Jun 032020
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2

Jack Antonoff gives us serious writer/producer/performer triple threat vibes (a la Timbaland and Pharrell). He’s been in a variety of musical acts himself, including Steel Train, fun., and Bleachers, and been involved behind the scenes in the creation of others’ award winning albums. Just to give you a sense for all of the pies he has his fingers in, Antonoff:

  • co-wrote and co-produced some songs on Taylor Swift’s 1989, Reputation, and Lover,
  • co-wrote and co-produced Lorde’s Melodrama album,
  • co-produced Lana del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! album,
  • co-wrote and co-produced the soundtrack for Love, Simon,
  • co-wrote Sara Bareilles’s song “Brave,”
  • co-produced Saint Vincent’s Masseduction,
  • co-wrote and co-produced songs on The Dixie Chicks’ upcoming album, and
  • co-wrote and co-produced tracks on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated (including the B-Side version).

We see some of these collaborations either forming out of or being foreshadowed by ties within this cover album.

The “Terrible Thrills” tradition started with Terrible Thrills, Vol. 1an all female cover album of Steel Train’s eponymous album. Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 was a follow-up project that again featured all female covers, this time of Bleachers’ first album, Strange Desire. Afterwards, although it does not include covers of the entire album, Terrible Thrills, Vol. 3 followed, containing female covers of four songs from Bleachers’ second album, Gone Now, as well as demos and new versions of songs from the album. (I was bummed to not have a female cover of “Don’t Take the Money.”) This cover album was only sold on vinyl, but you can listen to it here.

Every single one of these covers is great, so I had a hard time choosing just a handful to write about. But here goes…

Continue reading »

Apr 012020
 
quarantine covers

As we all remain stuck inside, those of us with musical talent have been performing tons of live streams online. Some streams vanish into the ether as soon as they finish, but many remain archived online. And many include covers.

Last week we rounded up a batch of the best, and today we round up another. There are far too many happening to make any claims to a definitive list. These are just some that caught my ear. What other live-from-home covers have you enjoyed? Share some more recommendations for us all in the comments! Continue reading »

Jan 312019
 
best cover songs january
Beck – Tarantula (Colourbox cover)

Few expected the movie Roma to be as big a hit as it was (it’s tied for the most Oscar nominations). Even Sony must not have, as they’re just getting around to releasing a soundtrack two months after release – and as Music Inspired By The Film Roma, i.e. must that doesn’t actually appear in the film. But Beck’s beautiful cover of 4AD group Colourbox arrives better late than never. Accompanied by an orchestra and Leslie Feist on backing vocals, he’s never sounded more like Peter Gabriel. Continue reading »

Jan 172019
 
hannah georgas covers cranberries

It’s been a few years since Hannah Georgas released her last full length album For Evelyn, but the Canadian singer-songwriter has finally returned with an EP of cover songs called Imprints. The first song available from the new album is Georgas’ cover of “No Need to Argue” by The Cranberries.

Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius join Georgas to transform the song into a 1980s brat pack break up moment. With an easy drum machine beat, synth, sound effects, and luscious harmonies, the effect is decidedly lighter than The Cranberries’ solemn and slow dirge. Continue reading »

Nov 122018
 
lucius christmas time

As the clichéd complaint goes, the Christmas season seems to come earlier every year. That’s certainly true in the cover-song world, at least. While this may be the first 2018 Christmas cover we’re posting, it’s hardly the first we heard. That happened – really – in September (it was still technically summer!).

But today, we finally end our no-Christmas-covers blackout. And the cover that proved so good we couldn’t even make it to Black Friday? Lucius’s gorgeous cover of the A Charlie Brown Christmas standby “Christmas Time Is Here.” The duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig lend their ethereal harmonies to a version that retains the original’s swooning beauty, even with indie-pop twinkles replacing the jazzier touches. Continue reading »

Sep 282018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

I’ve been watching early episodes of Saturday Night Live recently. On the fifth episode ever – back when it bore the shorter title Saturday Night – the host was comedian Robert Klein. Two musical guests joined him: Loudon Wainwright III and ABBA.

Wainwright’s performance plays it straight, just him and his guitar on stage. With ABBA, though, the show undermines the Swedish quartet from the start. They have to perform “S.O.S.” on a sinking Titanic set, competing for screen time with Klein and some SNL writers pretending to drown in vintage dining-lounge attire. Even when the camera lands on ABBA, it waves and swoops to indicate they’re going down with the ship too.

The second performance, “Waterloo,” does them even dirtier. Before the first verse even ends, these words pop up on the screen: “Right now ABBA is lip-syncing. It’s not their fault. The tracks didn’t arrive from Sweden.” The band appears to have no idea they are being thus undermined, even as the audience titters. I’ve watched the entire first season now, and haven’t seen any other musical performer treated this way. (The individual videos sadly aren’t anywhere embeddable, but the full episode is on Hulu).

This SNL appearance neatly embodies the ABBA dichotomy. On the one hand, they were such huge stars that the show simply had to book them. On the other, they seemed so irredeemably uncool that the show felt obliged to mock them so it didn’t lose its cultural cachet. And forty-plus years on from that performance, we treat them the same way. We’ll sing and dance along to their songs – particularly after a drink or two – but only the most ardent poptimist would put ABBA anywhere but the “guilty pleasure” category.

True, the productions may be dated, and the outfits ridiculous, but at their core the songs are rock-solid. Songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, sometimes aided by band manager Stig Anderson, penned songs that still rise above the cheese-tacular performances. And there’s no better evidence than in the thousands of genre-spanning covers. Everyone from Richard Thompson to Portishead has covered these songs – and not with a wink and a nudge either, but honestly finding timeless lyrics and melodies beneath ABBA’s very of-its-time presentation.

Cher did it too, releasing her ABBA tribute album today to piggyback on the second Mamma Mia! movie’s success (commercial success, that is, as the reviews were not kind – a true ABBA divide, there). So in honor of that, we decided to pick out the best ABBA covers ever. No, none of Cher’s make the list. But thirty other artists do. Continue reading »