On the surface, it doesn’t seem like these two artists should intersect. But backstage at The Tonight Show, Australian indie-rocker Courtney Barnett covered Americana icon Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free.”
One of the most gut-wrenching songs ever written, Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is
regularly included in lists of greatest rock songs of all time. And on their punky new cover, Pennsylvania quartet the Districts update the dark classic. Many artists have covered the 1980 post-punk classic, but the Districts brings a 2018 sound to the track, with a less pronounced bass and synthesizer. And although some old schoolers will contend what made the original so great was Ian’s non-standard voice, I’d argue the Districts’ vocals are a significant improvement.
On her new single, former Casandra’s Wierd band member Jenn Champion provides a futuristic rendition of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by the prog rock gods Yes. It’s a desolate and eerie electro-dirge that recalls a bit of Daft Punk’s TRON: Legacy soundtrack. Though a significant departure from the Yes version, Champion’s tranquil and measured version does feature the unmistakable heavy guitar intro. In fact, that’s what inspired her in the first place.
Champion said on Facebook, “I always loved the arpeggio-ish guitar part in this song and I was just figuring out that riff and then thought it would be fun to cover.” Originally she started doing a more faithful cover, but that felt silly to her. So her wife suggested that Champion try the cover as a ballad, which Champion achieved by messing around with some new synthesizers. She said, “It was a challenge to get the cool guitar back in once I had synthed it all up.” Sounds like she nailed it.
Playing The Beatles classic “Something” still gives me goosebumps. Originally released on Abbey Road in 1969, George Harrison’s masterpiece was dubbed the best love song in 50 years by none other than Frank Sinatra. Wikipedia mentions over 150 artists who have covered the song (and that’s surely just a fraction). Well, we have a new addition.
Erik Laroi, who records as Soft News, appeared on both our Best Cover Albums and Songs lists a few years back for his tribute to 1980s soft-rock hits. He’s also recorded terrific EPs covering New Order and Everything but the Girl. He’s plenty experienced covering 1980s synth bands, but Soft News’ new cover of Poison’s party song “Talk Dirty to Me” is Laroi’s first attempt at glam rock.
Laroi joined Janine Annett, a veteran punk rocker, and Margaret White, who has worked with Sparklehorse and Cat Power, for a trio take “Talk Dirty to Me” for the digital hair-metal magazine March Shredness. Annett always wanted to do an acoustic cover of a heavy metal song and says now she finally had the time. Annett sings, Laroi plays guitar, and White both sings and lends her talents on violin.
On their new single, Danish trio Baby in Vain gives a nod to their countryman Lars Ulrich with an updated version of the Metallica concert staple “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
It’s a tall order to improve the stiff-upper-lip head-bobbing classic Metallica pumped out on 1984’s Ride the Lightning. Any self-respecting rocker instantly knows the guitar riff that anchors the original. Even when your mom hears this infectious tune, she gets the metal snarl while sporting the devil horns as she weaves through the carpool line.