Ray Padgett

Ray Padgett founded the blog Cover Me in 2007 and has run it ever since, growing it into the largest blog devoted to cover songs on the web. His music writing has appeared in the New Yorker, SPIN, MTV, Vice, Mojo, and more and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and SiriusXM. He lives in New York City and also works as a senior music publicist for Shore Fire Media. His book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is out now. Buy it at Amazon. Email him at rfpadgett @ gmail.

Pick Five: Wussy

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May 172018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

wussy cover songs

Next year marks the fiftieth birthday of Robert Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” record reviews. His blurbs pioneered the idea of giving albums letter grades, and he’s graded thousands over the years. In the 2010s, though, he’s only awarded a coveted A+ four times. The recipients: A Tribe Called Quest, Laurie Anderson, Vampire Weekend, and… Wussy. As if that wasn’t high enough praise, in that Wussy review for 2014’s Attica! he dubs them “the best band in America.”

He’s not alone, either. This Ohio band, based around the duo of Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker – middle and left in that top photo, respectively – has become a critics’ darling in recent years. Their new album What Heaven Is Like should only continue that trend. Billboard’s already called it “a concise 10-song meditation on hope and fear,” and it doesn’t come out until tomorrow.

Two of those ten songs are covers, the first time the band’s included any on a proper album. Not that most listeners will probably realize that they’re covers; these music superfans dig deep into the vaults, covering cult favorite folkie Kath Bloom’s “Oblivion” and 1970s garage rockers The Twinkeyz’ “Aliens in Our Midst.” Listen to the latter: Continue reading »

May 152018
 
scary pockets

You probably haven’t heard of California funk duo Scary Pockets. We hadn’t either, until stumbling upon their amazing sax-jazz cover of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory highlight “Pure Imagination.” But we should have. Turns out their keyboard player, Jack Conte, was half of one of YouTube’s first viral covers groups: Pomplamoose. (Conte also founded popular crowdfunding platform Patreon – needless to say, Scary Pockets has a page).

That’s the resume, but what hooked me before I discovered any of that were their new cover videos. Like a ’70s funk version of Postmodern Jukebox, Conte and his guitarist partner Ryan Lerman bring in guest singers for vintage soul takes on pop hits across the genre map. Start where I did, with a smooth jazz take on “Pure Imagination” featuring saxophonist Sam Gendel. Continue reading »

May 092018
 

In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.

david ford covers

Plenty of musicians write songs about politics. Fewer write songs about economics. But that’s the subject of all ten tracks on British singer-songwriter David Ford’s new album Animal Spirits, out Friday.

If an album about markets and trickle-down theory sounds kind of, well, dry – it isn’t. At all. Like all of his albums, Animal Spirits is brilliant: bluesy barn-stormers mixed with a few wedding-worthy love songs. Check out the title track: Continue reading »

May 082018
 
wussy getting better

The Sunday Times said Wussy’s last record sounded like “if Michael Stipe co-wrote songs with Morrissey…then hired Neil Young, Crazy Horse and the Cowboy Junkies to play them, and asked Kevin Shields to mix them.” That’s a lot of name drops, but Wussy is the sort of band who inspires a lot of name-dropping from critics. In a rare A+ review a few years back, Robert Christgau threw Television, Sonic Youth, and Nirvana on that list.

And they’ve never been shy about embracing influences themselves (how do we know? Check our “Pick Five” series next week…). So on the eve of their new record What Heaven Is Like, they quietly dropped a new covers EP on Bandcamp. Continue reading »

May 042018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

despacito covers

The idea behind this new series is that the random-number generator will pull up one random Billboard Hot 100 number-one from 1958 through 2018, the chart’s 60th birthday. For whatever reason, though, so far said generator is only delivering me either super old hits – my last was 1963’s regrettable “Hey Paula” – or very current – a late-period Britney Spears hit. And the trend continues today when we look at covers of one of the most recent hits out there, 2017’s #1 hit “Despacito.”

And not just one of the most recent hits, but one of the biggest. Ever. Last year, “Despacito” last year tied Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” for the most weeks atop the Hot 100 in history. This wasn’t just a number-one hit. This is objectively one of the biggest hits of all time.

So there must be a million covers, right? Not really. Despite being so massive, “Despacito” never caught that wave of semi-ironic indie rock covers that so many pop smashes do. Continue reading »

May 022018
 

In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.

geographer cover songs

We first came across Geographer in 2011 with his great cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent.” Seven years later, he’s blossomed into a killer electropop producer, singer, and songwriter. His new EP Alone Time finds him pushing his pop instincts to their limit, on five insanely catchy dance jams that would work equally well in a club or on headphones. Here’s a sample, new single “Read My Mind”:

Geographer main man Mike Deni told PopMatters “Musically, [the EP] represents an obsession with pop music that went to its furthest reaches and boomeranged back again into making not just lyrics, but sounds, that matter.” On the five covers he picked out for us, though, he dug beyond that pop music obsession into his songwriter roots, picking classic performances by the likes of Jeff Buckley and Harry Nilsson (though fans of his poppier side needn’t worry; by the end he gets to a “karaoke classic”). Continue reading »