We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
Two of the albums on this year’s list have similar titles: This Is Not Our Music and These Are Not Mine. Clever titles for collections of cover songs, sure, but misleading. Not your music? Why not? Songs are anyone’s for the singing. Even if a song’s lyrics or chord sequence didn’t first spring from a certain performer’s brain, that doesn’t mean he or she has any less claim. The great cover performers make the songs theirs, no matter whose they were before.
The twenty records below each contain numerous examples of artists doing just that. The songs may not have started out as these artists’ – but they are theirs now.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
Are we undergoing a Trans-aissance? Neil Young’s least-loved album (which is saying something) – the one where he tried his hand at electronic music, the one where he got sued by his own label – may finally be on the verge of redemption. Last month, Danish producer Trentemøller covered the album’s “Transformer Man” and now indie-rock favorites Parquet Courts have tackled “We R In Control.”
AJ Lambert – Lush Life (Frank Sinatra cover)
Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter covers Frank Sinatra. You think you know where this story ends: fawning nepotism. But despite familial loyalty, A.J. Lambert isn’t afraid to twist “Lush Life,” adding a Lynchian undercurrent of menace. More of an overcurrent in the crawling, nose-bleeding video.
Amy Shark – Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus cover)
Every month, one or two of these selections invariably hail from Spotify’s terrific new cover-sessions series. My only gripe is that they came with no information, the sort a band would write in the YouTube description or press release announcing a new cover, or say on stage before performing one live. That’s now solved with Spotify’s new “Under Cover” podcast, in which the artists performing the covers talk about them. We learn that Amy Shark tried to make “Teenage Dirtbag” a Pixies song, and that she considered the song her anthem when she was young. She says: “The first time I heard ‘Teenage Dirtbag,’ I was in high school. I was crazy obsessed with it to the point where it was in my head every day all day. I would sing it in all day in school. Even teachers would say, ‘Amy, please listen to something else.'”
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Toronto folk-rock mainstays Great Lake Swimmers are staying busy for the band’s 15th anniversary. In April, they released a six-song EP, and, rather than taking a breath, almost immediately announced a full-length album The Waves, The Wake, out next month. They’ll then embark on a North American tour this fall so extensive that there are multiple stops in Saskatchewan.
Check out the new single from The Waves, The Wake:
Before things get too nutty for the band, founding singer and songwriter Tony Dekker took a few minutes to tell us about his favorite cover songs. His tastes span a wide genre and time range, from a 1961 Fats Domino single to a tribute album that came out just a few months ago. Dig in below (then go read our feature on the band’s own covers from 2012).
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)
The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans.