“Heart-Shaped Box” – Dead Sara

792dbd760536ac6096a0486fb29619f7Release Year: 2013

Rating: 9/10

I’m a huge Nirvana fan as some of you may know and when it comes to covers of their songs, I haven’t run across many I’ve actually liked. Cage the Elephant did a fine version of “All Apologies” a few years ago, but that was about it. Then Dead Sara announced they were covering my favorite Nirvana song. Since the band is absolutely amazing and reminds me of the legendary group anyway, I had faith that they would do a great job. Luckily, I was right.

Their version of the single is very true to the original. They keep the loud/quiet/loud dynamic that Nirvana became known for. They even have all the intensity and bleakness of the original. They really didn’t do much to change the song at all, but it works. Maybe it’s because Emily Armstrong has powerful vocals with a bit of raspiness similar to Cobain. This sound really comes out during the chorus where everything gets brutal and distorted.

Even though they’re very faithful to the song, I still really like it because of the vocals. I’ve heard some Nirvana songs by female artists and they manage to make the song softer and prettier than what it was. This is fine, but I really appreciate how this one really sticks with the vibe of the song. There are parts where Armstrong’s voice sounds really pretty, but she’s quick to pull out the gruff vocals that fit the song perfectly. This way the tone of the track doesn’t change; when you listen to it you get the same chills down your spine like with the original.

On the single, they also have an acoustic version of the track; this is where they add their own flavor. It starts off with Armstrong whispering “1,2,3,4” in a way that gets under your skin. When stripped of all the distortion and fuzz of the guitars, you get the bare bones of the track, which is creepy and disturbing. These elements are definitely in Nirvana’s version, but it’s easy to focus more on the guitars and the noise than it is on the tone of the track. Here, the dark, depressing nature of the song comes at you full force. There are also great harmonies here that really bring the somberness of the track to life.

The solo here is darkly beautiful. I’m not sure what is being played, but the simple solo is delicately played on either a stringed instrument or a flute. Either way it sounds absolutely beautiful and really gets under your skin. Though they do an amazing job on both versions of the song, this one is better than the normal one. It adds more of their own flavor and personality to the track. It also allows the listener to hear the song in a new light.

Overall, the song gets 9/10. It’s a stunning cover that any dedicated Nirvana fan will love. They do the song justice by keeping elements of the original that made the single great in the first place. The acoustic version is even better by turning the track into something creepy. Ever since I first heard the band, I felt they were influenced by Nirvana. The way they handle one of their most popular songs proves it and I hope they do more of their covers in the future.

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