Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Without making allusions to Woodstock or that awful (albeit awfully infectious) song from Grease- the words "summer" and "love" are frequently paired together. So what better way to celebrate the sweaty sentiments of summer than to revisit some of the most memorable musical match ups? Some are sugar-coated while others sting slightly sour; here are fifteen great duets for your auditory (and some visual, when I could find the official video) pleasure.

Jenny & Johnny - Scissor Runner - from I'm Having Fun Now (2010)
Jenny Lewis, queen of the '60s melody, has collaborated and shared the microphone with a long list of talent; Elvis Costello, M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Rilo Kiley cohort Blake Sennett. Here, Lewis and her boyfriend Jonathan Rice (who produced Lewis' Acid Tongue) have crafted an upbeat tune that proves she made the right decision when she switched from acting to music. Don't hold your breath for Troop Beverly Hills 2. Lewis will also be collaborating with Killers wailer, and owner of the most repugnant jacket ever, Brandon Flowers on his upcoming album Flamingo. In addition you can listen to Jenny and Johnny's next single Big Wave by clicking on the text within the video and download Scissor Runner on their site.

Deer Tick featuring Liz Isenberg - Friday XIII - from Born on Flag Day (2009)
Deer Tick front man John McCauley has been credited with making alt-country cool once more. It's easy to see why with two great albums under his belt, Born on Flag Day and 07's War Elephant, as well as their most recent release The Black Dirt Sessions. Friday XIII pits McCauley's gruff mutter against Liz Isenberg's soft as spider webs vocals. This ultimately makes for a dynamite duet about, in true country form, a doomed relationship.

Raveonettes - Love in a Trashcan - from Pretty in Black (2005)
Masterfully adept at mashing together pop harmonies with slick guitar work, Danes Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo sound best when singing together. The Raveonettes throwback to seemingly opposing music like that of the Raspberries and the Jesus and Mary Chain; whose musical styles are as opposite as love and trash.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes - Home - from Up From Below (2009)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes are kind of like the Polyphonic Spree- but high on weed instead of Jesus. That's not to say Alex Ebert doesn't have a messiah complex. Ebert conceived the character of Edward Sharpe as a figure who "was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind, but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love." Ebert and Jade Castrino's song of love is one part jam band opus and two parts tooth-melting sweetness.

PJ Harvey featuring Thom Yorke - This Mess We're In - from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000)
If I didn't know any better I would think this song was about the tragic events of 9/11. With such ominous lyrics Harvey may have foreseen something the rest of us failed to. Radiohead's Thom Yorke provides a haunting caterwaul that is the perfect addition to Harvey's Mercury Prize winning album.

Gorillaz featuring Bashy & Kano - White Flag - from Plastic Beach (2010)
Grime stars Bashy and Kano were seriously ill with the flu on the day White Flag was recorded. Yet you would never know that fact as the agility of their rhymes and the quality of the track they laid down are impeccable. Kano said of the recording: "We weren't feeling great; the music was out of our comfort zone, it could have been a complete disaster." Rap? Flutes? Strings? Yes. Disaster? Far from it.

Queen featuring David Bowie - Under Pressure - from Hot Space (1982)
Perhaps the most widely known duet on this list, Under Pressure marked Bowie's first released collaboration and soared to #1 on charts around the world. John Deacon's bouncy bass line would later be sullied and sampled by the less talented Vanilla Ice on Ice Ice Baby.

Peaches featuring Iggy Pop - Kick It - from Fatherfucker (2003)
From two of the most avant-garde performers of our time, Kick It is as much fun as any electro-punk aficionado can handle. With a razor sharp hook and lyrics like "Some people don't like my crotch, because its' got fuzzy spots, but if you blame Moses and need burning bush baby, and that is just what I've got," the only thing that would make this better is if Iggy was bleeding all over the place. Or zombies... oh wait... see zombified "Georgia Y Romero" directed video below.

The xx - Islands - from xx (2009)
Brits the xx are the breakout stars of the year. In a short while they went from recording their album in a garage under moonlight to having the intro from that album used as the theme song for NBC's broadcast of the Olympics. Their sleepy, moody debut is chock full of silky duets. My pick, Islands, finds Romy Madley and Jamie Smith trading barbs while navigating through the darkness of a rocky relationship. The accompanying video shows black-clad dancers in purgatory and is trippier than a stilted clown on peyote.

The Breeders - Pinnacle Hollow - from Fate to Fatal EP (2009)
This one takes a while to get rolling, but if you love lo-fi DIY recordings then this Kim and Kelley Deal duet is for you. Pinnacle Hollow is perfect for lazy Sundays or downtrodden times. In addition to self-recording and self-releasing, the Pixies bassist and her twin even screened the LP sleeves themselves. You can read Pitchfork's interview with the Deals where they talk about Fate to Fatal and self-sufficiency here.

No Doubt featuring Sublime - Total Hate '95 - from The Beacon Street Collection (1995)
Before Gwen Stefani was just a girl and Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose at 28, No Doubt and Sublime joined forces to bring this pitch perfect ska song to the maladjusted masses.

Joan Jett & Paul Westerberg - Let's Do It - from Tank Girl Soundtrack (1995)
This cover of Cole Porter's cheesy 1928 classic is Jett at her rock grrl best. Interestingly, the track was originally recorded with Bad Religion's Greg Gaffin vocalizing the male half of this duet. Atlantic Records objected to Gaffin's work on the track and recorded Westerberg in his place. The original version can be found on the 2000 compilation Laguna Tunes, released on Jett's own Blackheart Records. The Gaffin/Jett version is strong, but I (and the Heathers at Westerberg High) prefer this take.


The Kills - Love is a Deserter - from No Wow (2005)
Allison "VV" Mosshart's and Jamie "Hotel" Hince's vocals separately are surreal in their own right. The combination of their voices comes off as grating and unsettling- in the best possible way. Love is a Deserter combines aspects of blues and punk, which is the Kills at their best. The morphology in the video fits the song perfectly. An odd video from a superbly odd band.

M.I.A. featuring Timbaland - Come Around - from Kala (2007)
Many critics have said that Timbaland's guest spot on Come Around is weaker than Lindsay Lohan's will power. I disagree and think Come Around is the best track on Kala. Sorry Paper Planes lovers (which I do love but mostly for the Clash sample.) As the story goes, Timbaland had planned to produce a large portion of Kala; however M.I.A. couldn't obtain a US visa due to her family's alleged ties to the Tamil Tigers. So Come Around remains Timbaland's sole contribution. Aside from the controversy that seems to always follow this Sri Lankan siren, the fact is M.I.A. is an innovative and original artist as Come Around and her latest single XXXO demonstrate.

Snow Patrol featuring Martha Wainwright - Set Fire to the Third Bar - from Eyes Open (2006)
Angelic and unmitigated, Set Fire to the Third Bar is the stuff great duets are made of. Written with Martha Wainwright in mind, Gary Lightbody claims he wrote the song in twenty minutes, the fastest he's ever written a song. The title comes from childhood memories of his aunt's electric heater. "If we were good and it was very cold, she'd let us put all three bars on," Lightbody said. He went on to say that the heater represents "a beacon of warmth within a song about distance." I feel all warm and happy inside already.

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