Aug 262016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

hem

Writing an “Under the Radar” piece inevitably forces the writer to address the elephant in the room: Why is an artist you like enough to spend time researching and crafting a piece about considered to be “Under the Radar” by the vast majority of people? Hem, a band that formed in 2002 and sporadically released music until last year, would seem to have had so many advantages – intelligent songwriting, fine musicianship, a distinctive sound and, maybe most importantly, a lead vocalist with a scarily gorgeous voice. Seven of their songs were used in national commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a classic Christmas cover was used in an ad for Tiffany’s, and other songs have appeared in television shows. They created music, which was well received by The New York Times, for a production of Twelfth Night for New York’s legendary Shakespeare In The Park program, featuring Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Hamish Linklater. They were touted by outlets as diverse as NPR and Entertainment Weekly. Yet it appears that radar just doesn’t pick them up.
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Aug 242016
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Jordan Becker: What’s your favorite foreign-language cover song?
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Aug 232016
 
AudreySpillman1byWillHolland

As has happened with a number of Kris Kristofferson songs (“Me and Bobby McGee,” “For the Good Times,” “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”), “I’ve Got to Have You” was originally a hit for somebody else, Carly Simon. When Kristofferson first recorded his own version in 1974, he turned it into a duet, with his then-wife Rita Coolidge. Forty years later, he’s reprising his part on a gorgeous new cover by Nashville singer/songwriter Audrey Spillman.

Spillman met Kristofferson last year when they both acted together on the upcoming movie Wheeler. She’d given his wife a copy of her new EP and the couple loved it. As Spillman began recording her debut album (Thornbird, out next month), she emailed wondering whether he had any unrecorded songs he might like her to record. His wife suggested instead that Spillman record “I’ve Got To Have You” – and have Kris sing it with her, reprising his part from forty years ago. Continue reading »

Aug 192016
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

sketch10

With Out of Time, R.E.M. completed their transition from college band to global stardom, and they wanted their next album to move away from Time‘s gentle lushness and move into harder-rocking territory, more suited to the grunge-y times. But when the band members reconvened, they found they were no longer of a mind to write loud ‘n’ angry. Result: Automatic for the People, a meditation on loss that’s downbeat without being depressing, from a band turning away from a world begging to be conquered so it could consider its disquiet. The record wasn’t what they originally promised, but it didn’t disappoint either – it went top-five worldwide, and today it’s considered the band’s masterpiece, the kind of album you put on and then you just lie down and you let it engulf you (or so it is said).

“Every one of its 12 songs is worthy of attention,” MOJO said, and in 2007 the website Stereogum proved it with their tribute album Drive XV: A Tribute to Automatic for the People. A celebration of Automatic‘s 15th anniversary, the tribute featured artists who grew up with R.E.M. as a constant in their lives, and hearing that familiar band speaking with a new voice clearly made an impression on these musicians who were still discovering their own voices and the ways they could be raised.
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Aug 182016
 
Jozzef

Due to a certain Volkswagen commercial, Nick Drake may be most often thought of these days as an guitar-strumming-songwriter type. But anyone who’s listened beyond Pink Moon knows Drake’s first records were elaborate orchestral affairs helmed by producing legend Joe Boyd, the man behind Fairport Convention and early Pink Floyd. One of those ornate beauties is Drake’s second album Five Leaves Left (we posted covers of every song a few years ago), which contains the stunning single “River Man.” And on his soaring new cover, Israeli singer Jozzef pays tribute to the orchestral side of Nick Drake with his own layered production. Instead of just orchestra, though, Jozzef adds in more modern touches like layered vocals and even the occasional subtle synthesizer. Continue reading »

Aug 172016
 
Florence-And-The-Machine

On Florence and The Machine’s most recent album How Big How Blue How Beautiful, much was made of the absence of Florence Welch’s trademark harp. Well for any early fans who missed it, the harp is back in full force on her new cover of Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me.” It’s a very different song choice than the Justin Bieber and Skrillex song she tackled last year! The cover was teased months ago as part of the Final Fantasy XV video game, but the full version just came out on a new EP. Continue reading »