This is Adem, who goes by his first name, which is pronounced AH-dem, and whose last name is Ilhan. He’s released two records of his own compositions, which I like well enough, and a record called Takes, which I love. Takes came out in 2008, and it’s a set of covers of songs by alt-rock bands working within the time frame of 1991 to 2001, musically vital years for Adem (and for me). He does Yo La Tengo’s “Tears Are In Your Eyes,” Lisa Germano’s “Slide,” the Breeders’ “Invisible Man”—songs I liked, and still do. He also does some songs by musicians that I didn’t much care for, like Smashing Pumpkins and Aphex Twin, and a few by bands that I wasn’t aware existed back then, even though I watched 120 Minutes and read a lot of music magazines. Bedhead? Pinback? I scratch my head.
This song, the pretentiously titled “Hotellounge (Be the Death of Me),” is by—major camel case alert—dEUS, who fall into that last category. dEUS’s version, which came out in 1994, has soft verses and loud choruses that break out into grungy guitars, and the singer has an American twang even though he’s Belgian. (They made a video for the song, set in a louche, faded hotel, with shots of cartoonishly seedy streets-of-L.A. types and the two tattooed lead dudes in the band unconvincingly occupying the same bathtub—I’m sure they had bathing suits on underneath the soap suds.) It wasn’t the sort of thing I was into, and I’ve always been good at tuning out things that don’t interest me. The only thing about their version that I can get behind is a lyric that goes, “I’m in love with Rickie Lee Jones’s voice.” Adem changes it to “I’m in love with Emmylou Harris’ voice.” I can get behind that too.
This clip of Adem playing his cover version on electric guitar was filmed live in his London apartment. There are CDs and plants and books and floral print drapes, and some shoes lined up on top of the bookcase—nothing louche at all. Adem’s voice is creaky but warm and plaintive. His studio recording of this song on Takes is even better. It’s tender and hushed, like the rest of the songs on the album, for which he played all the instruments—acoustic guitar, strings, glockenspiel, harmonium, a grand piano, and what he calls “shaky and bangy things” (but no drums). It sounds wonderful. So I’m glad someone was listening back then.