Daily Dose is your daily source for the song you absolutely, positively need to hear every day. Curated by the Paste Music Team.
When Pitchfork revisited Jeff Buckley’s 1998 posthumous release Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk in 2016, Ryan Dombal wrote that the “four-track demos, by nature, are frustratingly unfinished, and they require a special sort of imaginative listening to hear what could have been.” And he’s right—the record is at times an excruciating listen, knowing that these songs were (at best!) a starting point for the next album sessions, hence the addition of the word Sketches in the title. Buckley likely would have shuddered at the fact that these songs would be released in their demo form, though each song—from the essentially finished “Everybody Here Wants You” and “The Sky Is a Landfill” to the rough mixes of “Back in N.Y.C. and “Demon John”—shows infinite promise that the fully realized My Sweetheart the Drunk would be every bit as great as the legendary Grace.
Nowhere on Sketches is that promise as infuriating as on “Gunshot Glitter,” a bonus track on the international edition of the record and a highly sought-after bootleg for years. The track could have been Buckley’s biggest anthem of his career: The song opens with a huge guitar riff that immediately sends his voice soaring. It’s not an exaggeration to say that with studio tinkering, this could have been Buckley’s best ever song.
New Chicago group MIIRRORS try to do the impossible: successfully cover Buckley and give the song the production it always deserved. With Matt Johnson, original Buckley studio and touring drummer in tow (he notably left the band before the Sweetheart the Drunk sessions and now tours with St. Vincent), the band do a very convincing job giving “Gunshot Glitter” the life it never had. Covering Buckley is a near herculean task—Buckley had one of the biggest vocal ranges in music history after all—and MIIRRORS pass with flying colors.
But nothing is known about MIIRRORS. This is the band’s first ever single, and outside of a few basic facts, their publicist has kept his mouth extremely zipped up despite my repeated questions. Here’s what we know: “Gunshot Glitter” was recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio and mixed by Brian Deck, and MIIRRORS are set to release more singles starting in January. Both press photos provided are blurry, though it’s possible to make out one of the members of the duo in one of them. He looks like Beck, but I was assured that it isn’t (though the publicist mentioned, “That dude was actually Prince’s tech for the last couple years of his life.”) Apparently his name is Brian, likely singer/songwriter Brian McSweeney, who self-released two albums in 2015 and 2016. From Instagram, it looks like the other bandmember’s name is Shawn Rios.
Drummer Matt Johnson, however, sheds a little more on his involvement in the recording. “I had done some recording with MIIRRORS before,” he writes over email. “Their songs were really fun and also challenging. The guys were a blast to try out ideas with. The results were really satisfying, so when they suggested that we do a Buckley song, I was optimistic. They chose a song that was left by Jeff only as a solo 4-track demo. It had never to my knowledge been interpreted, arranged and recorded as a full band production. I knew Brian could sing it. That was key. We zeroed in on the music, got lost, confused, frustrated and eventually found a sound we liked. This version of ‘Gunshot Glitter’ offers a new generation a chance to get a fresh perspective on an artist worth knowing, thanks to MIIRRORS for making it happen.”
With added synth flourishes and sweeping strings that recall Grace’s title track and “Last Goodbye,” MIIRRORS largely stay true to the original, electing to keep Buckley’s rough and distorted lo-fi guitar tones and his vocal melodies. But it all sounds fuller, much closer to what Buckley likely imagined the fleshed out studio version would sound like. When I first heard the track, I had to double take—it legitimately sounds like Buckley is singing from beyond the grave. It seems like the duo performed some voodoo magic and brought Buckley back to life for a couple days in the studio.
Hopefully we’ll get a better idea of who’s behind MIIRRORS sooner rather than later, but until then, let “Gunshot Glitter” whet your appetite. No one has ever been able to recapture Buckley’s lightning-in-a-bottle essence since he passed in 1997. MIIRRORS come the closest of anyone.
Revisit Buckley’s legendary vocals from this 1994 concert at Gleneagles: