Dec 182014

Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.

It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.

We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ‘em.

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

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

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

In 1988, Rolling Stone named “Stayin’ Alive” one of the 100 top singles of the last 25 years, and they asked the Bee Gees to comment; how did they feel about the song? The terse response: “We’d like to dress it up in a white suit and gold chains and set it on fire.” It’s an understandable reaction – for all the wealth and fame the song brought them, it also swept aside their estimable back catalog and pigeonholed them as Disco with a capital Dis, so much so that when the genre died, the Bee Gees’ commercial success in the U.S. died with it.

But for all the venom directed “Stayin’ Alive”‘s way, for all its use as a punchline from Airplane! to Ted, people can’t get away from how good a song it is. “Look at great huge Maurice Gibb, singing like Donald Duck on ‘Stayin’ Alive,’” Roger Daltrey of the Who carped in 1978, then instantly added, “And that’s a great song. Bruce Springsteen could sing that lyric.”
Continue reading »

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Kevin Dotson got the name Linus of Hollywood from his wardrobe bearing a similarity to that of the Peanuts character. A self-described metalhead in his youth, he started out in the pop-punk band Size 14; by the time he was releasing solo work, he was radiating California, from his nom de tune to the good vibrations coming off his sunny melodies in waves. Continue reading »

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

And then there was one. With his brother Robin’s passing in May, Barry Gibb became the sole surviving Bee Gee; today marks the first time since he was three years old that he doesn’t have a brother Gibb around to see him celebrate his birthday.

“I will live on the music,” he tweeted to his fans, “and no matter what stage I’m standing on my three brothers will be standing there with me.” Continue reading »

In the late 70s the Bee Gees were an integral part of the rise of disco. The brothers Gibb helped create the soundtrack and the title to the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever. The film was originally going to be called Saturday Night  but Robin Gibb suggested the title from a track they recorded for the film, “Night Fever”. Eventually the producer settled on merging the two and history was made. Two months ago Robin Gibb died after a long-fought battle with cancer, leaving brother Barry as the last surviving Gibb brother. Continue reading »

This Week on Bandcamp rounds up our favorite covers to hit the site in the past seven days.

Our second Bandcamp set of the new year takes on two songs from the ‘60s, one from the ‘70s, and two from the last few years. We’ve got ambient electropop, twee ballads, and dub reggae. So, yeah, as all over the place as usual. Continue reading »

Mellow rockers Clem Snide aren’t exactly strangers to covering interesting songs (go find their “Heat of the Moment” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” covers if you don’t believe me), but frontman Eef Barzelay recently embarked on an ambitious covers project that puts the others to shame. Last Spring Clem Snide used Kickstarter to fund an EP of Journey covers, and, as a reward for pledging $150 or more to that project, Eef promised to record any song of the donor’s request and email the recording to them. After recording 30 or so of these covers, he decided he liked them so much that some are now being offered on Bandcamp on a free/name-your-price basis. Continue reading »

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should be. Catch up on past installments here.

A subset of cover artists specialize in taking the songs of the day and turning them into the songs of “back in the day.” Early practitioners included The Templeton Twins and Big Daddy; we’ve offered you the ’40s close-harmony stylings of The Puppini Sisters, the Djangoesque djazz of The Lost Fingers, and rockabilly heroes The Baseballs. Now we add Pink Turtle to that list, a Paris septet out to prove that it still don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Continue reading »

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