Aug 152016
 
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Preparing for this past weekend’s “Day of the Dead” concert – the all-star band rendition of The National-lead Grateful Dead tribute album of the same name at Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin – I interviewed a handful of involved artists and kept asking a question that no one knew exactly what to do with. My question: “Given the legacy of the Dead as a live band, what is going to be different about playing these covers live, as opposed to recording them for a tribute album?”

After a thoughtful silence that may have been tinged with a little bit of puzzlement, everyone said something about it being a terrific opportunity to harness the additional energy of having a live crowd.

“No [it’s not going to be harder],” Megafaun’s Phil Cook told me, “mostly because people are just stoked as shit to hear a Dead cover. Whenever people in the audience recognize it, they just lose their shit. They’re so happy that you’re doing it. It’s a completely welcome enterprise.” Continue reading »

Jun 062016
 

day of the deadWhen I was five, my brother and I were digging in the yard and we dug up some jelly beans. Being jelly beans, we ate them. As you would expect, as they weren’t really food and since they didn’t really decay, they were pretty much intact. And they were delicious. Our Mom apparently didn’t seem to think this was a very smart thing to do, so we were punished. But it  seemed oh-so-worth-it in the end.

Listening to the Red Hot Organization’s 25th release, the sprawling 5-CD Day of the Dead, I kinda feel the same way. There’s a lot more digging though, and way fewer jelly beans.
Continue reading »

Mar 242016
 

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!

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Nick Lowe, who turns 67 today, has one of the most secure spots in the ’70s rock pantheon. He started the decade with pub-rock founders Brinsley Schwarz and ended it with “Cruel to be Kind,” a song that made it to number 12 on charts in the UK, the US, Canada, and New Zealand (a more impressive feat than reaching #1 in all four countries, to my mind). He also produced the first five Elvis Costello albums and the Pretenders’ debut single “Stop Your Sobbing,” among others, and his “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding” will never die as long as there’s a karaoke bar.
Continue reading »

Oct 022015
 

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

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Empire Burlesque is Bob Dylan’s best country album since New Morning. Or, well, it should have been. Instead, it is considered a nadir of his career.

All the previous Full Albums selections we’ve done for Bob have been undisputed classics: Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding. Empire Burlesque is the opposite. Bob reportedly asked his producer to make him sound like Prince for this 1985 album. Now, his voice is as far from Prince as you can get, so they surrounded his rasp with drum machines, synthesizers, and chirpy backing vocals. Needless to say, it sounds nothing like Prince, and not a lot like Dylan. I’ve always defended this album, but if you can’t stand Men At Work or Culture Club, this may not be the album for you. Continue reading »

Jul 292015
 
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This year the Newport Folk Festival featured a lot of two things: surprise sit-ins and covers. Roger Waters played with My Morning Jacket, and they covered John Prine. Iron and Wine and Band of Horse’s Ben Bridwell formed a band, and they covered Talking Heads. Most notably, Dawes, Hozier, First Aid Kit, Gillian Welch, Deer Tick, and many more all formed a supergroup to cover a bunch of Bob Dylan songs (for the 50th anniversary of his legendary going-electric performance there). Continue reading »

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)