Killer Bs: Ensemble – “Food for Thought”

I was in Montreal last month covering the M for Montreal festival for another site and like a lot of things like this, I was generally glad all the bands were playing short, punchy sets. Ensemble, the musical pseudonym of former Parisian Oliver Alary, was the only performance I actually wanted to be longer. Backed with cello, saxophone and keyboards, and featuring vocalist Darcy Convoy, Alary created lush, slightly glitchy baroque music that had me thinking of early Broadcast.

We only got three songs, one of which was a rather brilliant reworking of UB40's debut single "Food for Thought." I spent a while after their set trying to convince one of my fellow attendees that UB40 were, at one point in the early '80s, actually good and not just perpetrators of bland reggae covers of soul hits. Anyway, Ensemble's version is a stunner, centered around sultry, spooky saxophone that just kind of melts into you. The instrument, which was ruined by too many Sanborn imitators on nearly every '80s pop song, can actually be used to great effect, as it is here.

"Food for Thought" is the b-side to Ensemble's new single "Envies d'Avalanches" which precedes their lovely third album, Excerpts, due out January 25.

MP3: Ensemble – Food for Thought

You can download the A-side for the price of your email address, and you can pre-order Excerpts here. If you're curious about the UB40 original — a sharp indictment of Thatcher's refusal to aid in African famine relief — it's an extremely promising start to a band who would eventually come to personify "cod reggae." Video: 

Killer Bs: Veronica Falls – “Starry Eyes”

starry eyes indeed

It's rare when a single's a-side is bettered by the flip. Rarer still that a cover surpasses the original. But I think both those things happen with Veronica Falls' debut 7" on Captured Tracks. "Found Love in a Graveyard" made my Favorite Singles of 2009 list when it was just an MP3 floating around on the internet — indiepop at its sad, romantic best. But what a treat too see they covered Roky Erickson's "Starry Eyes" for the b-side. Roky's take (of which there are many versions) was more twangy power pop, but Veronica Falls let the lovelorn lyrics lead the understated arrangement, punctuated with ooh-wee-oohs and the fragile vocals of Roxanne Clifford and Patrick Doyle, both late of Glasgow's Royal We and Sexy Kids. Perfect for you next crush mix-tape.

MP3: Veronica Falls – Starry Eyes