What I like about Frances Quinlan’s cover of Built to Spill’s towering “Carry the Zero” is her surprising vocal dynamics from line to line. Not only does she divert from Doug Martsch’s cubist crooning, but Quinlan goes on to zag when you think she’ll zig around every bend in the lyrics. In fact, most of the time she even zorgs when you think she’ll zig.
Check out her sweet robo-trip treatment of the centerpiece of the song:
“Like they’re waiting for your guard to fall /
So they can see it all and you’re so /
Occupied with what other persons /
Are occupied with, and vice versa /
And you’ve become what you thought was dumb /
A fraction of the sum”
And where the original tune lands in six-string buzzsaw octave glory, Quinlan veers her rendition into hypnagogic microdose territory, a soft-hued musical palette that encourages the listener to lean back into the pillow, breathe deeply, sink into oblivion, retreat peacefully to that place where dreams are stitched together in the endless tale of you.