Vanessa Carlton has transitioned from beloved few-hits wonder (shout out to “Ordinary Day”) to tasteful cover artist. She covered Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” in March to kick off a six-part cover series. Her rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” came out in April, followed by Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and Karen Dalton’s “Little Bit of Rain.” Today, she shares her cover of Elliott Smith’s excellent song “Needle In The Hay” and an accompanying music video.
“This is one of my favorite songs, period,” Carlton says in a statement. “Elliott was a great poet and the metaphors in this lyric split me open. This song is a juxtaposition, because the song is about excruciating pain and the brutal moments of an addiction spiral, and yet it’s formed in this drone-y meditative manner. Such restraint makes the listener have to move in closer. And then it breaks you. I hope I did him justice.”
Her understanding of and connection to the song is evident. The cover maintains the essence of the original, mimicking Smith’s dejected tone over a circuitous guitar. Its video splices shots of nightlife in the city— fuzzy, colorful images of people dancing and drinking, neon signs, skylines, and shaky hands. Listen to Carlton’s cover and Smith’s original below.
“Needle In The Hay” is out on digital and streaming platforms 7/20. Carlton’s last album Liberman was released in 2015 on Dine Alone Records.