Girl Crisis
June 22, 2012 10:43 AM   Subscribe

The female bandmembers of Chairlift, Au Revoir Simone, Class Actress, and This Frontier Needs Heroes get together with "an essentially revolving cast of indie Brooklyn sirens, twice a year in a living room in Greenpoint to cover a single, classic song that they learn and arrange right before they perform. Calling themselves Girl Crisis, the group covers a classic (mostly a capella) from a male artist each Winter and a female artist each Summer. The performances are are filmed with a Super 8 camera, are not open to the public and exist only online. Their latest: Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To The End of Love". (Via)

Previous Covers:

* Ace of Base: The Sign
* Black Sabbath: Paranoid
* Chris Isaak: Wicked Game
* Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit
* Nirvana: Come As You Are
* Sade: Smooth Operator
* Taylor Dayne: Tell It To My Heart
posted by zarq (44 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Friends, I fear we may have reached Peak Twee.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:54 AM on June 22, 2012 [24 favorites]

Those were really incredible right up to the point where Christopher Walken shows up in drag demanding 'MORE WOODBLOCK!'
posted by carsonb at 11:00 AM on June 22, 2012

That's really nice sound for a Brooklyn apartment. Is that really the sound from them sitting in that room, or do they re-record?
posted by Bookhouse at 11:02 AM on June 22, 2012

On the other hand, Chris Isaak completely undoes them.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:03 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

That may be the creepiest, most David Lynchian performance of The Sign I've ever heard.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:03 AM on June 22, 2012

"The Sign" looks like the opening credits sequence of a David Fincher film about a serial killer who's also in a barbershop quartet.
posted by xingcat at 11:07 AM on June 22, 2012

It's like outtakes from The Saddest Music in the World!
posted by Drab_Parts at 11:11 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

"But Miss Youngblood's room, actually a parlor where she slept and did her lessons, was infinitely more difficult to turn into something distasteful. The mere fact that the girl didn't have her own room and merely slept in the hallway gave off delightful and intoxicating meanings. There was in it the great transiency of our century, the schoolgirl's nomadic life and something like carpe diem that linked up, through mysterious transfigurations, with the sleek automobile-engendered nature of present-day youth. One would suppose that she falls asleep instantly, as soon as she lays her little head (not just head; schoolgirls had eyes--but they still had 'little heads') on her pillow, and this in turn brought to mind the speed and intensity of contemporary life. Moreover, in the absence of a bedroom, sensu stricto, it was impossible for me to do again what I had done in the Youngbloods' bedroom. The schoolgirl actually slept in public, not in private, she had no private life at night, and this hard public life united her with Europe, America, with Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, with labor camps, flag waving, hotels, railroad stations, giving her an immensely wide scope, eliminating the need for a room of her own. Her bedsheets, stashed in the hideaway sofa, had an auxiliary character, they could at most be an accessory to sleep. There was no dressing table. The schoolgirl looked at herself in a wall mirror. She had no little hand mirror. By her sofa there was a small black table, such as any schoolgirl might have, on which lay books and notebooks. On the notebooks--a nailfile, on the window-sill--a penknife, a cheap pen for six zlotys, an apple, a sports program, photographs of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, a pack of opium-laced cigarettes, a toothbrush, a tennis shoe with a flower in it, a carnation, discarded inadvertently. And that was all. How modest, yet how powerful!

I stopped by the carnation in silence--I couldn't help but admire the schoolgirl! What skill! By tossing the flower into the shoe she killed two partridges with one stone--she spiced love with sports, and she seasoned sports with love! She had tossed the flower into a sweaty tennis shoe rather than into an ordinary shoe because she knew that flowers aren't hurt by athlete's sweat alone. By associating athletic sweat with the flower she was imposing a favorable connection with her sweat in general, she made it into something flowerlike and sporty. Oh, masterful girl! While the old-fashioned, naive, and ordinary girls grew azaleas in flowerpots, she had tossed a flower into a shoe, and a sports shoe at that! And--oh, the rascal--she surely did it unconsciously, inadvertently!

I wondered what to do with this conundrum! Should I throw the flower into the sink? Stick it into the bearded beggar's trap? Yet these mechanical and artificial measures would merely help to circumvent the real difficulty, no, the flower had to be destroyed right where it was, not by physical violence but by psychological violence The bearded man, the green twig in the thicket of his beard, stood true and steadfast under the window, a fly buzzed on the windowpane, and from the kitchen came the housemaid's tedious clamor as Kneadus tried to prevail upon her to be his farmhand, somewhere in the distance a streetcar squealed around a bend in the tracks--I stood among those strains and stresses, smiling dubiously--the fly buzzed louder. I caught it, tore off its legs and wings, I turned it into a suffering, dolorous, frightful, and metaphysical little ball, not quite round, but most definitely abysmal, I placed it in the flower, and softly lay both inside the shoe..."

Witold Gombrowicz, Ferdydurke
posted by R. Schlock at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Bookhouse: "Is that really the sound from them sitting in that room, or do they re-record?"

Per a different stereogum article, it's recorded in that room.
posted by zarq at 11:18 AM on June 22, 2012

"filmed with a Super 8 camera ... exist only online." These things seem incongruous.
posted by statolith at 11:18 AM on June 22, 2012

I wanted to hate, but I saw The Sign, and it opened up my eyes. I am happy now.

oo oo ooo oo ooo
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:23 AM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

I am usually the *last* person to hate on hipsters. Frankly until this moment, I just never understood the hate. But then I watched "Come as you are" and I reborn.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great typo in the stereogum article:

"a male icon in the winter, female in the sumer"

I think Female in the Sumer was on Cohens latest album actually.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:10 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I just never understood the hate.

Well, life is demanding without understanding.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:11 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Guilty As Charged, :55, awesome.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:12 PM on June 22, 2012

They sound great - sparse and haunting. I like the simplicity but I could do without the use of the Super 8, which seems a little bit of an overreach at... something.
posted by entropone at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

This was pretty, I liked it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Prepared to dislike, but like.
posted by Isadorady at 12:37 PM on June 22, 2012

Only available online? Pshaw! If they really wanted to be hip, this would be a VHS only release. Better: betamax! That would show us!

If that's not an actual thing, I'm not sure why not. Makes about as much sense as cassette releases, yeah?
posted by hap_hazard at 12:45 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Working for me: "The Sign", "Dance Me To The End Of Love", "Come As You Are", "Paranoid"

Not not working, exactly, but not really totally working: "Smooth Operator"

Absolutely not working for me: "White Rabbit", "Wicked Game", "Tell It To My Heart"

I would not have expected things to break out this way.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:51 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well I guess I'll be the one to say that I'll never complain about a room full of talented, sweet-voiced, gorgeous hipster girls.
posted by naju at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

from a male artist each Winter and a female artist each Summer.

The eccentric capitalization had me hoping it was Edgar and Donna, respectively.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I quite like and am somewhat familiar with Elizabeth Harper. She's usually got more of a moody 80s synth-pop vibe.
posted by Diablevert at 3:03 PM on June 22, 2012

Do they take requests? They totally need to do Total Eclipse of the Heart.
posted by sammyo at 3:07 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wanted to hate, but I saw The Sign, and it opened up my eyes.

It's a pretty perfect pop song. It's hard to screw that one up.

I think the Leonard Cohen cover is the best. Not surprising considering the source materials.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well. That is, um, that certainly is quite, ah, quite a lot of tags there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:23 PM on June 22, 2012

I'm super creeped out by these. It's like the soundtrack for a Sophia Coppola-redirect horror movie.
posted by marylynn at 3:34 PM on June 22, 2012

I know and love 3 of the 4 groups mentioned (to the point I've listened to them all in the past 24 hours), and I enjoy the songs I've listened to thus far. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!
posted by inigo2 at 3:57 PM on June 22, 2012

"filmed with a Super 8 camera ... exist only online." These things seem incongruous.

...and are only accessible online.

posted by inigo2 at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2012

Too twee and (self-aware? Contrived? Not sure exactly why this is a little twitchy for me exactly) for my taste.
posted by smirkette at 4:48 PM on June 22, 2012

Trolling around for something to listen to at work, I set the Girl Crisis youtube account to play the songs one after another and listened through while working on other stuff. Having done that, I'll say that the Super 8 aesthetic adds A LOT to the group's work. It's hyper-cool (said in the dreariest of french accents, natch) that these performers have come together and decided to work in the way that they have, so infrequently, so sparsely, and in such a contrived manner, but all that junk just doesn't do much for the songs they're covering. I think there's a reason a capella groups meet and practice frequently—those arrangements don't come easy. And Wicked Game is a cruel fucking note to sing for anyone not named Chris Isaak.

In the end, yes, these attain peak twee. Brooklyn, women, cheeky covers, single-mic, Super 8, but sadly not much in the actual musical performance department.
posted by carsonb at 5:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't tell if it's the arrangements or the recording, but there's a high school choral quality to these that I'm digging in a nostalgia kind of way. It's like the best girls from the choir of an experimental private school had a reunion and decided that they might as well do it in Greenpoint since they all lived there anyway.
posted by lunasol at 6:34 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really need to show this to my severely hipster Leonard Cohen fan friends. They might die of hip overload. (I liked it. I will be checking out the acts I don't already know.)
posted by immlass at 6:53 PM on June 22, 2012

hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip hip none of these bands are really even that hip
posted by nathancaswell at 6:57 PM on June 22, 2012

but Chairlift = good, sorry I have been drinking
posted by nathancaswell at 6:59 PM on June 22, 2012

I am not charmed by the Super 8. I think it's cooler to reach for the new and the uncomfortably weird instead of the comfortably quirky. Had I my druthers they'd've recorded the video with a high-framerate high def digital camera. Really emphazied the in-an-apartment-in-Brooklyn, these-are-actual-human-beings-doing-art-with-talent aspect of it. More live, like I was actual there--because I wish I had been.

As it is, though, it's amazing and I'm not complaining. I am a little mystified. Does super-8 make sense to cool people? Maybe I'm just too Mid-Western.
posted by wires at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2012

I really enjoyed that. But as much as I love Leonard Cohen, and covers thereof, the definitive Dance Me To The End Of Love has, for me, to be Thalia Zedek's. It just captures something – Cohen as bridge between Old Europe and New America*, Cohen as Jewish folk song troubadour, Jewish Eastern European lament as rendered by musicians plugged into Appalachian (and therefore Scots/Irish) folk modes. It's ... I dunno. But every time it comes on, it makes me stop and shiver.

*Yes, yes, Cohen is Canadian, let's say that "New America" is a stand-in for North American (as a whole) society.
posted by Len at 7:16 PM on June 22, 2012

I actually like many of the bands that participate, but this rubbed me the wrong way. If they didn't have the pedigree and the Super 8 and the Brooklyn whatever and were just very shy teenage girls wanly singing in choir class, I'd be less put off (though I don't know why I'd be listening). I expected to like it, and really didn't. Not that there needs to be an edge, but that was the sound equivalent of tepid melted ice cream.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 7:39 PM on June 22, 2012

Is that really the sound from them sitting in that room, or do they re-record?

It sounds like they added some artificial reverb.
posted by speicus at 3:38 AM on June 23, 2012

A group of five or six girls from the music sorority at college used to just casually show up in the cafeteria or the student union, do a carefully arranged a capella version of a current hit song, and then drift out, proto-flashmob style. They were pretty good, and their "performances" were spaced out far enough to always take people by surprise.

This super-8 version seems to coincide with my fuzzy memories of those, so it worked for me.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:33 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thumbs down, they're too blurred for me.
posted by anadem at 8:20 PM on June 23, 2012

Jesus, this is what happens when the Langley Schools Music Project grows up.

(Previously, with dead link.)
posted by mendel at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2012

Seriously, though, it's just not that... musically interesting to me. What they're doing and the actual words they're singing are completely unrelated. I listened to Dance Me.. and Wicked Game and they could be the same song. And that's why it reminded me of Langely, it's this weird disconnected "do these (schoolchildren, girls) even know what they're singing about" feeling. It's beyond twee, because you can have twee shoegazy meaningful music, but this is not that, it's just... these girls don't seem to care about the actual musical art that they're covering.

Maybe that's the point, maybe there being an actual song in the video is just an aside, in which case I'll file it under "I don't get it", but there's clearly work being put into choosing particular kinds of songs, but that work stops after they choose it.

On the other hand, Thalia Zedek's cover of Dance Me... that Len linked to is, well, everything Len said there. Zedek clearly chose that song to cover with purpose, and every word she sings is full of intention and the whole effect matches the song and Zedek and the connections between the song and Zedek and Lenny and, well, everything Len said there.

(It didn't help that Dance Me... is kind of like playing the hard level for Girl Crisis -- Lenny knew how to love and knew how to womanize and knew how to capture all of that in his poetry and songs, and there's a certain weariness and confidence that you can't cover him without.)
posted by mendel at 8:24 PM on June 24, 2012

Lenny knew how to love and knew how to womanize and knew how to capture all of that in his poetry and songs, and there's a certain weariness and confidence that you can't cover him without.

For *some* of this songs...

Jennifer Warnes - Song Of Bernadette
posted by mrgrimm at 9:47 AM on June 25, 2012

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