10. Andrew Bird and Matt Berninger — “Perfect Day” (Lou Reed cover)
Andrew Bird hosts a Facebook Live series called Live From the Great Room where he invited musicians to come over to perform with him live for people watching via Facebook. It’s quaint and exciting, like a live concert without all the waiting or feedback, particularly to see Bird loop his violin from various angles. Back in August, Matt Berninger of The National sat down with him to cover Lou Reed’s classic hit “Perfect Day”. Andrew Bird is known for whimsical whistling and moving violin work. Matt Berninger is known for his depressing vocal delivery and heavy lyrics. What better song to represent those qualities than Reed’s?
On the original version, Reed states each word like he’s recounting a story that he plans on penning in a journal once home. It’s when he gets to the chorus and the one line, “You just keep me hangin’ on,” that everything falls in line — the strings, the muffled horns, the piano chords — with a revitalized sense of happiness. It’s hard to believe the song is from 1972, and yet, if anything, that time stamp shows how much we have to look forward to — or, rather, why we shouldn’t feel hopeless when looking ahead. You’re going to reap just what you sow, but it doesn’t matter what land you’re digging in to plant that seed. It will grow. You just need to give it time.
That’s what makes Bird and Berninger’s rendition so poignant. They latch onto Reed’s hopefulness and bring a friendliness in between sections. Plucked strings lighten the piano melody. Their harmonies search deeper into Reed’s words as if they’re reliving the day’s events, not pondering about them. Bird’s whistles complement the song the way the original’s strings do. It’s two pals recounting a day — and, in many ways, a life, Reed’s life — without the ticks of a clock echoing in their head or the burden of tomorrow’s events on their mind. So when it ends, Berninger asks, “What do you think happens at the end of that day?” and Bird, without hesitating, says: “I think they go back to Jersey.” It may be a joke, but it’s an answer that would fit Reed’s narrative, hope and all that.