Reviewed by Ian Morales.
Detroit native and indie singer-songwriter Alex Winston recently released one of the most interesting cover albums we’ve come across. The Basement Covers EP consists of five songs that include covers of MumFord and Sons, Francis & The Lights, Jack Penate, Teddy Bears and even The Rolling Stones. What makes The Basement Covers EP interesting is that Winston did everything on the album. When we say everything, we mean she played the guitar, piano and drums. She recorded the EP in her basement, hence the title.
This handful of popular songs really did not need revamping, but Winston managed to bring new life to them. Winston’s version of The Rolling Stones classic “Play With Fire” is the most compositionally interesting track, sounding as if it belongs at The Haunted Mansion or even in a Tim Burton movie. Xylophones, echoing vocal effects and ghostlike howling would make hardcore ‘Stones fans crazy. While it’s certainly creative and outside the box, it may send chills down your spine. Whether you enjoy it or not, it is something you should at least hear once. It is that interesting.
“It’ll Be Better,” originally by Francis & The Lights, is converted by Winston into a bouncy little indie jam ready to clap along to, which is completely different from the original. Winston has given the this soulful love song about missing someone some serious sunshine. Francis’s (original) version has the elements of sadness and heartbreak not heard since Peter Gabriel’s early work. The other noticeable difference, other than Winston’s softer, higher pitched vocals, is Winston sped up the tempo a little bit. It is rather enjoyable unless you happen to be a Francis & The Lights purist, in which case you will absolutely hate it of course.
While Winston’s covers of both the Teddy Bear’s “Yours To Keep” and Jack Penate’s “Pull My Heart Away” are excellent renditions she made her own, the standout track that will most likely to get attention is her cover of Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave.” Winston leaves out the banjo on her rendition, stripping out the folk element from the indie-folk favorite. On her rendition, Winston gives it her soft touch by once again slowing down the tempo and creating a subtle, floating note effect with her acoustic guitar.
Sure, this is a covers album and nothing lyrically gives listeners any idea about Alex Winston’s songwriting capabilities. If you are interested in that, give her debut release Choice Notes a listen. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you hear. What Winston does accomplish on The Basement Covers EP is she truly showed she is a gifted musician and does not hear music the way anyone else does. It would be interesting to see what Winston could do with songs in genres other than indie.
Alex Winston’s The Basement Covers EP is available as a free download through Heavy Roc Music here.