Dec 112015
 

Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

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Everywhere but here, the world of cover and tribute albums tends to be a sleepy one. Most years our “Best Cover Albums” list is composed of records that either flew totally under the radar or, at best, earned a few news posts on music blogs. There’s the “all star” tribute albums that make a brief mark before being largely forgotten. And there’s the big-name artists whose cover albums get seen as a side project before their next “real” albums. That’s just the lot you sign up for when you release an album of cover songs most years.

But most years don’t have Ryan Adams. Continue reading »

Dec 092015
 
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Readers of a certain age might remember Sub Pop’s subscription service in the ’90s, which helped introduce subscribers to a cool new band ever month (the first shipment was the debut single of an unknown local band called Nirvana). Well the record label Polyvinyl has revived the concept, but their version has a catch: All the songs are recorded on a 4-track machine. In fact, they’re all recorded on the same 4-track machine, mailed from musician to musician. Continue reading »

Dec 022015
 
Photo by Joe Del Tufo

New Jersey’s Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females has made a name for herself as a whirling dervish of guitar shredding, but if you head down the Eastern seaboard a little more you’ll find someone coming up on her tail: Grace Vonderkuhn of Wilmington, Delaware. After fronting local bands for the past few years, she’s stepped out front with a psyched-out debut EP earlier this year that was hotly tipped by Pitchfork and Vice. Continue reading »

Nov 252015
 

joyTo all reports, Ewan MacColl was a difficult man. It’s perhaps hard to believe that a man who could write as sensitive a song as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (for Peggy Seeger, Pete’s half-sister and MacColl’s third wife), the song made into a cross-genre standard by Roberta Flack in 1972, could be so uniformly feared and vilified, yet still admired. I guess it’s the usual case of ignoring the man and embracing the music, and this man, who arguably invented the UK folk boom of the late 1950s and early ’60s, had little interest in embracing any of the young acolytes drawn to his flame – he called Bob Dylan’s work “tenth-rate drivel.”

Born James Miller in Manchester, his life was a series of reinventions, as he became a communist rabble-rouser in his teens, then a George Bernard Shaw-admired  playwright and, in his mid-30’s, self-acclaimed champion of a fiercely curated folk idiom, wherein such modern anachronisms as make-up for women (and possibly women in general) were decried and denied, while Dylan, Paul Simon, and others of those young acolytes were freely liberating the repertoire into their own.
Continue reading »

Nov 242015
 
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As a songwriter, Stephin Merritt doesn’t need any testaments to his prolificness or originality – the sheer scope of his sweeping, three-disc Magnetic Fields album, “69 Love Songs,” on top of the rest of his discography, is testament enough. And yet, other artists continuously remind us of the enormous scope and degree of his influence with covers from throughout his oeuvre. Recently, Bully and FIDLAR demonstrated this with a cheery take on “Absolutely Cuckoo,” the opener to the aforementioned triple-album. Continue reading »

Nov 232015
 
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If you haven’t heard of Natalie Prass yet, just wait until the end of the year “Best Albums” lists start rolling out. Prass’s self-titled debut, released early this year, is a gem. The lush backgrounds support her (usually) reserved delivery. She’s had many comparisons to Jenny Lewis (for whom she has previously sung backup) but Nick Drake references work as well. With that in mind, a cover of Simon & Garfunkel‘s “The Sound of Silence” seems an apt choice, but Prass flips the script with a stripped down funk cover of the folk classic. Continue reading »

Nov 182015
 
LostintheTrees

Last year, the North Carolina band Lost in the Trees announced an indefinite hiatus (and it sounds like it’s permanent). But before they went their separate ways (well before in fact), they recorded a majestic cover of the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing.” We’re proud to premiere it below. Continue reading »

Nov 122015
 
tim amukele

Nick Drake has been covered a lot. His music has a straightforward beauty to its melodies but contains enough complexity to be open to endless reinterpretation. Typically this shows up as a cut by a singer-songwriter or indie-folk group, but rarely as a jazzy R&B version. And let me be the first to say: we need more R&B Nick Drake covers. Continue reading »