Anais Mitchell & The Staves – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)
For a few years now, long-running French video company La Blogothèque has been filming a series they call “One to One” at Bon Iver’s various European festivals. They blindfold one audience member and bring them into a private room for a concert for one. Bon Iver did one, and Damien Rice’s is a must-watch. Personally, that experience sounds more awkward than enjoyable – especially with all the cameras in your face – so I’d rather just watch someone else’s personal concert on video. This one is a gem, feature The Staves with Anais Mitchell delivering a gorgeously-harmonized Sheryl Crow cover.
Arc Iris – Friends (Led Zeppelin cover)
While listening to the new covers EP from Arc Iris, one has to periodically stop to Google the original song. That’s how dramatically this trio – led by Jocie Adams, formerly of the Low Anthem – reimagines these songs. One of two Led Zeppelin covers on their new EP Friends and Lovers (the other is “Ramble On”), “Friends” in their hands sounds like Stevie Wonder collaborating with Björk, strange and synthy, with not a bowed guitar or banshee yelp in sight.
Bastille – Bad Guy (Billie Eilish cover)
Billie Eilish rocks. If you’re not convinced, two rock-band covers this much should convince you (the other is FIDLAR, down below). British quartet Bastille somehow blend synth-pop and surf-rock in this wild and wonderful cover. As if that wasn’t enough, they splice in several over “Bad” pop hits. I won’t spoil the surprise by saying which.
Dear Seattle – The Special Two (Missy Higgins cover)
If you’re reading this in Australia, you probably know Missy Higgins’ huge hit “The Special Two.” Otherwise, take my word for it: It sounds nothing like this cover. Somehow Dear Science heard her piano-pop ballad and thought, “There’s a punk song here.” It sounds like something one of the emo revival bands like Modern Baseball could get mosh pits going to. Missy tweeted: “Wow, I never in my wildest dreams imagined The Special Two sounding like this!! I had a smile ear to ear watching and listening to this (very) old song of mine be reborn.”
Haim – I Don’t Want to Wait & Where Have All the Cowboys Gone (Paula Cole covers)
You gotta appreciate a band that takes advantage of a big festival slot to do something different. The sisters Haim hit Pitchfork Festival this month, and in the middle of all their summer-pop fan favorites they took time out for a two-song mini set of Paula Cole covers. Everyone always likens them to Fleetwood Mac (who they’ve also covered), but ’90s pop singer-songwriters like Cole seems just as apt a comparison.
Jonah Ray – Amish Paradise (Weird Al Yankovic cover)
Weird Al covers are few and far between. A couple fan-curated tribute albums exist (with mixed-at-best results) and in 1999 punk band Your Mother put out a 10-inch with four nutty versions, but beyond that you can’t find many worth keeping. The gold standard has long been Laura Barrett’s xylophone “Smells Like Nirvana,” but Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Jonah Ray may give her a run for her money on upcoming tribute EP You Can’t Call Me Al. The label describes it as blend of Jeff Rosenstock and Weezer, which certainly holds true on his slamming version of “Amish Paradise.”
K. Flay – Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani cover)
Gwen Stefani may have raved about the brief “Don’t Speak” cover performed at Kanye West’s latest “Sunday Service” over the weekend, but the month’s real standout came from rapper and singer K. Flay (Kristine Meredith Flaherty). She brings heavy rock energy to a deeply silly song, playing it with a straight face even when she gets to spelling out “bananas.” That’s our shit.
Robert Ellis – Everyone’s Gone to the Moon (Jonathan King cover)
To mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s 11 launch, Robert Ellis covered Jonathan King’s oft-covered ”Everyone’s Gone to the Moon.” Ellis grew up fifty miles from NASA’s Apollo Mission Control Center and told Texas Monthly “it’s a part of our identity. I got sort of obsessed with how mind-blowingly cool it is that people decided to go to space, and that where I’m from was such a part of it.” He says his version was inspired by Nina Simone’s, also celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Six Organs of Admittance – Night Goat (Melvins cover)
[Download at Aquarium Drunkard]
One great thing about Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe covers series is that, in addition to producing great covers, the musicians always write about them themselves. At length, in the case of Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny. The whole thing is worth a read as you listen to his three Melvins covers, so I’ll just quote the first paragraph:
Covering the Melvins is an audacious project. For any band to think they could cover their music is pretty foolish and wrong. It is definitely extra risky for an acoustic band that is not particularly into the move where an acoustic band/musician covers a genre that is (oh-so-crazily!) different from the original. By now it’s a trope and usually done with some sort of winky-wink, “Hey, I know of these heavier musics but look at me, I can make it all mellow, isn’t this cute and listenable?” So I was a bit hesitant to even execute this but in the end it’s my love for the band that made me do it.
The Smittens – Live Forever (Oasis cover)
On their new odds-and-sods covers comp Stay Gold, longtime twee-pop group The Smittens dig out a never-released Oasis cover from the vaults. A band member tells a great story about how a group of truckers turned him into an Oasis fan, which you can read at County Tracks.
The Struts – Dancing in the Street (Martha and the Vandellas)
Glam-rock revivalists The Struts clearly aspire to be the second coming of The Darkness. They’re technically cover Martha and the Vandellas here, but, let’s be honest: They’re clearly more inspired by the David Bowie and Mick Jagger version. And that’s not a knock; the band’s disco-rock swagger turns the song into a trashy romp that could fill an arena.
Vampire Weekend – I’m Goin’ Down (Bruce Springsteen cover)
One of the joys of this year’s return of Vampire Weekend is the always-experimental band’s slew of great covers. They appeared in our June list covering Crowded House and our May list covering Bob Dylan. Now they keep the streak going with their third consecutive 1980s cover: Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Goin’ Down,” which doesn’t get covered as often as it should.