Mar 082018

soft news cover

Erik Laroi, who records as Soft News, appeared on both our Best Cover Albums and Songs lists a few years back for his tribute to 1980s soft-rock hits. He’s also recorded terrific EPs covering New Order and Everything but the Girl. He’s plenty experienced covering 1980s synth bands, but Soft News’ new cover of Poison’s party song “Talk Dirty to Me” is Laroi’s first attempt at glam rock.

Laroi joined Janine Annett, a veteran punk rocker, and Margaret White, who has worked with Sparklehorse and Cat Power, for a trio take “Talk Dirty to Me” for the digital hair-metal magazine March Shredness. Annett always wanted to do an acoustic cover of a heavy metal song and says now she finally had the time. Annett sings, Laroi plays guitar, and White both sings and lends her talents on violin.

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Mar 082018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

dizzy tommy roe

Today we are inaugurating a new occasional series called “Covering the Hits.” It was inspired by Stereogum’s great new series “Number Ones” reviewing every single #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in order. Than in turn was inspired by the “Popular” series in the UK. The occasion for all this number-one nostalgia? 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the Hot 100’s advent.

Needless to say, though, our focus is a little different: covers. We’re not writing about the hits themselves; we’re writing about subsequent covers of those hits. Some have been covered hundreds of times; others only a few (surprising but true for many songs that topped the charts). Whatever the case, we’re going to investigate and tell each hit’s cover story, long or short.

Unlike those other series, we’re not going in order. There are over 1,000 #1 hits since 1958. If we went chronologically, we’d never even make it to the Beatles. Instead, we’re using a random-number generator (the digital equivalent of drawing from a hat). And, for the first one, our generator-hat delivered: Tommy Roe’s 1969 hit “Dizzy.” Continue reading »

Mar 062018
franz ferdinand cover

Franz Ferdinand recently took time out from their packed tour to record a cover of Angel Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me” for SiriusXM. Franz’s version is faithful to the absolutely flawless original. The emotional vocals, slight fuzz in the recording, and simple, driving accompaniment is present in both versions and gives the effect of listening to an old ’60s ballad on the jukebox. Continue reading »

Mar 062018

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

frank turner cover songs

We launched our new series “Pick Five” last week with Emel Mathlouthi, and today the great singer-songwriter Frank Turner tells us about his five favorite cover songs.

Dubbed “the people’s prince of punk poetry,” Turner has broadened his sound on upcoming seventh studio album Be More Kind (out May 4th), the follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 release Positive Songs For Negative People. He told NME that he incorporated sounds fans might not associate with the guitar-basher, like keyboard synths and sampled loops. For a taste of this lusher production, listen to the latest single:

Such eclectic influences can also be seen in the five covers he picked for us. He mixes in the guitar-strummers and punk-blasters fans might expect (Johnny Cash and NOFX, respectively) with artists like Joe Cocker and Tori Amos. He also illustrates the depth of his musical knowledge; as he notes, few people even realize the Blondie song he picks is a cover. So let’s turn it over to him. Continue reading »

Mar 052018

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

never mind the bollocks covers

Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols is generally regarded as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. In one fell 38-minute swoop, The Sex Pistols (more or less) burst on the scene, birthed punk rock, and bit the dust soon after. That last fall marked the 40th anniversary of its release is nearly as jarring as its opening track.

Like the band itself, pretty much everything leading up to and following the album’s release was controversial. From manager/impresario Malcolm McLaren’s publicity stunts – he famously arranged for the band to perform “God Save The Queen” on a boat on the Thames near Parliament during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (ending in his arrest) – to hardcore dealings with music labels, to “moving target” album release dates. Of the band members – Paul Cook/Steve Jones/Johnny Rotten/Glen Matlock/Sid Vicious – determining exactly who was responsible for each track is even subject to debate. [Matlock, a founding member ousted and replaced by Vicious prior to the album’s release, is listed as co-writer on 10 of the 12 tracks. Although inarguably critical, his actual influence relative to the other band members has been challenged by Jones.]

But as writer Steve Huey pointed out in his review on AllMusic:

…underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms.

The album debuted at number #1 in the UK in 1977. At the time, it didn’t sell nearly as well in in US – taking 10 years to reach gold status – but its impact and ultimate legacy on both sides of the Atlantic was undeniable. In a wide-ranging Yahoo Music/Backspin interview from early last year, guitarist Steve Jones called it “the main album for kids to have if you were part of the new revolution.” And further, “We only did one album and that one album has kept the whole ball rolling ever since… but maybe if we had done another album, it would have sucked.”

Today kicks off a short series celebrating Bollocks. The seminal work has been covered extensively, so let’s march right in…

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Mar 052018
lucius covers

For many, the starting point for a good cover is the quality of the original song itself. And, Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” teaches a masterclass in how to write a killer pop song. Released in the summer of 1978 and included on Rafferty’s first post-Stealer’s Wheel release Baker Street , the song reached number 12 on the Billboard chart and was generally considered to be the less-cool younger brother to the massive hit that was the title track.

In my opinion, there have only been a few covers of the song worthy of consideration, most notably the Bonnie Raitt version of the song on Slipstream. The relative paucity of great versions only makes Lucius’s new acoustic rendition of the tune on their latest release, NUDES, all the more special. The Brooklyn duo is no stranger to highly eclectic cover songs having included Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” on the deluxe edition of their 2017 release Good Grief, and crooned their way through “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” on their freshman release, Wildewoman. Continue reading »