Songs You Need To Hear: Swell Season, “Two-Headed Boy”

Videos by American Songwriter

The Swell Season covers Neutral Milk Hotel

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Neutral Milk Hotel are the modern version of the Velvet Underground — they never tasted mainstream success in their prime, but their influence on the musical community was vast and irreversible. In some ways, their master opus, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, was as big a deal as Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The Swell Season (Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova), are known for emoting, the movie Once, and tearing into Van Morrison songs with reckless abandon. As it turns out, they have a Neutral Milk Hotel fetish too. The duo (backed by their bandmates) have covered “Two-Headed Boy” for The AV Club’s ongoing Undercover project, and the feedback has been universally positive, which is pretty hard to pull off in the Internet age.

In the words of one AV Club commenter:  “Holy f**k this was good.”

Emotion meets emotion (Swell Season’s performance style meets Jeff Mangum’s balls-out singing style and dark imagery) in this perfect pairing, with Hansard belting out the lyrics as only he can, and Irglova providing perfect harmony every step of the way. Above them, names of bands who’ve also contributed covers adorn the walls, reading like snatches of NMH songs: Frightened Rabbit. Mates Of State.

Watching the video, it’s hard to believe Hansard is the same guy who appeared in The Commitments as the red-headed guitar player, a lifetime ago.

Bonus AV Club goodness: Watch Ted Leo reclaim Tears For Fears’ pop hit ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World” for the rock side, and Justin Townes Earle cover his favorite Bruce Springsteen song, “Atlantic City.”


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