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.
Our 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 post goes up Monday and, as always, the cuts to get it down to size were brutal. I know it’s going to rough going when the painful cuts begin when the list is still pushing 100. The final and toughest cut of all – the 51st Best Cover of 2018, as it were – came last: singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers’ mesmerizing take on Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out.” It still hurts that that one didn’t make it, so I’ll give it a little extra shine here (go listen to it here!).
Bridgers’ cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” might have been a year-end contender too had it come out a month ago. Just as she did with the Petty deep cut, she strips all the production away, leaving only a spare keyboard and layers of ethereal harmonies. “Friday I’m in Love” gets covered far less than comparable Cure hits, sometimes derided as a less artful pop-radio play (it didn’t even rank in Rolling Stone’s fan-voted Best Cure Songs list). Bridgers redeems the song on her stunning cover, recorded for a new Spotify Single, and will hopefully inspire more closet “Friday I’m in Love” fans to cover the song.
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.'”
Arctic Monkeys – Lipstick Vogue (Elvis Costello cover)
Arctic Monkeys got a lot of attention covering the Strokes last week (especially because on his new album, Alex Turner sings: “I just want to be one of the Strokes”). But I preferred their wonderfully sleazy “Lipstick Vogue” cover, played in honor of Costello as he recovered from cancer surgery. Turner’s a product of his influences; in addition to the Strokes and Elvis, he appears to have his Nick Cave snake slither down cold.