Will Oldham, whose part-time stage name is Bonnie “Prince” Billy, is full of surprises. He became Indie-famous as a soft, introspective folk singer; he’s been covered by and sang with Johnny Cash; he can surprise you with loud rockers; and he even had his video “cover” of Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” with Zach Galifianakis featured on West’s website. Frankly, it can be surprising to hear him return to his roots with a heartfelt, folksy guitar number, but he recently put together a three-song set for Fogged Clarity that did just that.
If you’ve been keeping tabs on the always quirky rockers The Flaming Lips, you’ll discover a not-so-hidden trend: they like covering the Beatles. Last month they released their track-for-track cover of the classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (titled With a Little Help from My Fwends), but a quick search of Cover Me will bring up 5 other Beatles/John Lennon songs they’ve covered, going all the way back to 2010. You can’t really argue with the formula, though, because it seems to be working.
Indie rockers Built to Spill rose to relative fame in the late ’90s, but their influence on rock started much earlier and still continues today. It’s easy to listen to each song at least three times: once as a collective whole, once to focus on the clever storytelling of the lyrics, and at least once more to try to keep track of the battling guitar lines. Like the better known, but similarly quirky act, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill perfectly meld smart lyricism and off-kilter guitar riffs that could best be described as “bendy.”
Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. Her legacy speaks for itself: 18 Grammy Awards, the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the creator of one of the greatest covers of all time with her version of Otis Redding’s “Respect.” At age 72, and despite recent health issues, she’s still an amazing vocalist. So anticipation for her first album in 3 years, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics due out October 21st, is understandably high. The album will cover classics by Etta James, The Supremes, and Gladys Night, as well as newer tracks by Alicia Keys and the first released single, Adele‘s “Rolling in the Deep.”
Alt-rock heavyweights The Afghan Whigs, who released their first studio album in 16 years this April, have never shied away from covering a song. Finding a mildly sinister way to do it is nothing new either. But The Police‘s 1981 smash hit “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” with its reggae-tinged, new-wave pick-me-up appeal, seems at first to be an unlikely candidate for a Whigs cover.
Sam Amidon has built a career out of taking traditional folk, blues and Appalachian tunes and modernizing them. Although he occasionally strays into pop culture (his version of R. Kelly’s “Relief” was Cover Me’s 2nd favorite cover song of 2010) he can typically be found playing some obscure tune of long-forgotten origin. The first release from his upcoming album, Lily-O, fits the bill.
Pat Benatar‘s “Love is a Battlefield” is indelibly linked to the ’80s, both because anyone who grew up in that era couldn’t escape its broad reach and because of the decade’s stereotypical flourishes found throughout the song: synths, reverb, and melodrama. Despite the fact that it hasn’t aged particularly well, Benatar’s powerful and emotive voice is enough to make it worth keeping on your iPod, even if you only listen sparingly. It’s the sound of young love and desperation. Although the new version by Wrongchilde is very different in sound, that essence of desperation remains.
Covers albums are commonly filled with songs that have special meaning to the band and often had an impact on the members. “Break-Up album” usually refers to a collection of songs dedicated to the end of a recent, often painful, relationship. Brooklyn band Quiet Loudly missed both of those memos. Their album is filled with songs chosen at the whim of a few fans who pledged a certain amount on the previous album’s Kickstarter, and the “Break Up” referred to is the band itself.