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.
If something feels vaguely familiar about the opening to Twin Danger’s cover of Queens of the Stone Age‘s “No One Knows,” there might be a good reason for it. The sultry saxophone blast that kicks off the track comes from Stuart Matthewman, cofounder of Sade, who first achieved fame in the ’80s. The vibe from the band that surrounds him and the slinking vocals from Vanessa Bley are certainly reminiscent of Matthewman’s better-known group. The source material for this track, however, is a bit rougher around the edges.
Queens of the Stone Age have been rocking since the late ’90s, lead by singer and guitarist Josh Homme. Their 2002 song “No One Knows,” featuring Dave Grohl on drums, was their breakthrough to the mainstream and remains one of their most recognizable hits. Its heavy reliance on staccato guitar riffs and blistering drum rolls doesn’t seem to lend itself to a late-night, jazz cover, but Twin Danger prove otherwise. The piano picks up the essence of the churning guitars of the original, Bley’s voice draws you in, and the horn section bursts into the foreground often enough to mix things up. The video is below, but there are so many pans and cuts that its frenetic pace feels out of sync with the music. You’ll be better off listening without the visuals, or better yet, go buy the track on iTunes or hear it on Spotify ahead of Twin Danger’s album release on June 30th. [via Speakeasy]
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.