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Under the Covers: Tetrastar

Under the Covers: Tetrastar

Tetrastar - Songs We Didn't Write

Let me open this special version of Under the Covers by saying if you don’t like Jaylyn Coffin’s bubblegum pop, high pitched vocals, you will not prefer any Tetrastar song to the original.  An unsigned electonica group, Tetrastar is defined by Coffin’s unlikely vocal style that is rarely heard in any electronic based genre.  But this is what makes them appealing to someone like me, who is not a fan of electronic music.

While their originals seem to lack the je ne sais quoi that makes a pop song stick with you, their covers are something special.  I’m a fan of a group doing covers that they make their own, and with Coffin’s unique vocal style and sequencer Oliver Hindle’s precise, 16 bit, song building, makes any cover of theirs very much of a new style.  Let’s dig in to a few.

“Handlebars” (Flobots)

The Flobots’ first taste of commercial success from a few years back.

Original version:

Cover by Tetrastar:

Which Version is Better?

This song has silly, fun lyrics, but the Flobots perform it like they’re at a funeral march. Making this track into a frantic, sugar-sweet party song is exactly the type of kick in the ass that makes it really listenable. And that’s the mark of a great cover track: taking a song that isn’t all that great and making it a staple of my music library.

“Crank That (Soulja Boy)” (Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em)

Rapper Soulja Boy’s first single, made some top 100 lists and a Grammy nom.

Original version:

Cover by Tetrastar:

Which Version is Better?

Talk about a transformation of a tune. Tetrastar cranks up the tempo, removes the steel drums and puts in tinny electronic bleeps and basically dumps energy drink all over this rap track. Can you improve on a song with this much critical and commercial success? I think Tetrastar does, while I am admittedly not a rap fan, I’m also not an electronica fan. But Tetrastar’s cover is frantic and pulse pumping, and Coffin’s sugar frosted voice is highly preferable to Soulja Boy’s droning.

“Such Great Heights” (Postal Service)

The most well known track from this side project electronica group due to its use in advertisements and Iron and Wine’s cover of it in the film Garden State.

Original version:

Cover by Tetrastar:

Which Version is Better?

This is what I would view as a needless cover. Tetrastar is, in many ways, just The Postal Service with a female vocalist instead of a male one. And that’s exactly what this cover sounds like. Hindle seems to lose a lot of his creativity and instead goes for copying the original track exactly. With how many creative covers of this track that have come out, Tetrastar set themselves up for failure by choosing this one. Just stick to the Postal Service version.

“Float On” (Modest Mouse)

Modest Mouse’s signature song, Float on is another Grammy nominee and is hugely well known.

Original version:

Cover by Tetrastar:

Which Version is Better?

Both versions of this song are delightfully whimsical and have a fantastic level of charm to them. Honestly, you can’t go wrong either way. But since I have to answer that question up there in big type: let’s break it down in the two ways that are really different: electronic beeps versus guitars and Issac Brock’s yelping versus Coffin’s pixie stick in vocal form. I’m more a guitar guy than electronic dude, but Coffin’s voice hits a sweet spot for me, where as the yelping indie vocalist thing that Modest Mouse and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah brought to us is not my cup of tea. I’m giving the edge to Tetrastar.

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