B-Sides: The Last Names

Like oh so many time wasters who lived in a college dorm in 2001, I used to frequent The Spark (don’t bother looking for it—the site was sold off to Barnes & Noble years ago and is now the awful-looking SparkNotes, and what used to be just a part of The Spark, SparkMatch, is now OKCupid). Because of the hours I spent taking “The Death Test” and reading various “adventures in personal physiology,” I was sufficiently starstruck when a cool girl from my school told me that she had dated one of the founders of The Spark while she was in New York, and that now he was in a band called Bishop Allen and we should go see them when they came to our town. Which we did. It was fun.

All of that is a roundabout segue to the newest Bishop Allen project (and a chance to reminisce with you about The Spark), the Last Names. Though neither member of husband-wife duo Justin Rice and Darbie Nowatka worked for The Spark (both were/are in Bishop Allen), they do make fun poppy music and—let’s face it—there’s nothing like a cute couple singing sweet songs together (see: Yo La Tengo, Jay-Z & Beyoncé, Mates of State, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash, etc.) to tug at the heartstrings.

Justin and Darbie, two youngish white people wearing white outfits, looking at each other
Do you think the photographer told them to strike a “married couple in a band together” pose?

The Last Names is a pretty new band, and as such they don’t have much music beyond a pleasant EP that makes me think their upcoming album, Wilderness, will also be pleasant. What they do have, though, is the 52 Covers Project.

Now, I love cover songs, so I was predisposed to like this idea, where the Last Names cover a different song each week for all of 2012. Even if you don’t like cover songs as a rule though, you might find yourself digging their first two picks: Nat King Cole’s “The More I See You” and the Dire Straits’ “So Far Away From Me.” Darbie’s voice takes on a bossa nova-ish quality on the first track and a haunted one on the second, and it makes for a surprising and great take on both songs. Take a listen!

The band’s tumblr has me believing that they’ll consider just about any cover song suggestion, so if you’d like to hear these two tackle your favorite jam, drop them a line!

Previously: Flown, Emika

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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