Riley Haas

Riley is a digital marketing trainer and strategist in Toronto. He obsessively writes and talks about music and once had a classic rock radio show in university. His favourite cover of all time is Uncle Tupelo's version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." He's also a movie fan, having seen approximately 4,400 films. You can follow him on Twitter @riley_haas.

Sep 112020
 
Kenton Chen

Even all these years later, “Like a Virgin” remains one of Madonna’s most iconic songs. The lead-off single from the album of the same name, her second, it was her biggest hit to date and sold more copies than any of her songs until “Like a Prayer.” Everyone is familiar with the instantly recognizable synthesized bass line and the chorus that producer Nile Rodgers didn’t think was catchy enough.

Scary Pockets are a funk band who perform covers on YouTube with guest vocalists. For this version they enlisted Kenton Chen, of the a cappella TV competition The Sing Off and Postmodern Jukebox fame.

The band dispenses entirely with the famous bassline, replacing it with a funky bassline that skips a beat. Chen mostly sticks to the original melody in the verses. But the chorus is even less conventional, with both the band and Chen deviating from the original song.

About two minutes in there’s a breakdown and the song turns into an extended funk jam, with the van vamping on the groove and Chen improvising through the song’s famous hook as the song slowly fades out.

This version of “Virgin” is remarkably different. It may take a bit to get into, because of how distinct it is, but the song shortly reveals itself as a pretty great cover.

Sep 022020
 
Future Teens

“All Star” is both Smash Mouth’s most famous and most notorious song, featured in not one but two feature films (Mystery Men and Shrek) and subject of endless memes. The song’s restlessness positivity – despite the somewhat downbeat lyrics of the verses – has proved easy to mock, as has lead singer Steve Harwell’s distinct and unconventional voice. Still, it was a massive hit when it came out and it has become a radio staple in the subsequent decades.

Future teens are an indie pop band from Boston with a penchant for covers, releasing a covers album in 2018. Their vibe is a lot more mopey than Smash Mouth; they describe themselves as “bummer pop.” And they have covered the most unlikely of songs: “All Star.”

Their cover opens with co-lead singer Daniel Radin almost a cappella, with only the occasional tinkling of a piano. As the song builds, there is a distinct Counting Crows vibe, with the vocal melody altered to fit the vibe. Amy Hoffman, the other lead singer, takes over for the second verse, giving the song more of an emo/’00s indie pop vibe. Instead of the (in)famous whistle break, the band jam, which solidifies the ’00s indie rock sound. For the third verse most of the instrumentation breaks away, only to come back to build slowly to a brief climax complete with emo screaming before the final chorus’s grand finale.

The result ends up something like an indie or emo power ballad. It, needless to say, a complete re-imagining of the song. Listen below.

Sep 012020
 
Yonder Mountain String Band

Elvis Presley hadn’t had a #1 hit in the US in 7 years when he topped the charts with “Suspicious Minds.” Though his comeback was already in full swing thanks to a TV special and “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds” was really the affirmation that he was back. Of course, Elvis Presley didn’t write “Suspicious Minds” nor did he record the original version. Songwriter Mark James recorded the original the year before. but the song died because nobody knew him and his label didn’t have the money to promote it. James’ version is remarkably similar to Elvis’, but it’s the Elvis version that everyone has heard, and the one every cover references. Continue reading »

Aug 202020
 
angel olsen hand habits walls cover

Hand Habits is Meg Duffy, a guitarist known for their work with The War on Drugs, Weyes Blood and others. Angel Olsen is a singer-songwriter from Missouri. Many have noted their music similarities, and they joined forces on a new cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ “Walls (Circus).”

“Walls (Circus),” from Petty’s soundtrack to She’s the One, was a much bigger hit in Canada, which is why it feels like one of his biggest songs to us up here. A second, more subdued but faster version of the song (subtitled “No. 3”) was released on the album as well, but it’s significantly less familiar. Continue reading »

Aug 062020
 

Intronaut are an American progressive metal band who’ve been putting out albums for about 14 years. They are known for a sound that incorporates, among other things, stoner metal, jazz and math rock. They might be one of the last bands you’d think of to cover a band as rootsy as CCR. Continue reading »