May 012015

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


Anyone attempting to make the argument that Pickin’ On Modest Mouse: A Bluegrass Tribute Featuring Iron Horse is a Cover Classic – an argument that was promised/threatened by my response to this Q&A a few days ago and is related to a defense of bluegrass covers we made a while back – needs to refute two rational, gut-level reactions to the artifact that is this album. First, one needs to establish that the album is not simply another gimmicky entry in the Pickin’ On series, a collection of fairly obvious mid-oughties albums that attempted to pin the banjo on unlikely donkeys in ways that were often funny and almost always “pretty good for a novelty album.” Second, one needs to demonstrate that this album is somehow different than other albums attempting to strip away all of the Modest Mouse noise to reveal the sensitive songwriting lurking just beneath the shouting.
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Jun 272011

Rave On Buddy Holly, arguably the most hyped cover album of the year, finally drops this week. Rampant previews hinted that the album would be something special, and the A-list lineup of artists doesn’t disappoint. Rave On is a solid, carefully curated collection of tracks from Buddy Holly‘s surprisingly extensive catalog, a worthy tribute to the rock pioneer.

Choosing standouts from such a varied and high-profile set of covers is a challenge. Some of the best moments come from contributors who chose to keep their covers low-key. Dan Auerbach’s vocals gracefully carry the Black Keys‘ quiet, percussion-based opener “Dearest,” while Fiona Apple and Jon Brion trip through a pitch-perfect duet in “Everyday.” My Morning Jacket offers the elegantly subdued “True Love Ways,” embellished with a lovely string section. Continue reading »

May 202011

Cover lovers around the world should feel indebted to the creators of the Voice Project. Week after week, this group of musically-inclined philanthropists brings musicians and fans together for the sake of song and charity and in doing so gives all of us a slew of wonderful covers to enjoy. We have already featured a number of the Voice Project’s finest covers, but feel inclined to continue the coverage since everything they drop is just that good. Continue reading »

May 092011


You’ve heard about the upcoming tribute album and listened to the Black Keys’ cover of “Dearest,” now another song from Rave On Buddy Holly has surfaced. On her KCRW show this past weekend, DJ Liza Richardson gave us a sneak peek at Modest Mouse‘s version of “That’ll Be The Day.” Continue reading »

Apr 282011

And the winner for Most Anticipated Tribute Album of 2011 goes to…

Rave On Buddy Holly, coming June 28th to celebrate what would be Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday this fall. This tracklist defines the term “stacked.” From veterans like Paul McCartney and Patti Smith to newer breakouts like She & Him and Cee-Lo Green, every one of the 19 tracks looks to be another potential stunner. My Morning Jacket crooning “True Love Ways”? The Black Keys rocking “Dearest”? John Doe doing who-knows-what to “Peggy Sue Got Married”? Continue reading »

Mar 072010

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All downloads will only be available for one week, so get them while you can.

Mark Kozelek

When I first heard Sun Kil Moon’s Tiny Cities, I didn’t realize it was all Modest Mouse covers. This is funny since I’m sure that’s the reason I bought it in the first place. By the time I got around to listening, though, I’d entirely forgotten that fact. Instead, I fell in love with Mark Kozelek’s sparse acoustic songs, eleven short gems of haunting beauty.

When I finally learned that these were not originals, I didn’t know how to feel. I’d already built a relationship with the album under one set of assumptions, and finding those tested jarred me a bit.

Needless to say, I came around. If anything, I’m even more impressed at how natural these sound in such drastic rearrangements. Pickin’ on Modest Mouse this ain’t (though that also exists).

“Convenient Parking” is a perfect example. Like many of Isaac Brook’s songs, the meaning is open to interpretation. When I hear it, I can’t help being reminded of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”: the parking lot as symbolic of urban sprawl, itself symbolic of America bulldozing its past.

Kozelek ditches the grungy sound of the original (first released on Modest Mouse’s 1997 The Lonesome Crowded West) for spare plucking and a stream-of-consciousness run through the lyrics, knocking the entirety of the original’s 4:08 into under two minutes. Whew.

Sun Kil Moon – Convenient Parking (Modest Mouse) [Buy]

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below.