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 282015
 
hot-chip

Indie-electronica group Hot Chip know how to rock a cover, as they proved when they put out one of last year’s best covers of the year. Now they’re back with one that could put them on that list in 2015 as well. The group is on tour now and has been performing Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing in the Dark” live at shows this summer. They recently released an official video and studio version of the song and its well worth a listen. 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 »

Dec 112013
 

OK, so it may have only been two years ago that James Murphy last played (and streamed live) as LCD Soundsystem in Madison Square Garden, but there is still a small little hole in our hearts that can only be filled by Mr. Murphy…or at least an amazing cover of one of his songs. MS MR have been performing an awesome live rendition of “Dance Yrslf Clean” and here we have a polished studio version, complete with some bumpin’ sax. Continue reading »

Jan 032012
 

Last April’s five-song set of Franz Ferdinand covers to celebrate Record Store Day was unlikely enough. LCD Soundsystem, Debbie Harry, and more came together to tackle some newer songs by the Scottish quartet. Even less likely: now all the covers have honest-to-goodness music videos. Continue reading »

Dec 162011
 

When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.

There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.