Ashley O [Miley Cyrus] – Right Where I Belong (Nine Inch Nails cover)
The second-most-bonkers cover of the month (just wait ’til we get to “Spicy”) comes from – who else – Miley Cyrus. On a new episode of Black Mirror, she covers/parodies angsty Nine Inch Nails songs as the most insipid of pop jams. Trent Reznor, for one, says he is very much on board (given the lyric changes, these covers required his legal approval). Miley’s songs in character as Ashley O are outrageous and borderline offensive, which is kind of the point. “On a Roll” (FKA “Head Like a Hole”) has gotten most of the attention, but “Right Where I Belong” is more listenable. Marginally.
Cheap Trick – Ambush (Harry Nilsson cover)
Back in 2014, record label Royal Potato Family released This Is the Town: A Tribute to Nilsson, Volume 1. Five years later, Volume 2 has finally arrived. The big name here is clearly Cheap Trick, who growl and groove through a stormy “Ambush.” In addition, don’t miss highlights from some lesser-known names, like Invisible Familiars’ “Old Forgotten Soldier” and Adam Matta’s “Driving Alone.”
Chelsea Wolfe – Night of the Vampire (Roky Erickson cover)
Psych-rock pioneer Roky Erickson died on May 31, at the age of 71. Throughout his career, he existed somewhere in that Velvet Underground space: Never a huge mainstream star, but utterly adored by other musicians. One of the first big tribute albums, 1990’s Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, features artists like R.E.M. and ZZ Top covering his songs – and more recently, a cover by the goth-metal band Ghost B.C. topped our year-end list. One artist who owes an obvious debt to Roky is trippy dark-dirge chanteuse Chelsea Wolfe. She paid beautiful tribute with a haunting, solo “Night of the Vampire.” Wait until she hits those blood-chilling high notes at the end.
Chris Cron – Rocket Man (Elton John cover)
On Monday, we’ve got our exhaustive countdown of the Best Elton John Covers Ever. An honorable mention of sorts goes to this brand-new take from a Nashville singer, inspired by the new movie of the same name. He turns it into a spare electronic ballad that could have landed on a different soundtrack: Drive.
Damien Jurado – Diff’rent Strokes (TV theme cover)
Listen and download at Aquarium Drunkard.
For a cover session for Aquarium Drunkard, singer-songwriter-guitar-master Damien Juredo covered a bunch of old television theme songs. As good as the covers are his descriptions of them. They’re mostly a few paragraphs long, except this one. It reads, in its entirety: “This song is funky. My version is not.”
Herve Pagez, Diplo ft. Charli XCX – Spicy [Wannabe] (Spice Girls cover)
You could tell me this was the worst cover of the month, and, honestly, I don’t think I’d put up a fight. There’s no obvious reason for this Spice Girls cover and its truly bonkers video-game-dolphins video to exist. Seems like Diplo just got really high one day. I don’t know that the “Wannabe” cover (they changed the name to “Spicy” for some reason) holds much replay value, but the video boggles the mind. In a behind-the-scenes clip, Charli XCX calls it “the most fucking ridiculous video I’ve ever done,” which pretty well sums it up.
James Bay – Don’t Look Back in Anger (Oasis cover)
James Bay had planned to cover Oasis for his BBC Radio 2 session. Then he learned Noel Gallagher himself was going to be there. He tries to demure singing “Don’t Look Back In Anger” in front of the man who write it – “It’s not right,” he protests – but eventually gives in and delivers a beautiful version. “That must be the first time that song’s ever been performed where there’s not been a thousand topless men in the room,” Noel quips.
Johno – Country Road (John Denver cover)
Singer and producer Johno has lived and worked in The Balkans, Albania, Tunisia, Turkey, Ireland, and beyond, and he incorporates sounds from his travels on this dramatic reimagining of “Country Road” (“road” singular, in his version). He changes the time signature to the obscure-in-the-west 7/8 and incorporates musician friends playing oud, nay, qanun, and other instruments far from the John Denver original. Oh, and a Tunisian orchestra, which gets a nod with a quick lyric change at the end.
Laura Stevenson – Jesus, Etc (Wilco cover)
The first of a couple promising tribute albums announced this month, all of god’s money pays tribute to Wilco’s seminal 2007 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Curated by the Chicago-based music podcast Better Yet, the album collects a bunch of great musicians to cover songs by one of the city’s finest musical exports. The first single comes from Laura Stevenson, who writes “I’ve always loved Wilco. I remember my dad seeing them open for Neil Young a long time ago and he was like ‘this is going to be your favorite band- this band is going to be huge’ and I was like ‘okay whatever dad’ And then I listened to them and I was like, ‘okay you’re right’.
Manchester Orchestra – My Backwards Walk (Frightened Rabbit cover)
The second aforementioned tribute honors the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Tiny Changes finds musicians from Julien Baker to Craig Finn reinterpreting the band’s beloved 2008 album The Midnight Organ Flight. They’ve already released a handful of songs, from the mellow (Baker’s “The Modern Leper”) to hard-rocking (Biffy Clyro, same song). For a little of both styles in one song, check out Manchester Orchestra’s “My Backwards Walk.”
Troy Millette – Enter Sandman (Metallica cover)
Vermont singer-songwriter Troy Millette spoke with local blog County Tracks about his unlikely acoustic take on Metallica. “This was a cover I started doing back in like 2014 when I was first starting to really gig and grind regularly. We used to cover ‘Jumper’ by Third Eye Blind and during a live show I did a finger-picked bridge and sang the first verse of ‘Enter Sandman’ over it.” The song developed into its own proper cover, still finger-picked and tweaking the melody slightly to make it sound like more of a folk song. Against all odds, it works.
The Wandering Hearts – Nothing Breaks Like a Heart (Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus cover)
Mark Ronson’s new single hasn’t blown up the charts like “Uptown Funk” did, but it already has a better cover than that wedding staple ever got. This British country trio strips Ronson’s Miley Cyrus collab “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” way down to a gorgeous Americana ballad. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but they incorporate bits of an iconic country song that fits perfectly. The next time she’s feeling country, Miley should join the Wandering Hearts for the remix.