Arctic Monkeys – Lipstick Vogue (Elvis Costello cover)
Arctic Monkeys got a lot of attention covering the Strokes last week (especially because on his new album, Alex Turner sings: “I just want to be one of the Strokes”). But I preferred their wonderfully sleazy “Lipstick Vogue” cover, played in honor of Costello as he recovered from cancer surgery. Turner’s a product of his influences; in addition to the Strokes and Elvis, he appears to have his Nick Cave snake slither down cold.
Dolly Parton feat. Alison Krauss – The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me (Roger Miller cover)
The 31-track tribute to country legend Roger Miller features a mix of country vets (Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett), reverent newcomers (Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church), and left turns (Toad the Wet Sprocket? John Goodman??). Dolly Parton of course falls in the first category, and, accompanied by Alison Krauss on harmonies, she nails her contribution like the pro she is.
Donnie Fritts – You Better Move On (Arthur Alexander cover)
The Roger Miller tribute album boasts the A-list names, but a more under-the-radar tribute also got announced this month: Donnie Fritts’ tribute to Arthur Alexander. Co-produced by John Paul White of The Civil Wars, June finds the songwriter and longtime Kris Kristofferson keyboardist covering his friend and collaborator. Even if you’ve never heard of Fritts or Alexander, this swampy, gruff single indicates one hell of a raw album.
Eastern Mountain Time – Amarillo By Morning (Chris LeDoux cover)
Eastern Mountain Time’s Sean Hood tells us: “Most people are definitely more familiar with the George Strait cover version of the song, which I’m pretty sure is one of the singles that kicked off his massive career, but I’ve always been really partial to LeDoux’s original recording. Unless I’m a sucker and just buying into the myth of it, Chris LeDoux was a real-deal cowboy in the 70’s midwest and most of his songs feel like really legitimate cowboy songs. I’d research that more, but I don’t want to find out that it’s all an affect.”
Florence + The Machine – Silver Springs (Fleetwood Mac cover)
The band has been covering this Fleetwood Mac favorite for a couple years, but this radio session delivers the best recording of it so far. Unfortunately, it’s not Florence Welch’s best performance, with her voice sounding a little strained. That’s just compared to her incredibly high vocal bar, though; even strained Florence still blows anyone not named “Adele” out of the water. This will do just fine until she records the cover again.
LIGHTS – Peak (Drake cover)
I’ve never been able to muster an opinion one way or the other on Drake, but I do love LIGHTS’ new tribute. In only a week, she covered the entire second half of Drake’s new Scorpion double album (that’s the more R&B/less rap side). She told Billboard: “I’ve been talking about covering a Drake album for years and I’ve never had the opportunity… It’s usually mixed in with R&B and hip-hop stuff and the rap stuff is a lot harder for me to cover… So, of course, this album comes out and there’s an entire R&B side. I cannot let this two weeks go by without covering this.”
Rhye – A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum cover)
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” gets covered constantly, but rarely by anyone under 60. For whatever reason, some oldies become “cool” for hip indie bands to cover, and some don’t. Maybe Rhye will change that. Few are hipper than this electronic singer, often compared to Sade (on early Rhye singles, commenters regularly assumed singer Mike Milosh was a woman). The song works beautifully in his ethereal slow-burn style, sounding pretty far from golden-oldie territory.
Snail Mail w/ Waxahatchee – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)
We’re in the midst of a Sheryl Crow covers renaissance. In the past few years, her songs have been covered by Lorde, Haim, Fidlar, and Screaming Females. Last year saw an entire tribute album, turning her hits into weirdo space-funk and squalling punk-rock. This new live cover may be the prettiest yet though.
Sugarland – Tony (Patty Griffin cover)
It’s been a good year for “Tony” covers – which is a pretty good sign it’s been a bad year for LGBTQ rights. Mark Erelli did a beautiful cover of Patty Griffin’s heartwrenching song about her gay classmate’s suicide on his new album, but bonus props go to Sugarland. Not only are they miles bigger than Erelli (hell, they’re miles bigger than Griffin herself), but they also bring the gay-rights message to a mainstream country audience that might not be as used to hearing it as his Americana crowd. Frontwoman Jennifer Nettles told as much to Billboard: “You don’t want to preach to the choir, you know what I mean? That is not the case within our demographic … I think that we’re able to do that, and that I am uniquely qualified to do it in a way that opens hearts rather than closes doors. That is what we need right now.”
Swamp Dogg feat. Justin Vernon – Answer Me, My Love (Nat King Cole cover)
Quote of the month from Swamp: “‘Answer Me, My Love’ is what we call a ‘money record’ and since I need money, I recorded it. You can’t go wrong with a Nat ‘King’ Cole hit! He never recorded a bad song and always got hits. I need to pay some bills.”
Willie Nelson – Summer Wind (Frank Sinatra cover)
You might be tempted to assume Willie is borrowing from his buddy Bob with a Frank Sinatra tribute album. But don’t forget, Willie began recording standards albums forty years ago, with the great Stardust (it made our best covers of ’78). And his experience shows, deftly delivering what seems to be one of the few Ol’ Blue Eyes songs Dylan hasn’t gotten to yet.
Zoe Sky Jordan – Marina Del Rey (Marc Jordan cover)
Marc Jordan is Zoe Sky Jordan’s father. I’d never heard of either of them, but he was apparently a prominent songwriter who scored a own medium-sized 1970s hit under his own name in “Marina Del Rey.” Steely Dan meets Christopher Cross, the song falls firmly into the genre we now call yacht rock. If you don’t like steel drums, watch out. Daughter Zoe Sky removes the dated production, and rescues her dad’s song from ’70s cheeze purgatory.
The usual disclaimer: The “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others, just ones we didn’t blurb, or already wrote about elsewhere.
Ann Wilson – I Am the Highway (Audioslave cover)
Billy F Gibbons – Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (Muddy Waters cover)
Childcare – No Letting Go (Wayne Wonder cover)
CHVRCHES – Love (Kendrick Lamar cover)
Cults – Total Control (The Motels cover)
David Bazan – Thread (Now, Now cover)
First Aid Kit – Running Up that Hill (Kate Bush cover)
Kathy Mattea – I Can’t Stand Up Alone (Martha Carson cover)
Lowland Hum – I’ll Be Your Mirror (Velvet Underground cover)
Nobody’s Girl – Call Me (Blondie cover)
Phil Henry Acoustic Trio – I Want You to Want Me (Cheap Trick cover)
Phoebe Bridgers – The Gold (Manchester Orchestra cover)
Racoon Racoon – Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Slings & Arrows – The Model (Kraftwerk cover)
Sun Kil Moon – Come On Get Happy (Partridge Family cover)