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June 29, 2013 1:28 PM   Subscribe

The Darcys, decided to cover Steely Dan's Aja.

The result?

Black Cow

Aja

Deacon Blues

Peg

Home at Last

I Got the News

Josie
posted by timsteil (56 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bought Aja when I was 12-13. This is a brilliant take.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:55 PM on June 29, 2013


Not sure how I feel about this. As a long time Steely Dan fan their music, their sound is ingrained in my mind and musical memory. That sound, so tight and so layered is so clearly the Steely Dan sound. On the other hand, I haven't heard the Darcys before but they are clearly thoughtful, articulate and intelligent musicians who have approached this project with all of those characteristics evident. But they sound a bit too rock 'n roll for me and therefore a little 'off'. Of course that is no doubt the point of any new interpretation of a work of art - it needs to be a unique in its own right and not just a music 'cover'. So maybe I need to listen some more.
posted by vac2003 at 2:01 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really want to like this. If I hadn't listened to Aja to the point where it's practically sonically tattooed into my bones, I probably could. They all sound like interesting covers. I'm going to find some of their other stuff and then come back to this, take the long way around to giving this a good listen I guess.
posted by nevercalm at 2:34 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really liked their take on "Josie". Not as won over by "Peg", but that may be me. Don't have time to go through the others now but I will later. Thanks for posting this -- it's a cool project.
posted by mosk at 2:56 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, what a tough album to cover. I'd never heard of the Darcys before but tremendous respect for the effort. I'm not entirely sold on it but there are lots of great moments that beautifully blend that quintessential '70s sound of Steely Dan with more contemporary aesthetics. And you really hear it when you listen to several tracks in a row. It feels like they covered the entire album and not just a bunch of songs.
posted by bfootdav at 3:16 PM on June 29, 2013


They made the record even less funky than Donald and Walter. That's a remarkable achievement.

I'm actually a big Steely Dan fan.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:31 PM on June 29, 2013


As a big Dan fan, I was prepared to hate it. But I don't. It's nice when you find something unexpected like this. Thanks for posting it.
posted by jabo at 4:00 PM on June 29, 2013


This is god awful shit. Sorry folks - their lead singer can't sing. Let the brickbats fly but these songs are crap of the highest order. Horrible, horrible idea.

Steely Dan is an amazing band, and this crew couldn't even write a car commercial with their sound.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:21 PM on June 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm afraid I agree. This just makes me want to listen to real Steely Dan.
posted by Miko at 4:25 PM on June 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Remember back when musicians could play their instruments? Steely Dan was a prime example of that, and this, unfortunately is not. Chalk it up to me being an old cranky bastard, but I don't detect a whole lot of basic skill, here.

At least they didn't just tell a computer to do it though, so there's that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:53 PM on June 29, 2013


I made it 1:14 into the cover of "Peg" and bailed. Never heard of the Darcys before, but seems like their talents, such as they are, would be better directed elsewhere.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 5:06 PM on June 29, 2013


Is it a stylistic choice to sing that far behind the beat? It really ruins the groove for me.
posted by Mapes at 5:55 PM on June 29, 2013


I LOVE Steely Dan. One of my favourite-ever bands. I have childhood memories of my Dad playing "Ricky Don't Lose That Number" and "Peg" around the house.

Just listened to "Peg" cover, and I'm impressed. The singer's voice is very much of the "indie rock" stye of singing, and I can see how some people might be out off by that, but they NAILED the harmonies, and that's no walk in the park. I'd never thought this song could be an up-tempo, minor key rocker but do they ever pull it off...
posted by tantrumthecat at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2013


At least they didn't just tell a computer to do it though, so there's that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:53 PM on June 29 [+] [!]


I've been doing electronic music for nearly 20 years.

There is NO such thing as "telling the computer to do it".
posted by tantrumthecat at 6:04 PM on June 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Looping a 10-second sample for 5 minutes isn't really quite the same thing as playing a groove for 5 minutes with your hands without fucking it up. No point in arguing the aesthetics of electronic music versus organic, as that's truly a derail, and I like lots of electronic music, so I didn't mean that as a jab at the genre at all.

I think what gets me down is all the quantization, auto tuning, repeated flying-in of phrases & generally killing-of-soul that's taken over the pop world in the name of efficiency.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:19 PM on June 29, 2013


I listened to all of it. The word "samey" comes to mind. The Dan is a hard "band" to re-contextualize, especially this way.

Is this shoegaze? Drone? I can't see anyone looking the audience in the eye while doing this. It's real low energy to me for the most part, guess I'm just not into the sound.

It's cool to attempt it, and "Aja" led to a video of the Amazing Steve Gadd drumming.

YMMV.
posted by djrock3k at 6:32 PM on June 29, 2013


Very interesting. I believe I understand their intent. It is similar to that of Pamplamoose's September. The purpose is to question the nature of music itself.

These artists, through a process I call "de-soulification", carefully excise what was emotionally compelling in the original. Leaving sounds and words to be analyzed and appreciated in the most detached way possible, and concentrated irony.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:10 PM on June 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ad hom, you are an excellent gentleman.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:21 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let me preface this by saying the Dan is my Man, I own everything I can get my hands on, and the only people who have doubted me, and have found dazed in A-frames where my number has recently been janked off the wall.

I traded a dime bag of weed to a guy for the last copy of Aja in our small town record store as he was walking out with it. Man did I get a lot of new friends all of a sudden.

I'm mixed on this too.

"Peg" seems the worst of the lot, but I can give it a bit of love just for doing it.

"Aja" seems to work as well. And as big of a fan I am of it all, I'll give it a listen thrice. The more I hear, the more I can deal.

Biggest gap is in a backbeat I think. I can live with odd versions, but put some snap in it lads. Jesus christ, listen to the original again eh?

Not that Fagen was the best singer in the world, but agree this guy is less. But they come at it with true heart, and if you watch that second link, they kinda show their thought process.

Take it for what it is. They tried hard, did their best, and didn't fuck up all that bad.
posted by timsteil at 7:28 PM on June 29, 2013


I feel kind of insulted by it. Like, tricked but not in any fun kind of way. *shrug*. I dunno.

Here, look. You see all that stuff in there, Homer? That's why your robot never worked!


Fagen was the best Steely Dan singer ever.
posted by petebest at 7:42 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have any real objection to this, but I think they'd be better suited to cover Jeff Buckley's Grace. This just seems to take all the oomph out of Fagen's understated caustic delivery and the Dan's silky yacht-i-ness.
posted by not_on_display at 7:48 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Biggest gap is in a backbeat I think.

AbsoLUTely. The way SD could project both metronomic precision/control and sauve, detached cool in the same set of rhythm tracks is really their signature for me. That and the variety of percussion styles and the melange of influences on it. I feel like, if you aren't going to honor that part of their work, you're not really getting what their work is about.
posted by Miko at 7:52 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I tried to like this. I listened to it all and in some cases twice. That's more effort than I put into a lot of things I don't like in the first 35 seconds, so...

Anyway - my first thought. You know that skit Eddie Murphy does in ... maybe RAW, where he's like 7 and his friends get McDonalds, and he wants McDonalds, but his mom can't afford it and so she makes him a burger, but it's got green peppers and corn flakes and whatnot - and at the end, he's all "That's not McDonalds Burger, that's a WELFARE burger!" and we all laugh and carry on ?

That. This is a weak imitation that now makes me want to listen to actual Aja by actual Steely Dan.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:46 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just no. The world's most boring band can't take on one of the world's most interesting albums. I mean, I guess I can empathize with loving SD and wanting to pay homage or something but this music didn't need a bunch of hirsute Canadians' "take" on it. There's no "our own spin" on fucking Aja, son!
posted by little mouth at 8:56 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, this was just terrible. "Peg" was like the worst 90s major label fake-indie bands. Way too much echo and a singer doing a sort of off-key tuneless falsetto. I was hoping to like it, but honestly after 3 minutes of the talking documentary intro I was like, god, these are the most boring, pretentious people ever. When I go into the bathroom at Chik-Fil-A and they have this generic instrumental indie-sounding Muzak station on, it's a bit like this.

On the plus side it does make be appreciate Steely Dan even more.

Also I feel terrible saying this but when my wife heard it she said "are these guys Canadian or something"?
posted by freecellwizard at 9:01 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pretentious shit.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:02 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


No sir, I didn't like it.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:04 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also I feel terrible saying this but when my wife heard it she said "are these guys Canadian or something"?

freecell: For the love of God, just in case you missed it in the thread please tell her they REALLY ARE CANADIAN!

half Canadian here. I'm so sorry about postin that eh? Tim Hortons then?
posted by timsteil at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2013


Well, they're sure no April Wine, eh?
posted by not_on_display at 9:12 PM on June 29, 2013


Nope. I'm a pretty hardcore Steely Dan fan and I just can't - it's too something for me. Steely Dan's studio records have so much happening on them - so much layering and so many sounds that the songs seem to be multidirectional. Little mini cosmos in each one. These covers are too discordant and tied up for me to appreciate them.
posted by PuppyCat at 9:17 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, they're sure no April Wine, eh?
posted by not_on_display at 11:12 PM on June 29 [+] [!]


Can we just make this the new MeFi snark response? And how do we sneak this line onto a late night show.?
posted by timsteil at 9:23 PM on June 29, 2013


Nope. I'm a pretty hardcore Steely Dan fan and I just can't - it's too something for me. Steely Dan's studio records have so much happening on them - so much layering and so many sounds that the songs seem to be multidirectional. Little mini cosmos in each one. These covers are too discordant and tied up for me to appreciate them.

Thank you PuppyCat for putting into words much better than I did what was going on here for me. Perhaps as a New Zealander I felt an instinctive, subconscious empathy for these Canadians.... but, this just doesn't work for me. Nope.
posted by vac2003 at 9:23 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many love The Dan because they are so slick, so meticulous, so obsessive, so perfect.

I like all that stuff fine, but I mostly love them because they write interesting songs. Everyone should try to cover their songs more often.

If you missed it, the video for Josie adds a complex interpretation to the narrative...
posted by ovvl at 9:24 PM on June 29, 2013


Wow, you people really like Steely Dan.
posted by item at 11:02 PM on June 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here I spent a happy hour watching the program on the making of Aja yesterday on YT (it's already been taken down, sigh) and reflecting on growing up in Vegas when Steely Dan were putting these records out, and then I see this link. I think, well, ok, let's see. Made it through about 30 seconds.
posted by dougfelt at 11:58 PM on June 29, 2013


This just makes me want to listen to real Steely Dan.

It takes a pretty bad band to mess up Steely Dan's music. These are horrible covers.

Here, on the other hand, are some tremendous covers of Becker and Fagan's terrific songs from two Swedish Jazz artists:

Barrytown

Josie

Gaucho
posted by three blind mice at 12:05 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


three blind mice Thanks for these. Really, really like their take on Barrytown. That's what I call a cover: respectful of the original and at the same time respectful of their own traditions. Cool.
posted by vac2003 at 12:14 AM on June 30, 2013


I think what gets me down is all the quantization, auto tuning, repeated flying-in of phrases & generally killing-of-soul that's taken over the pop world in the name of efficiency.

A Steely Dan fan complaining about killing of soul? Now I've heard everything.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:29 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Loved it. Listened to Aja first. Lovely. Yes I've read the comments before mine. With a little thought, it's not hard to understand why this would get panned, though as usual I can't help being a little saddened by the unanimity. So most people who like Steely Dan like them uncritically and bristle if their music is covered in non-Steely-Dan terms? Jeez. Boring.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 3:00 AM on June 30, 2013


"Sacred cows make the best hamburger" - Abbie Hoffman

Nobody could ever treat the Dan more reverently than they treat themselves, and their music and aesthetic cries out for some deconstruction. But The Darcys engage the material respectfully, and consequently don't do a whole lot with it. Mildly creative indie rock cover versions of Steely Dan is not what the world needs, but I appreciate the effort.

I liked the Deacon Blues.
posted by bonefish at 4:18 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Covers of Aja songs you say? Hmmm. No thanks.
posted by nowhere man at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2013


battle apple is shined up
posted by thelonius at 7:31 AM on June 30, 2013


Every band should try to cover Aja.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:52 AM on June 30, 2013


That was a stinkbomb. They do not understand what they are covering enough to reinvent it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to completely agree with LipstickThespian and Devils Rancher. This is horrific. Besides what they said, the lead singer has a wimpy voice and, more importantly, there' s also wrong chords all over the place. You don't do that with the mastery that is Steely Dan. It wrecks everything. This just sucks.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:38 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every band should try to cover Aja.

In one take. After reading through the sheet music while eating a sandwich.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:39 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Steely Dan fan complaining about killing of soul? Now I've heard everything

Okay, you're not the biggest Dan fan. Marvin Gaye's Let's Get it On wasn't goddam auto-tuned, quantized, copy-and-pasted, or looped, either. I'm mostly bemoaning the Taylor Swift phenomenon, and I am also a grumpy curmudgeon, but I'm not required to like the computerized pop that's being released today, nor to recognize it as a form of artistry on the level of the musicianship on display on the Dan's albums.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:49 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, I do like Steely Dan and Aja is in fact one of my favourite albums; my wife having introduced me to them. It's just that they're the perfect exemplar of a certain style of seventies technical proficiency over soul so it's always funny to hear a fan complain about other bands using technology to create the perfect sound...
posted by MartinWisse at 9:57 AM on June 30, 2013


Guess it depends on what you consider the perfect sound, then. Human is perfect enough for me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I listened to Aja.

Meh.

What I like about Steely Dan (and I heard and liked the music as a child without listening until I was 13-14) is that, regardless of their looping themselves around and back again musically in a song, there was a sense of presence. It's the blend of lyrics, musicianship, and Fagen's singing where, when you listen to their songs, there's something emotional and compelling going on. When I hear the Dan's Aja, I'm up with his character on that hill as he tries to convince himself he's better and smarter than the people he's selling drugs to, but he's upset that they disdain him, he harbors resentment toward them, and he's trying not to feel it (that was my interpretation of this song at 14, and I'm sticking with it).

The Dan has always had a sense of narrative that pulls you in like any good storyteller, and The Darcys don't seem to get it. Maybe they don't want to get it, but what I heard just felt like so much noodle-y wanking.
posted by droplet at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So most people who like Steely Dan like them uncritically and bristle if their music is covered in non-Steely-Dan terms? Jeez. Boring.

I don't see how not enjoying a bad cover version has anything to do with whether I like Steely Dan critically or uncritically.

These covers are not strong enough to offer a critique of Steely Dan, so it's not that I'm unwilling to critique them, it's that this particular group are a long, long way from adept or insightful enough to do it. There is no critique here for me to engage. Nothing interesting is being asserted. The central messages they cite in their interview video as their critiques are really very weak and shallow. So it's still very possible for me to critique the Steely Dan that I like, and still not like this band's work.
posted by Miko at 8:12 PM on June 30, 2013


So most people who like Steely Dan like them uncritically and bristle if their music is covered in non-Steely-Dan terms? Jeez. Boring.

No, see, now what's boring for ME is that an indie band barely got the melodies right and their lead singer sounds like he's going through Brady Bunch-level puberty.

They didn't do anything unique or original with this. And they did it really badly on top of it.

Steely Dan is a fantastic band because no one else sounds like that. There hasn't been another rock band (at least that I can think of) that has come along since they began that can do what they do.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:51 AM on July 1, 2013


Sorry, Charlie, Starkist we want's tunas Steely Dans that taste good.
posted by tommasz at 5:34 AM on July 1, 2013


Every band should try to cover Aja.

It would kind of be the musical equivalent of the Kobyashi Maru test for up-and-coming bands.
posted by aught at 7:20 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like this cover album. And this thread makes me sad. Not because people don't seem to like it. That's fine. Taste is fine. You don't have to like it. And there are a lot of well-written negative comments too, actually.

But I'm annoyed by some of the weirdly vague and lazy critiques being thrown around.

> They didn't do anything unique or original with this.

Well, they did take the opposite approach from Steely Dan's trademark shimmering clarity and made a sloppy, broodingly dark record full of reverb and weird noise layers, guitar feedback squeals, and free-floating off-time guitar solos.

Removing the precision drumming is ambitious. (Unfortunately the "drum machine" doesn't make up for it... the album could be much improved there).

Transposing Josie to a minor key is pretty neat, and the vocal layering works well on that track.

> Pretentious shit.

Pretentious is an interesting word. It implies that the artists produced something willfully obtuse, intending to confound a listener. I don't hear that all. I hear some artists who tried to take an excellent album and explore different dimensions of it. You could certainly argue that they were not up to the task and produced sub-par work, but I don't think their intent was to deliberately mislead you.

> These artists, through a process I call "de-soulification", carefully excise what was emotionally compelling in the original. Leaving sounds and words to be analyzed and appreciated in the most detached way possible, and concentrated irony.

The idea here seems to be that any lack of reverence to Aja must be an attempt to attack it and tear it down. I guess because it's perfect or something. To even question it, to try and do it a different way, is to create a monster.

Do you honestly believe the intent of these artists was not to make something extraordinary, new, and beautiful?

> This is god awful shit. Sorry folks - their lead singer can't sing. Let the brickbats fly but these songs are crap of the highest order. Horrible, horrible idea.

Seriously? Compared to Donald Fagen? Or are you merely saying you hate how this singer's delivery is so low-key and flat (Neil Young-ian) compared to Fagen's strained operatic sliding around? (Yeah, I don't have the vocabulary to critique singing).

Steely Dan is an amazing band, and this crew couldn't even write a car commercial with their sound.

Well, that's why they didn't try to ape their sound, just the chords and words.
posted by sixohsix at 11:45 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I fave sixohsix. I like the Darcys. No-one can ever be as Danesque or Danish as The Dan itself, but I do like honest experiments.
posted by ovvl at 6:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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