Sep 162016

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.


Marc Bolan died in a car crash 39 years ago today, just short of his thirtieth birthday. Tragic as this was, it was a perfect cap to the legend of the former Marc Feld, a man determined to be a near-myth of a rock star; live-fast-die-young had to be the closing number. But as other would-be legends (hi, Jobriath!) might tell you, an image won’t last without talent to keep it up, and Bolan’s talent for writing simple, catchy glamthems has kept him in the front of public consciousness, even for the ever-growing segment of the public that was born after he moved on.
Continue reading »

Sep 092016

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Sting was drunk, staggering around his hotel room in Munich, singing “Walking ’round the room.” The following morning, a more sober Sting remembered what he’d done and developed that alcohol-induced ditty into a full song. “But ‘Walking Round the Room’ was a stupid title,” he said later, “so I thought of something even more stupid.” That’s how “Walking on the Moon” got its start, and over a third of a century later it’s still going strong.

Continue reading »

Sep 022016

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Dan Reeder

The first Dan Reeder song I heard was his meditation on death, “Maybe,” featured on an Oh Boy Records CD sampler. Oh Boy is an indie label founded by John Prine, who signed Reeder after hearing his demo cassette. His first album, Dan Reeder, was as one-man-show and homemade as you can get – he wrote it, played it, recorded and engineered it, did the artwork, did all the harmonies, and even made his own instruments. The songs are brief, thoughtful, humorous, and direct – profanity is sprinkled throughout in a way that somehow manages to be organic and not crude. It was the (NSFW) “Work Song” that made me a fan for life; it’s a song with one line repeated over and over, to perfection and beyond. As NPR said, “you’ll want to play it because it’ll ring true inside you, not because it’s gratuitously vulgar.”

Continue reading »

Aug 262016

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.


Writing an “Under the Radar” piece inevitably forces the writer to address the elephant in the room: Why is an artist you like enough to spend time researching and crafting a piece about considered to be “Under the Radar” by the vast majority of people? Hem, a band that formed in 2002 and sporadically released music until last year, would seem to have had so many advantages – intelligent songwriting, fine musicianship, a distinctive sound and, maybe most importantly, a lead vocalist with a scarily gorgeous voice. Seven of their songs were used in national commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a classic Christmas cover was used in an ad for Tiffany’s, and other songs have appeared in television shows. They created music, which was well received by The New York Times, for a production of Twelfth Night for New York’s legendary Shakespeare In The Park program, featuring Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Hamish Linklater. They were touted by outlets as diverse as NPR and Entertainment Weekly. Yet it appears that radar just doesn’t pick them up.
Continue reading »

Aug 242016

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Jordan Becker: What’s your favorite foreign-language cover song?
Continue reading »

Aug 192016

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.


With Out of Time, R.E.M. completed their transition from college band to global stardom, and they wanted their next album to move away from Time‘s gentle lushness and move into harder-rocking territory, more suited to the grunge-y times. But when the band members reconvened, they found they were no longer of a mind to write loud ‘n’ angry. Result: Automatic for the People, a meditation on loss that’s downbeat without being depressing, from a band turning away from a world begging to be conquered so it could consider its disquiet. The record wasn’t what they originally promised, but it didn’t disappoint either – it went top-five worldwide, and today it’s considered the band’s masterpiece, the kind of album you put on and then you just lie down and you let it engulf you (or so it is said).

“Every one of its 12 songs is worthy of attention,” MOJO said, and in 2007 the website Stereogum proved it with their tribute album Drive XV: A Tribute to Automatic for the People. A celebration of Automatic‘s 15th anniversary, the tribute featured artists who grew up with R.E.M. as a constant in their lives, and hearing that familiar band speaking with a new voice clearly made an impression on these musicians who were still discovering their own voices and the ways they could be raised.
Continue reading »