Dec 122014

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

Back when we redesigned the site in 2010, we created basic star icons to represent the ratings we’d give an album when we reviewed it. 2 stars, 3.5 stars, etc. When we posted an album review, we’d find the corresponding icon where we last uploaded it. However, earlier this year we couldn’t find one of the icons we were looking for. Why? It turns out we’d never used it. We’d never before given an album a perfect five stars.

This year, for the first time, we did. Which should suffice to say it’s been an excellent year for cover albums. True, a few of the marquee tributes we most eagerly anticipated fell flat, either too formulaic (The Art of McCartney) or too out-there (that Flaming Lips’ Sgt. Peppers tribute we’ll never speak of again). But in the cracks and under the radar, cover and tribute albums thrived.

In our list of the twenty best, we’ve got everything from big names on major labels to DIY projects thrown up on Bandcamp. We’ve got New Orleans jazz, Parisian dub reggae, and songs that were popular when your great-great-great-great grandfather was calling town dances. Something for everyone, I guess. Something for all our fwends (sorry, that was the last time, promise).

Start the countdown on Page 2…

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. – Walt Whitman

Today’s In Memoriam is brought to you by the letter B:

B is for Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and blunts.
B is for beats and braggadocio.
B is for Big Poppa, Biggie Smalls, or maybe you know him as The Notorious B.I.G..

Guru may have been the architect, RZA is the scientist, but P-O-P-P-A? He’s the king, and Biggie begat a generation of hip hop artists who are still following the path he blazed. No small feat for a chubby drug dealer who released only one album in his lifetime.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Years ago, we said that the Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” might be a good candidate for the Five Good Covers department. Today, finally, we’re following through. Partly to atone for the delay, and partly because of the ridiculously high number of quality covers out there, we’re throwing in an extra three covers this time. Think of them as bonus tracks of what’s arguably the quintessential Smiths song.
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Brooklyn indie rocker Joseph Arthur has laid down a cover of Neil Young‘s 1989 rock anthem, “Rockin’ in the Free World” for charity. As part of the same Cool for School, album that gave us Bright Eyes covering the White Stripes, Arthur takes the song from its status as a rousing show-closer to sounding more like Neil in his electronica Trans phase. Continue reading »

Most bands touring their first album find themselves in the role of supporting act with barely enough time to squeeze in the songs from their debut. Not the case when your band consists of Ben Harper, Dhani Harrison (George’s son) and Joseph Arthur. Trio Fistful of Mercy released As I Call You Down last October, following it up with brief  – okay, very brief – North American and European headlining tours. Continue reading »

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