By The Robotonists

February 28, 2010

The Robotanists have just finished their album of covers inspired by Los Angeles, called Shapes and Variations (available on Itunes on April 6, and on CD on March 30). What these clever robot botanists have done is taken popular, in some cases much overplayed songs, and changed the lyrics up to make it about LA, and twisted the arrangement to make it feel like LA.

No! Wait! It’s not as Randy Newman-cheesy as you think, it’s not hippie surf songs, and no, they didn’t just cover Red Hot Chilli Peppers stuff. It’s good stuff, "Exiled State of Mind" (from NY State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys), is soft a dreamy, and the vocals are as lightly refreshing and beautiful as Los Angeles rain. While it’s rife with LA references, it’s not anthemy, which makes it quite a nice, sentimental song for when you finally move out of LA and want to remember all the places you drove in your car. "Are You Really Going Out With Her" (from Joe Jackson) is a realistic soundscape to hipster heartbreak, and one you’re going to want to play over and over – The Robotanists do a great job of creating the soundtrack to your life in LA and all the grey sadness and epic-ness that comes along with that.

"Heaven" (from Bryan Adams – oh yes, you know this song…you danced to it stiff-armed with some kid who wasn’t your crush, but afterwards was your sweetie because of this song) is a sweet little tune that also appears on a compilation album called UNCOVERING A CURE: VOLUME 1 (avail on itunes 3/30). They donated the track to benefit AIDS PROJECT LA, and will be performing on March 30th at the Roxy to raise money for AIDS awareness and prevention. The album includes a handful of other buzzworthy LA bands, like Vanaprasta, Oh Darling and others.

The stand-out track…that I already downloaded for my Itunes library, is "Never Tear Us Apart" (INXS). Aside for this being a great song to begin with, the Robotanists give it a sweet and soulful makeover, complete with Casio tones, driving drums, and a lonely and powerful guitar solo. The song comes crashing down at the end like the INXS version never did, but you always expected it to. Effects and all – they find the soul of this song and expose it for what it is, a heart-wrenching song about the pain of loving so much it hurts (excuse my emo moment).

The album ends with a magical version of "Glass In Your Headlights" (Phillip Glass), full of floaty effects, children playing, layered ethereal vocals, and soaring reverb – also a favorite. This is really a song you can get lost in and float away.

This is what they had to say about LA:

"L.A. possesses a certain auspicious melancholy that some people don’t tap into or even sense. Yes, it’s always sunny and warm, but the truth is thousands of people migrate here following their dreams, only to return to where they came from. Some of us landed here very much broken, but found solace amidst all of those things that people leave behind when they move back home, because it didn’t work out.

All of those abandoned hopes and dreams and heartaches can still be felt here, and with those things in mind, we’ve taken what ever sunshine existed from songs by Bryan Adams, Joe Jackson, Lykke Li, Jay Z and a few others, and replaced it with our own warmth and pulse.

Each song tells a new story born from the dreams of another."