The Knife is an electropop duo from Sweden consisting of brother and sister Olof Dreijer and Karen Dreijer Andersson. In early 2003, they released their second album, titled Deep Cuts. The opening track on Deep Cuts was a genius little pop song called “Heartbeats.” Featuring Karen’s wavering vocals, heavy synths, and the ever-present handclaps, the duo pulls off a jammy little dance tune that dabbles in dancehall reggae, house, and 80’s New Wave. One would think that the song couldn’t really get any better than it already is.
Later that year, fellow Swede and future folk god José Gonzalez released his debut full length Veneer. On this record, Gonzalez included his own version of The Knife’s “Heartbeats.” A folk version of an electropop tune featuring a dude with a quiet voice and a classical guitar? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Well, Mr. Gonzalez proved me wrong, much to my delight. His version of “Heartbeats” adds an unexpected depth and striking beauty to a song that beforehand was just a fun dance tune. In Gonzalez’s version, the song is transformed into an aching love song hinting at infidelity and the release of forgiveness. While I am a huge fan of The Knife’s version, José Gonzalez has taken this song an infused so much emotion into it that he truly made it his own. Listen to both and decide which you like better. Either way, they are both great versions of the same song, so you will find yourself in a win-win situation.
P.S. Gordon and I saw José Gonzalez perform at Emo’s in Austin on 9/26/2008, and he regrettably did not play “Heartbeats.” Regardless, it was an amazing performance and I would love to see him again.