The Shins’ James Mercer showcases his expressive falsetto in the band’s new cover of pop standard “A Taste of Honey,” made famous by the Beatles and Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass. The lush ballad appears on Resistance Radio, a pseudo-soundtrack album to Amazon’s dystopian alternate history series, The Man in the High Castle.
On the song, Mercer sings like a jazz singer, employing a warm vibrato over a hushed orchestral arrangement. Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle Album, out April 7th, features an all-star line-up of artists covering pop songs from the early Sixties, during which The Man in the High Castle is set. Beck, Norah Jones, Sharon Van Etten, Karen O, Angel Olsen, Grandaddy Kelis, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Booker also contributed to the project. Last month, Van Etten released her elegant version of Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World.” Olsen followed with her somber take on Tin Pan Alley classic “Who’s Sorry Now?”
Resistance Radio, created by Danger Mouse (real name Brian Burton) and singer-songwriter Sam Cohen, loosely connects to the show’s storyline, which is set 17 years after the Allied Powers lost World War II. Resistance Radio is named after the a pirate radio network featured in Season Two – and while none of the tunes are included in the episodes, the record envisions a potential playlist for the station.
Burton told NPR he aimed to steer the album ‘toward the darker side” of that era’s music, given the show’s brooding subject matter. Mercer, his bandmate in Broken Bells, was the first person he contacted. “I sent him ‘A Taste of Honey,’ and he sent it back two days later,” he said. “He was in Portland working on Shins stuff and he took time out and did his own interpretation of it. It sounds like James in certain places, but most people I played it for don’t know it’s James, which happens on a lot of these songs. The way he interpreted just changes his vocals.”
Mercer and the Shins released their fifth album, Heartworms, in March.