Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Songs #9 & 10 of 9999 - It's TWOsday!

Songs #9 of 9999                                Song #10 of 9999

Title: Heartbeats                                 Title: Heartbeats
Artist: José González                         Artist: The Knife
Year: 2003                                          Year: 2002
Album: Veneer                                   Album:Deep Cuts

Sometime around 2006, someone sent me a link to a Sony Bravia commercial and said, "hey, check this out" (I may be paraphrasing). I watched the video featuring 250,000 bouncy balls (we called them Super Balls as a kid, but maybe that was a brand?) tumbling down the streets of San Francisco and just marveled at the technical feat of the ad. It did not make me want to buy a Sony TV, but it did make me want to learn more about the commercial and, especially, about the singer of the beautiful song featured in the video. I eventually learned it was José González, a Swede of Argentinian descent with a melancholy voice and a nylon-string guitar (tuned to lute tuning according to a friend of mine who quickly figured out how to play the intricate arpeggios--jealous!). I bought a couple of albums, saw him play in Austin and realized pretty soon that he was just okay and hadn't written anything quite like Heartbeats.

I don't when it became known to me that the song was a cover written by the Swedish sibling pop duo The Knife, but I can remember hearing their version for the first time and being shocked by the mountain of synths and drum machines accompanying Karin Andersson's Siouxsie Sioux-like wail. I didn't hate the original version, but I just couldn't get past the difference between these two recordings, produced within a year of one another.

Over the past several years, González's version has lost a bit of its impact for me, but I still love his multi-tracked unison vocal and solemn delivery. The Sony ad has become just another commercial—still fun to look at but the thrill is gone. Only The Knife's original seems to get better with time. I never tire of it.

Interesting side note: I had never seen The Knife's video of the song and found it interesting to see skateboarders on steep inclines and floating colored balls coming out of a tractor exhaust. Coincidence?

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