Dec 062016
 
best cover songs

Over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work making our list of The Best Cover Songs of 2016. Narrowing it down to 50 caused some excruciating choices, that’s how many great covers there were this year.

We’ll be posting the full list next week (and “Best Cover Albums” this Thursday), but as a little appetizer, here are our Honorable Mentions, covers we loved and still wanted to spotlight as among the best 2016 had to offer. Continue reading »

Sep 232016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

alexvissia

From the prairie town of Stony Plain, just outside of Edmonton, Alex Vissia found stardom in Canada performing with her two younger sisters, in venues up to and including the Olympics. After graduating from college, she turned solo; since then, she’s released two records and is working on her third, writing songs described as “grown from folksy prairie roots, distilled until clear, and carefully Rock-filtered to let just the right amount of dirt back in.”
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Aug 182016
 
Jozzef

Due to a certain Volkswagen commercial, Nick Drake may be most often thought of these days as an guitar-strumming-songwriter type. But anyone who’s listened beyond Pink Moon knows Drake’s first records were elaborate orchestral affairs helmed by producing legend Joe Boyd, the man behind Fairport Convention and early Pink Floyd. One of those ornate beauties is Drake’s debut album Five Leaves Left (we posted covers of every song a few years ago), which contains the stunning single “River Man.” And on his soaring new cover, Israeli singer Jozzef pays tribute to the orchestral side of Nick Drake with his own layered production. Instead of just orchestra, though, Jozzef adds in more modern touches like layered vocals and even the occasional subtle synthesizer. Continue reading »

Dec 172015
 

Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

CoverMeBestSongs2015

I didn’t realize it until I began laying out our post, but this year’s Best Cover Songs list shares quite a few artists with last year’s. And some that showed up here the year before that. Jack White’s on his fourth appearance. And Jason Isbell and Hot Chip not only both reappear from last year, but have moved up in the rankings.

Though we’re always on the lookout for the new (and to be sure, there are plenty of first-timers here too), the number of repeat honorees illustrates how covering a song is a skill just like any other. The relative few artists who have mastered it can probably deliver worthy covers again and again.

How a great cover happens is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this year as I’ve been writing a series of articles diving deep into the creation of iconic cover songs through history (I posted two of them online, and the rest are being turned into a book). In every case the artist had just the right amount of reverence for the original song: honoring its intention without simply aping it. It’s a fine line, and one even otherwise able musicians can’t always walk. Plenty of iconic people don’t make good cover artists (I’d nominate U2 as an example: some revelatory covers of the band, but not a lot by them). Given the skill involved, perhaps it’s no surprise that someone who can do a good cover once can do it again.

So, to longtime readers, you will see some familiar names below. But you’ll also see a lot of new names, and they’re names you should remember. If the past is any guide, you may well see them again next year, and the year after that.

Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.

– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)

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Nov 122015
 
tim amukele

Nick Drake has been covered a lot. His music has a straightforward beauty to its melodies but contains enough complexity to be open to endless reinterpretation. Typically this shows up as a cut by a singer-songwriter or indie-folk group, but rarely as a jazzy R&B version. And let me be the first to say: we need more R&B Nick Drake covers. Continue reading »

Feb 062015
 

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

At this point, is there anything about Pink Moon that isn’t legendary? Age of artist: 23. Recorded in two nights. Voice and acoustic guitar, plus one small splash of piano. Not even a half hour long. Dropped off at the label’s office with barely a word. Sank like a proverbial stone upon release. Two years later, it was the artist’s turn. Then the pilgrimages to his home began, from listeners all over the world who’d connected with his songs. And then, two decades later, a show of hands in an ad agency office. All in favor of using the Church’s “Under the Milky Way” to score this car commercial? All in favor of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”? In the end, Nick Drake won (read more about the making of VW’s Cabrio ad from adman Shane Hutton in the comment section here), and in the very end, his work finally introduced to millions, he won again.
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