The first track on Ani DiFranco’s self-titled first album, “Both Hands,” establishes everything about Ani that we’d come to know and love: a powerful but sometimes idiosyncratic delivery of allegorical lyrics paired with unconventional acoustic guitar playing. The song is stripped down and raw, but somehow also majestic.
Perhaps Depeche Mode’s most iconic song, at least for the general public, “Personal Jesus” manages to combine singer Dave Gahan’s sex appeal with a sinister undercurrent of dominance and submission. Songwriter Martin Gore wrote the song after reading about the relationship between Priscilla Presley and Elvis, and how utterly one-sided it was. In Gahan’s delivery, though, the relationship seems considerably more appealing. The original video, set in a brothel, also emphasizes the sexual side of the relationship over its more troubling aspects.
Kid Moxie’s upcoming score for indie film Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have a Serious Talk is, as film scores typically are, mostly instrumental. But it closes with a surprising cover, as Kid Moxie aka. Elena Charbila tackles Alphaville’s ’80s synth-pop classic “Big in Japan.” Her cover keeps it synthy, but adds a wistful dreampop sheen that gives it a darker undercurrent. No surprise if it sounds vaguely Twin Peak-sy; she’s worked with David Lynch and his longtime composer Angelo Badalamenti (on a new version of Blue Velvet’s “Mysteries of Love”).
Dom Thomas is perhaps best known for his other gig, as founder of acclaimed reissue label Finders Keepers. So no surprise that the songs he selected for his band Whyte Horses’ new covers album dig deep. With a shifting group of collaborators, he covers some real cratedigger picks by groups like Belgian music polymath Plastic Bertrand (“Ca̧ Plane Pour Moi”) and Long Island twin soft-rockers Alessi Brothers (“Seabird”).
Paul McCartney’s classic ballad of elderly isolation is given a bluegrass update in The Brothers Comatose‘s new cover of “Eleanor Rigby.” The Beatles‘ summer 1966 single (paired with “Yellow Submarine”) is their first song to feature no instruments by the band members, though McCartney wrote it on piano. Instead, George Martin wrote a string arrangement for a doubled up string quartet, giving the song a cinematic quality no Beatles songs and few pop songs had previously. The Beatles only contributed vocals to the finished product.
Perhaps no new artist was covered as often in 2019 as Billie Eilish. And as the year wound down, two more high-profile covers snuck in under the wire – both live, and both quite different than Eilish’s original recordings.