musicthe sound of your morning

the sound of your morning: it takes two + NRSD

by Grace Bonney

Print above by Tiny White Lights

I’m really excited for the D*S redesign to be up and running (in May!) because the title I wanted to write for this post wouldn’t fit in the alloted space. And man, I hate shortening something important like National Record Store Day. Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to do a post on NRSD and wondered if this was the appropriate place to do it. But after my initial hesitation I realized that while it’s not design related, it is exactly the same mentality that we hold so dearly here: celebrating and appreciating all things local. We do it with great local design stores and food, so I’m happy to take a brief time out from design to talk about extending that local mentality to record stores. This coming Saturday, April 16th is National Record Store Day and there are some really fantastic albums coming out in celebration (I will be picking up this one for sure). So before I launch into today’s morning soundtrack I wanted to join the hundreds of other blogs chiming in to support this special day. If you have a great local record store (I’ll be visiting mine) please stop by and hopefully the staff can be a welcome reminder that iTunes isn’t always the best place to pick up new music.

Ok, back to the music. For today I decided to focus on the magic that happens when two voices combine…and contrast. Not only in the traditional duet sense, but in the way that bands with two (or more) lead singers really get to play off of each other.

These are 10 of my favorites, but what are your favorite duets? Are they dual lead singers in a band? An unexpected collaboration? I’d love to hear your thoughts, links, and favorites in the comment section below. xo, grace

Jack White + Loretta Lynn “Portland, Oregon”: Jack White is one of the most creative people in contemporary music so collaborations like this are what I’ve come to expect- and love- about him. “Portland, Oregon and Sloe Gin Fizz, if that ain’t love then tell me what is” is also one of my favorite lines. And I can’t think of anyone better to sing that than Loretta Lynn. I love the chemistry they have in this video. I smile every time she slaps his wrist for looking at a girl in the bar. Oh, Loretta.

The New Pornographers “Star Bodies”: Probably my favorite combination of voices in music history right here. They may be more contemporary than some of the obvious choices for “best”, but Neko Case and Carl Newman were born to sing together. I would travel anywhere and do just about anything to see them live. Every time I have I’ve been glad I did. There’s a reason they’re one of my favorite bands of all time and there’s a reason Neko is the voice I always choose when I imagine being able to sing like anyone out there. (I also love their voices together in The Challengers if you’re up for a little extra NP this morning. And why wouldn’t you be?)

The Lemonheads “My Drug Buddy”: I wish this song didn’t weigh so heavily on my heart after seeing Evan Dando and Julia Hatfield perform this live last September. They both seemed a little too close to the song’s subject and it all felt a little too real (and heartbreaking). I want them both to be happy and young again, but that night at the Mercury Lounge I left feeling like their best days were behind them. Here’s hoping the beauty of their voices together and the confidence and vibrancy they had together comes back. (Despite Evan clearly being out of it at the show we saw, his voice still sounded amazing)

CLICK HERE for 7 more songs (Mates of State, The Postal Service, Iggy Pop, Johnny Cash and more) after the jump…

Mates of State “Along for the Ride”: It’s hard to imagine a cuter duo than a married indie rock couple. Kori and Jason from Mates of State right some of the sweetest pop-infused songs and this one has been a favorite of mine for years. It was sadly hard to find a good clip of this online, so I highly recommend listening to just the audio on iTunes.

Iggy Pop + Kate Pierson “Candy”: Whenever I play the “Whose voice would you want if you could sing like anyone?” game, Kate Pierson is at the top of my list. What a voice. This is a case where two voices both contrast and support each other beautifully.

Sondre Lerche & Lillian Samdal “Modern Nature”: This was one of the songs that got me playing guitar again after years of instrument silence. It’s playful, hopeful and makes me feel like everything’s going to be alright. Sometimes that’s all (and everything) I can ask from a song.

The Postal Service with Jen Wood “Nothing Else”: I associate The Postal Service so strongly with the early days of D*S and am instantly transported back to the early 2000s just hearing the opening beats of this song. I love the way Jen Wood’s voice plays with Ben Gibbard’s here, I want to imagine them as a dreamy couple composing and singing songs to each other on a regular basis. At least I can know that in real life Ben is married to an equally dreamy girl, Zooey Deschanel. (Sidenote: Jen has a photo of herself surrounded by cats in her Myspace profile. I love her a little bit more now)

Johnny Cash + June Carter Cash “It Ain’t Me Babe”: I know everyone will have wanted me to pick “Jackson” here, but I actually prefer this cover. This video version is a little hokey for me, but the audio I wanted didn’t have embedding enabled. But if you look up the Louisiana Hayride recordings that’s the version I love. Anyway, bottom line: great love story, great collaboration of voices and such a real, palpable connection between two strong personalities.

Sleater-Kinney “Banned From The End of The World”: It’s impossible to do a list of songs that have great vocal contrasts and not mention Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Janet Weiss once said in an interview that they, “seemed a bit like soul mates” and she’s spot on. Their back and forth on songs like Call the Doctor and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone are a huge part of what made this band so great and I can never pick a favorite between their two voices.

*This has to be one of the weirdest Youtube audio/visual combinations ever. But it was the best, clearest audio I could find and the live recordings I found didn’t do the vocals justice. So please excuse the totally random visuals here.

The White Stripes + Holly Golightly “It’s True That We Love One Another”: The fact that The White Stripes broke up still hasn’t sunk in for me. I can’t let them go. While I love Jack and Meg’s voices together, Holly Golightly’s voice on this track is such a fun, jangly addition to the song. Whenever I listen I get the line, “I love Jack White like a little brother” stuck in my head all day.

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  • Grace, you picked some WONDERFUL songs. Love that you have my dear friends, Mates of State in there.

    One of my all time favorite duets come from the film Once. So beautiful!

    Thanks for sharing your picks and talking about record store day!

  • Yes, yes, yes! I don’t know that I need to even tell you which one of these is my favorite! but they’re all such great picks. Thanks for starting Monday off so right!

  • I agree with you completely about Jack White’s genius! I ADORE that Loretta Lynn CD to the point where I’ve worn out the CD a few times and have had to re-burn it from iTunes.

    Another great pair is Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. That is another CD that I love and can always listen to.

  • Thank you Grace for alerting us to National Record Store Day and for sharing the sounds of your favorites…nice picks!

    One of my favorites is the husband/wife duo, The Wright’s. She is a childhood friend of mine and he just happens to be Alan Jackson’s nephew…you might just take a liking to them as well…they have opened for Loretta Lynn on numerous occasions! If you have a chance, check out their first album, “Down this Road”…On the Rocks is one of my favorite, but I am a bit biased. (www.thewrightsmusic.com)

    Happy Monday and thanks again!

  • Always and forever, John Doe and Exene Cervenka from X! And yes, Evan and Juliana (also saw them last year, heartbreaking).

    • heather

      were you at the mercury lounge show? evan broke my heart looking so strung out. it all felt way too private and personal to be witnessing in a public space. we actually left early, i couldn’t handle it, it was so sad.


  • Also: “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” by Stars. Heartbreakingly, hauntingly beautiful.

    And: “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Such a sweet, folksy love duet.

    Great post!

  • LOUDLY… “Portland, Oregon and Sloe Gin Fizz, if that ain’t love, than tell me what is. Uhuhuh. Uhuhuh.”

    LOVE that song.

    “Jackson” comes a close second.

  • Waylon and Willie: Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys
    Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks: Stop Dragging My Heart Around
    Ike and Tina Turner: Nutbush City Limits
    Aerosmith and Run DMC: Walk this Way
    Shooter Jennings and the Possum (George Jones): 4th of July
    Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush: Don’t Give Up
    Nelson: After The Rain- Just kidding
    Neville Brothers: Yellow Moon
    The Staple Singers: Respect Yourself
    Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson has already been said.

  • what about great design OF record covers , or great deign IN record stores. they might seem overwhelming but theres a beauty involved.

    for example
    dj shadow – entroducting cover art
    great photograph of a great record store.

  • I second Stars: love Torquil Cambell and Amy Millan’s voices.

    The Everybody Fields

    Kristen Hersh & Michael Stipe – Your Ghost

    Thom Yorke & PJ Harvey – This Mess We’re In

    Neil Finn & Sheryl Crow – Driving Me Mad

  • Grace-Yes, Mercury Lounge show. My husband’s in the music biz and worked with Evan years ago. We were so excited to see those two again, the reality was sad. But I think that’s been the case for quite a long time.

  • I don’t think you can have a post about 2 voices that play beautifully with one another without mentioning The Indigo Girls. Also, Michael Stipe + almost anyone…Kate Pierson, Neneh Cherry, Indigo Girls, and Natalie Merchant, and Kristen Hersh all come to mind.

  • Priscilla Ahn- It’s funny that you mention Love Hurts, because I was also going to post this duet/single since it happens to be a Record Store Day exclusive with Jenny & Johnny! I first heard Jenny & Johnny perform their version utilizing the lovely acoustics of the Ryman Auditorium and I have loved it ever since.

  • I cannot wait for record store day (the day before my birthday!!) and have been making my list for a couple weeks!!!

  • Think this is a wonderful post! I love all the songs!
    I do think music is design related, it brings another dimension and add atmosphere to any space.
    I also agree with Susan, artists work hard on graphic design and presentation of their album covers, posters and in the case of Jack White, record stores.

  • Grace–I am one of the Record Store Day coordinators, and I wanted to say thanks so much for showing us some love. I have admired your site, and what you do, for so long, I’m thrilled to hear it’s mutual. Record Store Day is a total labor of love, and we so want all kinds of folks to visit their local stores, and find out that it’s not just about “hipsters”. All kinds of music, all kinds of people, shopping locally and having fun: that’s our goal. Have a great time on Record Store Day!

    • Thanks so much, Carrie. I’m looking forward to visiting my local shop in Greenpoint and hopefully getting a few others to do the same :)


  • Such a great post….lots too look up tonight. Also, howabout that flawless, melancholy-day-at-the-sideshow-years-too-late sound of Tom Waits& Crystal Gayle on the One From The Heart soundtrack? “…it smells like a poolhall, and where’s my other shoe? I’m sick and tired…of picking up after you…”

  • Gotta give you some Memphis flava:
    BB King and U2: When Love Comes to Town
    The album In Session with Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn
    John Lee Hooker and Big Head Todd: Boom Boom
    Galactic and Lyrics Born: I Got It
    The Album Mermaid Ave with Wilco and Billy Bragg

  • Can’t believe no-one has mentioned Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood- take your pick of their many awesome duets. My personal favourite “Summer wine”

  • Also anything by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and Johnette Napolitano and Andy Prieboy- “Tomorrow Wendy”

  • if you feel like listening to a super sweet, beautiful song then listen to thishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g35D5jwpbpM a father son duet: richard and teddy thompson . it’s so romantic!

  • Squeeze! Just love Glenn Tilbrook’s and Chris Difford’s voices together, singing an octave apart.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Beatles! Too obvious?

  • I saw Evan Dando in a small venue here in Winnipeg about 5 years ago. There were seats and tables where there is normally just “floor” (standing). He walked out, plugged in his guitar and sat down and we all sat too and just listened. For hours. Every once in awhile someone would call out a request and he would play it. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. It makes me so sad to think that show you saw was so obviously heartbreaking. He’s so talented.

  • Grace, I was at the Mercury Lounge show, too, with my hubby. Felt for Evan. I really did. It just seems like he’s given up. Lots of sweating happening on stage. Ha! Those were my two take-aways.

    Other fave duet: Bjork with Thom Yorke’s “I’ve Seen It All.”

  • So I see that this was posted a long time ago, but I’ve been listening through the “sounds of your morning” series, and they are so great! Especially when I’m trudging along through work.

    My favorite duo is Halo Benders, with Calvin Johnson and Doug Martsch. Talk about two contrasting voices. I know they’re not for everyone, but I love them.

    Virginia reel around the fountain – can you live in a song? I would like to live in this song.

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