Jun 222018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

In the summer of 1982, sharp-eared listeners heard something rather unusual issuing from their transistor radios. Sandwiched between the glossy arena-prog of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” and the fist-pumping sports-rock of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” a surfy, strangely tribal tom-tom beat fairly leapt out of the speakers. A few bars later, crunching electric bass and an irresistible guitar melody — wait, is this a Latin dance track? — joined in. By the time the vocals began, sung by a perky-sounding young woman spinning a playground rhyme about a “guy who’s tough but sweet,” it was all over: Like sugar itself, this song was going to prove itself nearly impossible to quit.

Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” was one of the defining moments of New Wave, an earworm that continues to work its magic some 36 years after it was recorded, and long after the band itself had dissolved into acrimony, innumerable lineup changes, and — worst of all — competing Facebook pages.
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Jun 212018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

jeffrey foucault cover songs

No less than The New Yorker once wrote “Jeffrey Foucault, sings stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest” (and they know from literate). For going on two decades, the unassuming Wisconsin singer-songwriter has been quietly releasing some of the best folk records of the current century. Though maybe not that quietly; he does have people like Don Henley saying he “clocks modern culture about as good as I’ve ever heard anybody clock it.”

Along the way Foucault has released some beautiful covers himself, including a terrific murder-ballads album with Mark Erelli, a John Prine tribute on his own, and a great take on Bob Dylan’s “Señor” just last year. His new album Blood Brothers, though, is all originals. It comes out tomorrow, but you can hear “Blown,” a beautiful duet with Tift Merritt, now: Continue reading »

Jun 182018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

fantastic negrito cover songs

In the year 2000, the musician known as Fantastic Negrito almost died. A car accident put him in a three-week coma before requiring months of brutal physical therapy. When he finally got out of the hospital, permanent damage to his guitar-playing hand forced him to retire from music. He eventually moved to Oakland and became an urban farmer growing vegetables and, as his new bio artfully puts it, “other, more profitable, green matter.”

A lot has happened since then. He eventually returned to music, and quickly achieved the sort of milestones he never did the first time around. He won the first-ever NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2015, earned a longtime champion and mentor in Chris Cornell, and, just last year, won his first Grammy award, for Best Contemporary Blues Album. But the accident’s after-effects linger in his mind on new album Please Don’t Be Dead, which features a real photo from his hospital stay as its cover. Watch the music video for single “The Duffler”: Continue reading »

Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.

Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like: Continue reading »

Jun 152018
 

KidjoBono, whom Angélique Kidjo has taken heat for performing with on account of the collaboration signaling a lack of African purity on her part, famously and pretentiously begins the bombastic and mostly successful cover of “Helter Skelter” that kicks off U2’s concert album Rattle and Hum by proclaiming, “Charles Manson stole this song from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” I was reminded of this line when I eagerly volunteered to review Kidjo’s full album cover of Talking Heads‘ most Afro-inspired album, Remain in Light. I anticipated the album to be an act of musical liberation that brought traditional instrumentation to the most famous set of songs that had appropriated polyrhythmic composition in service of the definitely Western agenda of documenting David Byrne’s typically anxious anticipation of the Reagan years. The review, I thought, was going to write itself. It is inevitable, I imagined concluding, that removing the veil of cultural appropriation allows us to feel like we hearing these songs for the first time, “same as it ever was.”

This will not be that review. Continue reading »

Jun 112018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

the posies covers

Beloved power-pop stalwarts The Posies turn 30 this year, and are celebrating with an ambitious round of reissues of their first three major-label albums: 1990’s Dear 23 (out this Friday), 1993’s Frosting on the Beater (out August 3), and 1996’s Amazing Disgrace (out October 28). All feature new remasters from the original tapes and unheard bonus tracks. While we wait, relive the original version of one of their biggest hits, “Dream All Day.”

The band is currently on a lengthy 30th anniversary tour (upcoming dates at the bottom, and also here), but founding members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer took some downtime in the van to tell us about their favorite cover songs. As will not surprise anyone who’s heard their music, they really like Elvis Costello! Also not surprising: These two guys know their stuff, digging deep into the crates of soul, college-rock, and beyond.

And now, join Ken and Jon as they lead you on a guided tour through their cover-song collections… Continue reading »