Angie McMahon – Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA cover)
It comes too late for our Best ABBA Covers countdown, but Angie McMahon’s low-simmer version of “Knowing Me, Knowing You” would make a worthy addition. Though it comes coated in a layer of rock grit, the band’s vocal harmonies stand up to the Swedes. And just wait for Angie McMahon’s cover-closing holler.
Ben Patton – You Still Believe in Me (Beach Boys Cover)
Though it is on the belatedly-beloved Pet Sounds, “You Still Believe in Me” has never been a common Beach Boys song to cover. Simplicity makes it stick in composer Ben Patton’s version, performed live at an old Vermont meeting house. Vulnerable and heartfelt, his basic acoustic performance shows just solid a song it is even underneath Brian Wilson’s legendary production.
Galantis & Dolly Parton – Faith (John Hiatt cover)
Dolly Goes EDM has been the headline for this one, and that’s certainly true. But what shouldn’t be missed is the other half: Dolly went EDM on a friggin’ John Hiatt song! Admittedly, she and the Swedish dance-music duo tweaked the lyrics, but the chorus – which comprises roughly 90 percent of the song here – remains the same. As Dolly put it, “As soon as I heard it, I thought, ‘Yes! This is a song that the world needs right now.’ It’s all about uplifting mankind and believing in a higher power. All the things we need in this dark, ol’ dreary world right now.”
Isobel Campbell – Runnin’ Down A Dream (Tom Petty cover)
The first of a couple great new covers marking the two-year anniversary of Petty’s death, Isobel Campbell gives “Runnin’ Down A Dream” kind of a krautfolk vibe. Though dramatically slowed down, the drum machine and omnipresent drone gives it propulsion, like running in slow motion.
Juliana Hatfield – Next to You (The Police cover)
The second peek at Hatfield’s forthcoming Police covers album (which I’ve heard, and is terrific) finds her wildly reimagining one of the band’s biggest hits. It manages an intriguing balance between poppy and disturbing, achieved by the balance of the perky drum machine with the disgustingly-distorted guitar.
Petra Haden – If It Be Your Will (Leonard Cohen cover)
All voices ‘If It Be Your Will’ by Leonard Cohen, inspired by The Webb Sisters pic.twitter.com/PWWHieTkJ0
— Petra Haden (@petrahaden) September 22, 2019
One-woman a cappella band Petra Haden just joined guitar great Bill Frisell on his new album Harmony, and will soon tour with him. Thankfully, she’s kept release her own covers. As always, she layers her voice into inventive arrangements a far cry from your college glee club. For now, this beautiful Cohen cover – inspired by the version Cohen’s backing vocalists The Webb Sisters would perform on his final tours – only exists in a truncated version on Twitter. Hopefully it presages a new album, and a recording of this that doesn’t end partway through.
Puss N Boots – Angel Dream (Tom Petty cover)
The second of the aforementioned Petty covers, Norah Jones’ country trio Puss N Boots tackles a much more obscure song: the She’s the One soundtrack nugget “Angel Dream.” In their hands, it sounds like an old Loretta Lynn ballad. Though Petty’s somehow whose dozen omnipresent hits get covered constantly, recordings like this show the gold to be mined from deeper in the catalog.
Reindeer Flotilla – Lucky (Radiohead cover)
On our massive Best Radiohead Covers list, the only version of “Lucky” came as a solo live performance from erstwhile Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. LA electronic duo Reindeer Flotilla take it in a very different direction, spacey and ethereal. They got their start cover Brian Eno songs, and you can certainly hear that influence here.
Roger Harvey – Burn One With John Prine (Kacey Musgraves cover)
Kacey Musgraves has spoken often about how John Prine has inspired her, but for whatever reason she’s never officially released her song about him (though she did once perform it for the man himself). Roger Harvey’s beautiful cover serves double-duty, paying tribute to both artists. It’s more straightforward country than Musgraves’ much-acclaimed newer disco material, which means this may be the most official version we get. It beautifully rescues the song from the also-ran pack, and hopefully will expose it to a broader audience.
(Sandy) Alex G – You’re Still the One (Shania Twain cover)
Before (Sandy) Alex G’s version, the only “You’re Still the One” cover I liked was the nutty country-punk take by Roper. In that version, tongue remains firmly in cheek. In this new one, it sounds like (Sandy) Alex G actually, unironically likes the song. Plaintive and quiet, it tries to salvage the song from the nostalgia dustbin. The backing vocals aren’t quite there, but it’s a live radio performance and that happens. Hopefully he records a studio version.
Sleigh Bells – Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (Lead Belly cover)
Nirvana famously covered this Lead Belly song…for MTV Unplugged. It’s a shoe-in for any site’s Best Covers Ever list, and deservedly so, but it doesn’t sound like what people thought of as Nirvana. Sleigh Bells’ new cover gets closer to what a plugged version might have sounded likey. The duo said, “The Nirvana and Lead Belly versions of the song are total classics, but with some apprehension we decided to give it a shot.”
Various Artists – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills, and Nash)
How’s this for a folk-rock supergroup: Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats), James Mercer (The Shins), Chris Funk (The Decemberists), Jason Isbell, John Stirratt (Wilco), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and Janet Weiss (Quasi, ex-Sleater-Kinney). Oh, and the woman who inspired the song: Judy Collins herself! This massive ensemble performed at Newport together over the summer, and they just released a proper video.
Young Summer – Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand cover)
Stereogum called the Looking for Alaska soundtrack “sync-core,” which is a catchy descriptor for the spate of slow, breathy covers popping up in TV shows and moody trailers. Young Summer’s “Take Me Out” certainly fits, but unlike some of the album’s other indie-rock-a-decade-ago covers (Death Cab, Sufjan), “Take Me Out” works in a spare and moody piano mold.