Andrew Leahey & the Homestead – Lips Like Sugar (Echo and the Bunnymen cover)
Nashville Americana musician Andrew Leahey first heard “Lips Like Sugar” a couple years ago while touring through Texas. Dozing in the van, he woke up to a bandmate blasting the Echo and the Bunnymen hit. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope we don’t crash right now, because I absolutely need to learn how to play this,'” he said. “We’ve been playing it ever since.” He recorded it for his new album Airwaves, out tomorrow.
Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra cover)
Guitar great Bill Frisell first recorded the classic James Bond theme a couple years ago for his album (one of our favorites of that year). He revisits it now for a live album with bassist Thomas Morgan. Like any jazz musician worth his martini, Frisell changes and expands the Bond song the second time through. It’s barely recognizable much of the time, but would still be worth a spot on our Best Bond Covers list.
Car Seat Headrest – For Pete’s Sake (The Monkees cover)
On tour, Will Toledo’s prolific indie-rock band have covered everyone from Smashing Pumpkins to Outkast. Following the passing of the Monkees’ Peter Tork this month, they busted out the band’s Headquarters deep cut “For Pete’s Sake.” Frenetic drums give it a post-punk spin, sounding more like Interpol than an oldies band.
CLOVES – Blowin’ in the Wind (Bob Dylan cover)
For one of Bob Dylan’s best-known songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind” doesn’t get covered as often as you’d think anymore. Particularly rare are covers from younger, hipper artists. Does such lyrical sincerity seem cheesy to millennials? Or was the song just so over-covered in the 1960s that now people steer clear? New pop singer CLOVES bucks the trend on a spare and beautiful new single that reminds us why everyone used to cover this in the first place.
Default Genders – Secret Garden (Bruce Springsteen)
Dance covers of Bruce Springsteen drop constantly. But usually the uptempo electronic approach gets applied to “Dancing in the Dark” or “Hungry Heart.” Certainly not a slow ballad like “Secret Garden.” But James Brooks, of Elite Gymnastics, delivers the month’s most surprising – and possibly polarizing – cover on “Secret Garden .NUXX.” He describes his approach to covers as like fanfiction. In this case, he loves Springsteen and ’90s rave music. Why not combine the two?
Karen O – Bullet with Butterfly Wings (Smashing Pumpkins cover)
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about perhaps the most high-profile cover of the month. The spooky and ambient verses work beautifully with Karen’s voice, but once it explodes into industrial dubstep it threatens to drown her out. Does a singer as powerful as Karen O really need all this production? To me, this cover seesaws between a five stars and one. We’ll include it here; you be the judge.
Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee – It Ain’t Me Babe (Bob Dylan cover)
Duet versions of “It Ain’t Me Babe” have been done before, but rarely with as much tenderness as Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield bring here. Beautifully filmed in the foyer of the Sydney Opera House, the song needs only the barest of guitar chords to augment their two voices. To quote Stereogum: “These two should just go ahead and make a covers album.”
LCD Soundsystem – Seconds (The Human League cover)
James Murphy said he and bandmate Al Doyle do “our best Phil Oakey impressions” on this track. They do sound eerily like the Human League singer, but thankfully the production veers further from the original template. Thudding and more raw than the slick 1980s original, LCD’s “Seconds” keeps the song’s synth-pop power but brings it into the 21st century.
The Lemonheads – Straight to You (Nick Cave cover)
The Lemonheads second covers album Varshons 2 is more hit-and-miss than its predecessor, but Evan Dando slays Nick Cave’s “Straight to You.” It’s less out of left-field than some of the other selections (The Eagles? Florida Georgia Line??) but perhaps that’s why it feels so natural in his voice.
Lucy Dacus – La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf cover)
Dacus told GQ about a formative middle-school moment with this song: “I was singing it to myself, and the janitor was cleaning up, but I didn’t notice. And then when I noticed I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll stop.’ And he was like, ‘No, go on ahead.’ So I sang the whole song. And then he sang the Louis Armstrong English version to me. It was just one of those weird moments with a stranger that reminds you that the world is a little bit magical.” And then he winked and tipped his cap.
Pink – Jolene (Dolly Parton cover)
Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, and more paid tribute to Dolly Parton at this month’s Grammy Awards, but the best cover may have come the night before, at the MusiCares tribute to the country great. Pink belts “Jolene” with power and conviction to overcome the shaky video clip. They usually release these annual tribute shows on DVD eventually, so hopefully we’ll soon have video worth of her performance.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Echoes (Pink Floyd cover)
The great guitar duo of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero entered many people’s awareness covering Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Metallica’s “Orion” on their first big album. Both were stunning instrumental duets, taking a classical-guitar style to two hard-rock and metal songs they adored. Needless to say, I was quite excited to see they recorded an 18-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” on their new album. It does not disappoint. The lengthy run time flies by, as the pair conjure worlds with just two guitar and their insanely quick fingers. Extra credit as always to Gabriela for doubling on hand-on-guitar percussion so lightning-fast that her hands become a blur. Had we done our Best Pink Floyd Covers Ever list a year later, this would surely be on it.
The Best of the Rest
Alex Sid – My Funny Valentine
Chatham County Line – Think I’m in Love (Beck cover)
Chewing ft Nico Segal & Local Natives – Time (Dennis Wilson cover)
Chris Thile – Jigsaw Falling Into Place (Radiohead cover)
Christine and the Queens – Need You Tonight (INXS cover)
Deer Tick – Too Sensitive for This World (Ben Vaughn cover)
Emel Mathlouthi – Fallen (Jeff Buckley cover)
The Gin Blossoms – Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead cover)
Grayson Erhard & Morning Bear – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
Jeanine – Only a Broken Heart (Tom Petty cover)
Jorja Smith – Cry Me a River (Justin Timberlake cover) & Killing Me Softly (Lori Lieberman / Roberta Flack / Fugees cover)