Dec 172015
 

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

CoverMeBestSongs2015

I didn’t realize it until I began laying out our post, but this year’s Best Cover Songs list shares quite a few artists with last year’s. And some that showed up here the year before that. Jack White’s on his fourth appearance. And Jason Isbell and Hot Chip not only both reappear from last year, but have moved up in the rankings.

Though we’re always on the lookout for the new (and to be sure, there are plenty of first-timers here too), the number of repeat honorees illustrates how covering a song is a skill just like any other. The relative few artists who have mastered it can probably deliver worthy covers again and again.

How a great cover happens is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this year as I’ve been writing a series of articles diving deep into the creation of iconic cover songs through history (I posted two of them online, and the rest are being turned into a book). In every case the artist had just the right amount of reverence for the original song: honoring its intention without simply aping it. It’s a fine line, and one even otherwise able musicians can’t always walk. Plenty of iconic people don’t make good cover artists (I’d nominate U2 as an example: some revelatory covers of the band, but not a lot by them). Given the skill involved, perhaps it’s no surprise that someone who can do a good cover once can do it again.

So, to longtime readers, you will see some familiar names below. But you’ll also see a lot of new names, and they’re names you should remember. If the past is any guide, you may well see them again next year, and the year after that.

Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.

– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)

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Oct 142015
 
Will-Dailey-1-cr.-Kirk-Edwards-web

Will Dailey has won the Boston Music Award for Best Singer/Songwriter. Five times. In his latest triumph, he takes on Arcade Fire‘s “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” He strips the song from its playful disco beat vibes, instead offering a contrasting piece with gentle tapping drums and warm guitar lines in lieu of frisky synths and pianos. Continue reading »

Aug 182015
 
EzraFurman

A few years back, Ezra Furman dumped his band the Harpoons to go solo. Anyone familiar with the Ezra Furman and the Harpoons records – and you should be, Mysterious Power is one of the best rock and roll records of the decade – would have a hard time thinking they were holding him bach. They were pretty all over the place sonically, after all. But perhaps they were, as his latest album Perpetural Motion swings about even more wildly. Twisted doo-wop, lo-fi garage, twirly synth-pop, brash soul: the style changes from one song to the next, following his restless interests. And clearly he’s stayed restless, as he now has a five-song bonus EP too, a covers set available when you purchase the album at Rough Trade. Continue reading »

Feb 182015
 

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: What’s a cover song that introduced you to an artist?
Continue reading »

Sep 082014
 

Arthur Russell is one of those artists I keep promising myself I’ll make some time to listen to. I’ve heard and read lots of good things about him. But the only familiarity with his music I have is through covers of his songs. Joel Gibb’s version of ‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’ off the tribute EP ‘Four Songs By Arthur Russell’ is an absolute stunner of a song. Continue reading »

Apr 112014
 
Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire got local during their Philadelphia tour stop, covering “Motown Philly” by hometown heroes Boyz II Men. The indie giants kept the track true to its funky R&B roots. From the look of the video the band had a grand old time with this tune, because who doesn’t love a little new jack swing? And if your dream is seeing Win Butler sing Boyz II Men in a giant fake head, then this video is absolutely for you. Continue reading »

Dec 192013
 

I’m not sure there were more great cover songs this year than any other. But there were more good ones.

What I mean by that is, the average quality of the covers we come across in the time we’ve been around has risen, rather dramatically. Whether they’re iTunes homepage singles or some guy emailing us his Bandcamp, more cover songs in 2013 avoid the old pitfalls than ever before. They don’t sound like they were recorded in a cereal box, substitute ear-bleeding volume for actual creativity, or – the worst cover sin of all – try to carbon-copying the original. With the ease of production and distribution available now, artists seemed to record covers only when they felt they had something to add, and do a halfway decent job committing those ideas to 1s and 0s. Continue reading »

Nov 272013
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Arcade Fire has a new album out. Reception: a trifle mixed, shall we say. But don’t let that stop you from engaging in a little cover love.

Their songs can be sweeping, epic, with almost a cinematic quality about them. Indeed, “Wake Up” was heavily featured in the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are (which was arguably the best thing about that film). We thought we’d invent some movie and television synopses to go with the covers below, both widely featured on the internets and by some newer unknown artists. Coming soon to a delusional theater in your mind…
Continue reading »