Texas’s Toadies first broke through in 1994 with their classic “Possum Kingdom,” an anthem for rural stalker-murderers everywhere. Twenty years later, they’re still going strong with a new album, Heretics, out this month. It features reimagined versions of fan favorites including, yes, “Possum Kingdom,” plus plenty of songs with equally creepy titles like “Queen of Scars” and “Dollskin.” One song that wouldn’t seem as creepy is a cover of Blondie‘s “Heart of Glass” – but it turns out they made that dark too – similar to what they did with LCD Soundsystem a few years back.
Even though they do sound similar, the thought of Ryan Adams – a guy known for intense genre-hopping, releasing albums like a song factory, and being an all around cool guy – being a Taylor Swift fan seemed unlikely.
Apparently, he’s a fan. Enough of a fan to cover her newest record, 1989, in its entirety.
By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself a Meghan Trainor fan. Between her confused mantle of feminist empowerment and overexposure, she simply wasn’t an artist to whom I was willing to give time. Fortunately, there are artists who are able to reinterpret some of her more recent and tolerable work. Her duet with John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” despite its simplicity, can have universal appeal to any of those who have experienced doubt within a relationship. Newcomers Smithfield take this somewhat generic ambivalence and manage to make it more personal and aching.
The beautiful synth pop from the band CHVRCHES often plays on the disconnect between singer Lauren Mayberry’s sweet vocals and heavy, almost industrial, backing tracks. It’s not the most obvious cover material for Muse, a band spawned out of the mid-’90s alt rock movement, but Muse recently played a cover of CHVRCHES’ “Lies” for the BBC Live Lounge.
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
When all the bien-pensant trendsetters diss the Eagles (and they do, they do), “Boys of Summer,” written post-Eagles 1.0 and pre-hell freezing over by Don Henley, their best singer and their best writer, is the song that leads my opening statement for the defense. I remember the first time I heard it; I’d long before grown weary of the old band, but this song astonished and delighted. The combination of sound and lyric served to kick me into a mythical time remembered, irrespective of impossibility, brown skins shining in what little sun made it into my drab surroundings, lifting me into celebration, looking back, yes, always looking back. (I recall actual Deadheads kicking up over the perceived lyrical put-down, but to me, hell, it was a reminder and a kick-start.)
It’s a difficult song to do well, as the original hits all the bases available. Second Hand Songs tells me at least twenty-three have tried, with YouTube adding several more risible attempts to the list. One was even a successful hit in Eurodisco land, as some may remember. Wanna hear that one again? Tough, it ain’t here tonight. But here are three others, in ascending order of quality.
Back in 2011, we named Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis one of our favorite finds at the CMJ festival. Four years later, he’s cut his long locks, signed to a hip Americana record label, and earned a ton of accolades for his 2014 album The Lights from the Chemical Plant. It was so successful, in fact, that today he releases a deluxe version of it, complete with a bunch of demos and a live cover of Richard Thompson‘s classic “Tear-Stained Letter.”