Paul Simon’s “Graceland” from the album of the same name is a pretty notable song. Written during a roadtrip to the home of Elvis after the dissolution of his marriage to Carrie Fisher, Simon himself considers it one of the best songs he’s ever written which, given that he wrote “Sounds of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” is a pretty big deal. It won Record of the Year despite being a fairly low charting song and the album itself won Album of the Year.
“Graceland” is considered one of the best songs of ’80’s.
And it’s also quoted on the side of the front page of this blog.
The original recording draws heavily from African music, as the album itself did heavily. Musically light and poppy, it’s deceiving considering its subject matter and lyrics–which are made up mostly of brief images and a very light narrative.
The choice to make the song sound the way it does is a curious one for Simon, whose years as the better half of Simon & Garfunkel gave him a quiet, understated beauty that would have served “Graceland” well. Nonetheless the choice is interesting and gives Graceland a different tone than the “beautiful” route, one much more made up of hope and optimism. I think thiswas a good choice to make, given that Graceland is Simon’s symbol for the bright future and a song dedicated to that ideal should sound bright.
Paul Simon | Graceland [download]
The Tallest Man on Earth’s
Kristian Matsson, or The Tallest Man on Earth, released a cover of “Graceland” as a B Side to his “King of Spain” single.
Now, it’s no secret I absolutely adore Matsson’s music, so it follows that his version of “Graceland” quickly shot to my favorite. Imbuing the song with a torn honesty that he is such a master of, his version feels more like the moments immediately following a sudden and violent break-up. His slight growl when he sings “I’m going to Graceland” is almost indignant and a little sad; Matsson is going to Graceland to find hope there, he’s going to get away and to mourn. It’s appropriate that his is the most stripped-down take on the song.
The Tallest Man on Earth | Graceland (Paul Simon Cover) [download]
Calling this one Grizzly Bear’s is a bit of a lie, because it’s done solo by lead singer Dan Rossen, though it’s multitracked several times.
Musically, this version’s drastically different from the other two, featuring Grizzly Bear’s atmospherics and acoustic instrumentation. Rossen’s distinct voice is what holds this one entirely separate from the others though, lending the song a distant, almost creepy feeling. When he sings “And my traveling companions/are ghosts and empty sockets,” it seems to mean something completely different than when Matsson or Simon sang it.The defining quality of this version is its atmosphere, which feels like a long, lonely journey.
If Matsson’s is the initial heartbreak, and Simon’s the optimistic end result, then Grizzly Bear’s is the haunting road between the two.
Grizzly Bear | Graceland (Paul Simon Cover) (Dan Rossen Solo) [download]