“Avalanche” was the first Leonard Cohen song Nick Cave ever heard, as the lead-off track to Cohen’s third album Songs of Love and Hate. “I discovered Leonard Cohen with Songs of Love and Hate,” Cave said in a 1994 interview on French radio. “I listened to this record for hours in a friend’s house. I was very young and I believe this was the first record that really had an effect on me. In the past, I only listened to my brother’s records. I liked what he liked, followed him like a sheep. Leonard Cohen was the first one I discovered by myself. He is the symbol of my musical independence. I remember these other guys that came to my friend’s house that thought Songs of Love and Hate was too depressing. I’ve realized that this ‘depression’ theory was ridiculous. The sadness of Cohen was inspiring, it gave me a lot of energy. I always remember all this when someone says that my records are morbid or depressing.”
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)
LA punks FIDLAR are known for their high energy and general “F*** it!” attitude (after all, the band’s motto is F*** It Dog, Life’s A Risk.) The band also seems to have a fascination with Nicks; their recent video for their song “Cocaine” starred Nick Offerman, and they just covered Nick Cave‘s “Red Right Hand,” semi-crediting Nic Cage with this stunning photoshop job of Nic Cage as David Bowie.
Australian radio station Triple J has something we here at Cover Me love called “Like A Version.” The station wrangles some great artists to interpret whatever song they feel like covering. Sharon Van Etten recently stopped in, talked about how she is touring with Nick Cave later this year, and put out a heavy rendition of Cave’s “People Ain’t No Good.”
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!
Just over three decades since The Birthday Party helped spark off the doom & gloom sub-stream in ‘80s post-punk, Nick Cave now belongs in the great club of certified songwriters. Like several members of that club, Cave has his share of skeptics, and it’s not so easy to bring them into the fold. Nonbelievers in latter-day Nick Cave would benefit from checking out the Birthday Party, or Cave’s earlier albums with The Bad Seeds, to better appreciate one of the most prolific and consistent musicians to rise from the ashes of the punk era.
There was a time when Los Angeles could boast housing some great punk bands. During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, people were inspired by punk rock acts in England, and as that phenomena spread, bands like X, The Weirdos, and The Flesh Eaters emerged on the Southern California scene. It would have been a vibrant time to play in a band, and perhaps the ideal time to take large risks in sound, like combining punk rock with blues and country, which is what Jeffrey Lee Pierce did with The Gun Club. An upcoming tribute album called The Journey is Long will be released in honor of the late frontman, and features the Nick Cave and Debbie Harry cover of “The Breaking Hands.”
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Over the years, tribute albums have been given a bad name. Nowadays they frequently consist of either inferior bands covering the works of superior bands in the hopes of getting noticed and having talent hopefully rub off on them, or of well-known bands dragooned into making product that’s sure to shift units, radio-friendly and otherwise. There’s also an excess of narcissism and/or irony on too many of these albums, where the inherent message isn’t “Look at this song” but “How funny/awesome is it that I’m doing this song, when it’s so obviously a song I should never do because I play in a different genre!”