Civil Wars Limply Cover Elliott Smith's 'Between the Bars'

Not even a hiatus could stop duo from defanging 'Either/Or' classic

Elliott Smith, Civil Wars, cover,
The Civil Wars, formerly known as the War Between the States Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Last year's 10th anniversary of Elliott Smith's sad death came at what has turned out to be a strange time for the singer's legacy. In January, Soul Coughing's Mike Doughty shared "EDM" tracks with unreleased Smith vocals. Last September, Madonna — who hadn't yet introduced Pussy Riot or presided over Grammy weddings — messily covered the stark Either/Or touchstone "Between the Bars." To be fair, the Civil Wars have been doing their prettified take on "Between the Bars" for a few years now, and in fact the Worst New Music honorees announced a hiatus early in 2013. Also: Soft spot for their Taylor Swift Hunger Games team-up "Safe & Sound." But the Nashville duo has a previously vinyl-only covers EP on the way digitally February 11, and along with songs by Portishead, Michael Jackson, and the Romantics, it includes their violin- and organ-bolstered take on the Smith tune, the duo's very correct harmonies in place of Smith's rough-hewn, double-tracked vocals. It's a bit prim and melodramatic to this listener, but if you suspect your taste will vary, then check it out over at NPR, or watch a 2011 version below.

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