've grown to like those records (as recordings) more and more over the years. I think it takes a bit of nerve to hold off on the reverb/delay - there's no hiding place with that approach, everything is starkly on display. But it can have a warmth and immediacy that's hard to beat. And you tend to get rid of a lot of that subliminal clutter washing around in the back of a mix, so the recordings are cleaner. It's somethng I'm trying to get closer too doing - but it's kind of difficult to be totally comfortable with. Gutless, basically!
posted by MajorDundee at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2012

I always think of that as the LA sound -- they had just gotten the big multitrack machines and they no longer had to track everyone playing together at once, plus they had all sorts of treatment to deaden the sound in the studios.

What you get if you don't use anything is the sound of the room you're recording in which may or may not be OK... my attic sounds quite nice, just a little slapback, but the room downstairs where I recorded this rings like crazy because it's a cube with a wooden floor and not much in the way of soft furnishings and no curtains.

I agree it takes a lot of guts -- it's like walking down the street naked. Some of us look better clothed!

I did just use one reverb on the whole thing though, mostly on the BVs.
posted by unSane at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2012

I always think of that as the LA sound -- they had just gotten the big multitrack machines and they no longer had to track everyone playing together at once, plus they had all sorts of treatment to deaden the sound in the studios.

totally. I always think of fleetwood mac that way.
posted by dubold at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2012

Agree re Fleetwood Mac - a very dry sound (as I write this I'm hearing in my head the opening drum fill of Dreams). But good.

It's fascinating how the musical zeitgeist in terms of overall sound changes through the decades. Interesting too to speculate on the reasons for that - mostly, I'd hazard, triggered by technology rather than pure musical innovation (?). The upfront drums in the '80's owed a lot to new-fangled drum machines, for instance - so technology was to some extent driving things rather than musicians. I was listening to a load of old Motown stuff in the car last week (always had a big soft spot for Motown) and remarking to myself how some of it - particularly the early stuff - was drenched in reverb. But as the recording quality improved (very noticeable) the sound began to change and became dryer. Which kind of ties in with your point about the dead studio sound born out of the necessity of 3-track machines. But, ironically, as the number of tracks increased the records started not to sound like Motown any more....
posted by MajorDundee at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2012

The change in the Motown sound was totally because of a change in the studio equipment. I think they had some incredible Rube Goldberg 3-track recorder in Studio A that they recorded all the classic hits on, and a handmade desk. One mic for the drums, no overdubs, that kind of thing. Tubes overdriving every which way. You can see it here. I think that strange object next to the Hammond is one of the custom built units, probably a source mixer or something.
posted by unSane at 12:39 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love that chorus. Thank you.
posted by circular at 9:49 PM on March 26, 2012

As directed, my lighter is out for the last chorus. However, Japanese ceilings are pretty low, and I don't want a black spot up there, so I'm putting it away now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:31 PM on March 26, 2012

God I love that pump organ.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:43 PM on March 26, 2012

Very pretty, I kept hoping to hear some drums and horns chime in a la Beirut.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

beautiful, kid. almost thought it was going to be too OCD clean for me, but then the spooky 80s harmony vox on the chorus comes in to kill me.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:47 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This song was special to me and a former special someone at a time about which Ihave very mixed feelings, and I've got to say this cover is breaking my fucking heart -- but only in the best possible way (that way where you feel something so hard that you know you're alive and that the mistakes you made in the past were still, for the most part, mistakes you'd make all over again)

In other, less soul-bearing terms, thanks very much for this!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:20 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. The chorus is so damn triumphant.
posted by ORthey at 11:47 AM on July 1, 2012

This is really, really good.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:02 PM on August 2, 2012

Yeah, this is great! I don't really like the original-- and the Iron & Wine cover (yawn) even less so-- but totally dug this.
posted by threeants at 9:42 PM on January 14, 2013

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