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…

Sep 262014

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

Loaded, released forty-four years ago this week, was the album that marked the end of the Velvet Underground as we knew them – or, more accurately, as we never knew them until after they broke up, when those few thousand who bought the first record formed their own bands and named them as an influence. Trying to make the slickest, most commercial album they could, they still failed to crack Billboard‘s Top 200, but they scored some of the best reviews of their career; Rolling Stone‘s Lenny Kaye wrote, “Each cut on the album, regardless of its other merits, is first and foremost a celebration of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, all pounded home as straight and true as an arrow.”
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Sep 052014

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!

He sounds like a slowed-down Jeff Buckley on female hormones. – Listener quoted in The Times of London
Antony Hegarty has a voice that sounds like it belongs to a Dostoyevsky character. Every song rides on an undercurrent of mournful reflection. – NPR
[W]hat a discovery: a voice like St Theresa’s arrow to pierce the soul. – The Australian
Every emotion in the planet is in that gorgeous voice. – Diamanda Galas
When I heard him, I knew that I was in the presence of an angel. – Lou Reed

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Jun 092014

The Velvet Underground continues to be a popular source of material for cover songs (as recently noted here and here). However, this may be the first time that The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed have been covered at the Grand Ole Opry. Elizabeth Cook, like any country artist worth her weight in cowboy boots, can flat out rock when she wants to, only to shift gears and deliver a soft, sincere song, like “Pale Blue Eyes,” without being too saccharine. Continue reading »

May 302014
Courtney Barnett and Billy Bragg

Listening to Courtney Barnett’s narrative style of solo work (prime example: “Avant Gardener”), it’s clear a Lou Reed influence is at play. So perhaps it’s no surprise that, when teaming up with folk veteran Billy Bragg, the two would turn to The Velvet Underground. Barnett opened for Bragg on his recent Australian tour. They took time together to record “Sunday Morning” for RocKwiz, the Australian TV show.
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Mar 252014

Doo wop and early ‘60s pop may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of Lou Reed, but, listening to his early work with The Velvet Underground, all of that – and much more – is there. Like The Velvet Underground did a couple of generations ago, Hollis Brown, a five-piece band from Brooklyn, clearly draws on a variety of influences to craft a classic rock and roll sound. Continue reading »