Cover songs are a very delicate genre. Sometimes they’re a gateway to earning notoriety. (James Blake’s take on Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” only bolstered his fame.) Other times, covers are a misfire that insult the original’s splendor. (Dee Snider and Eddie Ojeda’s attempt at The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is cringe-worthy.) So, when an artist releases a collection of covers, one has the right to be wary. Luckily, Vermont band Chamberlin’s step-up to the covers plate is decent, but it falls short of instant covers canonical material.
The Cabin Covers EP is five cuts released as a benefit album for Vermont communities affected by Hurricane Irene. Fans were able to vote on which songs should be included, and the result is a sampling of recent indie standouts. The opening track is none other than Kanye West and Bon Iver’s near untouchable “Lost in the World” a track so pristine that the original should have a “no meddling, please” disclaimer. (Alas, if that were the case with covers, the world wouldn’t have Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”.) Exceptions aside, Chamberlin’s version of “Lost in the World” is… palatable. Soaring vocals border on whines, but overall they show a creative, stripped-down take on the rap/indie/Auto-Tune mashup. Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets” is handled in a sensual manner, the throbbing electro-anthem sparkling with keys and simmering with rough guitar picking.
The midpoint, Cults’ “Go Outside”, is a bare take on the original, but not quite different enough to make a distinct mark. Vampire Weekend’s ”Giving Up the Gun” features soulful vocals, refreshingly different from the preppy, bright pioneer. The EP’s true standout is Chamberlin’s take on Foster the People’s summer staple “Pumped Up Kicks”. The track unfolds as a haunting, moody acoustic pick, channeling the band’s woodsy, Northeastern roots. A brief glimpse into the band’s solid ability, the Cabin Covers EP will please perennial cover song fans, but avoid legendary status.
Essential Tracks: “Giving Up the Gun” and “Pumped Up Kicks”