Nick Drake has been covered a lot. His music has a straightforward beauty to its melodies but contains enough complexity to be open to endless reinterpretation. Typically this shows up as a cut by a singer-songwriter or indie-folk group, but rarely as a jazzy R&B version. And let me be the first to say: we need more R&B Nick Drake covers.
Indie-electronica group Hot Chip know how to rock a cover, as they proved when they put out one of last year’s best covers of the year. Now they’re back with one that could put them on that list in 2015 as well. The group is on tour now and has been performing Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing in the Dark” live at shows this summer. They recently released an official video and studio version of the song and its well worth a listen.
“Country pop.” “Slick country.” “Bro country.” All terms, of varyingly negative connotation, used to describe the current landscape of country music. It can be hard at times to put your finger on exactly what makes a song with some twang, electric slide and a rock beat fall into the “pop” camp or the alt-country camp, but that fine dividing line often causes consternation among listeners who prefer one over the other. Sturgill Simpson seems to get lumped into the “outlaw” or “alternative” country camp, but however you describe the up-and-coming country star he can belt out a tune, as we saw when he cracked our top 5 best covers of 2014.
The folk duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, better known as The Milk Carton Kids, have made a name for themselves with their Simon & Garfunkel-style harmonies and stellar acoustic guitar work. It’s not exactly the recipe you would imagine for a Pink Floyd cover, but in actuality Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” is perfectly suited to The Milk Carton Kids’ M.O.
The beautiful synth pop from the band CHVRCHES often plays on the disconnect between singer Lauren Mayberry’s sweet vocals and heavy, almost industrial, backing tracks. It’s not the most obvious cover material for Muse, a band spawned out of the mid-’90s alt rock movement, but Muse recently played a cover of CHVRCHES’ “Lies” for the BBC Live Lounge.
It’s hard to think of a band that epitomizes longevity like the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keith and the rest of the band have been rocking out and touring the world (including a tour they did this year) for over 50 years. That’s just insane, and not many bands can compete with that.
The A.V. Club’s Undercover series has been producing great covers for many years now with the same premise: a list of songs chosen by the staff and fans, slowly whittled down by the bands coming in to cover them. It has resulted in incredible combinations (GWAR’s version of “Carry on My Wayward Son” being the most startling) and plenty of entertainment. One of the most creative renditions of a tough cover, Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping,” came from the stalwart experimental rockers They Might Be Giants. The Johns (singers Linnell and Flansburgh) returned to the A.V. Club recently to cover Destiny’s Child‘s “Bills, Bills, Bills.”
In 2008, Blitzen Trapper‘s album Furr generated a lot of buzz, as well as a standout track in the title song. Flash forward a few albums to 2013’s VII, and the experimental indie-folk group out of Portland sound as if they’ve left some of the wilder stuff behind and headed solidly into a southern-rock/jam band inspired direction. Last year their live cover of Bob Dylan’s “Man in Me” with Dawes stuck to this blueprint, and now they continue in the same vein with their most recent cover of Neil Young.