The Strokes' genre-defining debut, Is This It, was released on July 26, 2001. The album, in many ways, heralded a new era in the indie/garage rock scene. Ten years later, Stereogum saw fit to honor the album with covers worthy of the originals themselves. I mean, we all know tribute albums generally blow, but Stereogum really proves that theory wrong.
Commencing the album is Peter, Bjorn and John with "Is This It." The robust opening riff is elongated before the raspy voice of Peter Morén croons, "I can't think 'cause I'm just way too tired." The earnestness of the question "Is this it?" is also more pronounced in the PB&J rendering of the song. BtH gives it an 8/10.
Following "Is This It" is Chelsea Wolfe's "The Modern Age," an ethereal and sultry monotone that will lull you into a state of semi-consciousness. BtH gives it a 7/10.
Frankie Rose's version of "Soma," a slowed down, clearly enunciated, sort of garage meets electro blend form of the original, picks up the pace of the album. The blending of guitars, combined with the initial drum beat will have you replaying this track a few times. As the former drummer of Crystal Stilts, Frankie knows the importance of percussion in a song. BtH gives it an 8/10.
Real Estate, another Brooklyn-based band on the album, contributes its distinct sound of psychedelia to the track "Barely Legal." Lazily droning the lyrics, "I didn't take no short cuts, I spent the money I saved up," it's easy to see why Stereogum assigned the band to this song. You can almost detect a hint of genuine emotion when lead singer Martin Courtney says, "I wanna steal your innocence, to me my life don't make sense." BtH gives it a 6/10.
Wise Blood (so close to being Surfer Blood--if only that's who Stereogum had chosen instead) sings a surreal version of "Someday" that is something of a decimation of The Strokes' crowning achievement on Is This It. Sounding like a slurring drunk, Chris Laufman makes the song seem far longer than it actually is. BtH gives it a 5/10.
One of the most standout, memorable tracks on Stroked is Austra's "Alone, Together." In typical form, lead singer Katie Stelmanis transforms the song into a dramatic, almost operatic lament. Stelmanis herself stated,
"This song was really hard for me to cover because in my opinion the greatest things about it are the performance and the production. It took a while, but ultimately I just made it sound like an Austra song, which is to be expected!"
BtH gives it a 10/10.
The Morning Benders give "Last Nite" a light air that The Strokes couldn't. The angered vocals of Julian Casablancas are nothing like those of Chris Chu. But we actually think that's a good thing. BtH gives it a 7/10.
After Austra and Computer Magic, Owen Pallett is the artist most capable of making a Strokes song entirely his own. With the lush sadness of the violin playing throughout "Hard to Explain," it's almost impossible to remember how the original even sounded. BtH gives it a 9/10.
Heems is another artist who suffuses The Strokes' music with a completely different tinge. Turning "New York City Cops" into an all-out rap song (with the Jay-Z allusion "Son, do you know what I'm stopping you for?"), the hatred that The Strokes expressed for this particular authority figure in 2001 is amplified tenfold. BtH gives it a 6/10.
Deradoorian, perhaps the least recognizable name on the tribute album, is also the most recognizable in terms of being a member of Dirty Projectors. Under her solo moniker, she sings "Trying Your Luck" in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Sneaker Pimps' "Six Underground." In spite of the upbeat sentiment of the lyrics, she says, with sadness, "I'll try my luck with you, this life is on my side." BtH gives it an 8/10.
Finally, to conclude the seminal Strokes release, is Computer Magic with the frenetic "Take It Or Leave It." The song is well-suited to Computer Magic's own personal philosophy on music. Fronted by 22-year-old Danielle Johnson (more commonly known as Danz), the most youthful songstress to appear on Stroked notes,
"I grew up listening to Is This It in middle school and high school. I think everyone my age did. “Someday” was my ringtone for my old Nokia light up phone for at least three years. I love the Strokes, but I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t. “Take It Or Leave It” has a pretty level-headed, obvious message to it, it’s one of my favorites."
And one of BtH's favorites as well. But that's not the reason we're giving a 9/10 to Computer Magic.
To listen to or download the complete album, Stroked, visit Stereogum here.