I swore I wasn't going to mention Paul Simon again in this column for a while, but fate, in the form of Britt Daniel, has forced my hand. This set of four quickly recorded songs is available for free download in perpetuity from the site that bears its name; three songs on it are from prior albums—one each from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Kill the Moonlight, and the very early Soft Effects EP. It's the fourth track (and first, sequence-wise), a cover version, that's the killer.

It's not without precedent, either. Early in 2007, I was shocked by a solo Britt Daniel recording, on an all-Portlanders comp called Bridging the Distance, of Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" (with uncredited colead vocal by the young Lou Rawls), recorded cheaply and tinnily, guitar and shaker and singer overdubbed onto himself and hiss. This is not a song mere mortals can cover—but these are two absolute giants, and Daniel grabbed the song by the throat and murdered it. It was absolutely soulful, and it sounded absolutely unconcerned with anyone other than Daniel's own definition of "soul."

That's sort of what happens when Spoon get their hands on "Peace Like a River," one of the five or six best songs Paul Simon ever wrote. (It's on his self-titled album from 1972.) It isn't the same kind of shock as "Bring It on Home to Me"—for one thing, with a band whose skill is equal to Daniel's singing, there's more to train your ear on—but it's probably a better-realized piece of music.

The arrangement has the loose groove of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga with some of the more piano-heavy moodiness of Gimme Fiction, meaning, of course, that it sounds like a cross between Elvis Costello's Trust and Billy Joel's Glass Houses. It's a remarkable piece of work: drowsy like a B-side, an effect intensified by Daniel's droll guitar slashes and his up-too-early vocal croak, but still plenty eventful. There's also a live take of "The Ghost of You Lingers" that further reveals its genealogy in Steve Reich. recommended