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.
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.Continue reading »
This week’s set puts goth cello up against grunge noise, orchestral pomp against folksy throwback. It also features a couple familiar faces. Download our favorite Bandcamp tracks this week below.Continue reading »
Tribute albums often sound more like compilations than unified albums. The usual mold of gathering together an eclectic group of artists to either produce their own covers of an artist or play together can make for interesting listening, but results in a rather disjointed affair. Even with a single artist bringing in “special guests” – a standard practice for these sorts of endeavors – the preponderance of different voices can struggle to create a cohesive sound. Ben Waters manages to completely avoid this trap on his new album Boogie 4 Stu: A Tribute To Ian Stewart.
Stewart, often referred to as the “Sixth Stone,” mastered boogie-woogie piano and helped to form The Rolling Stones in 1962. Unfortunately, he did not fit the image created for the band by early manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who demoted Stewart to road manager. Undeterred, he served the band faithfully until his death in 1985, occasionally contributing piano at Stones sessions and playing with Howlin’ Wolf, Led Zeppelin and Pete Townshend on the side. For the present tribute, boogie-woogie piano maestro Waters assembled a group of Stewart’s friends to record an album of the music Stewart loved.Continue reading »
Though identical sisters The Watson Twins first broke through as backup for Jenny Lewis on Rabbit Fur Coat, they’ve stepped into the spotlight on their own with three albums of ethereal indie-folk. They follow up last year’s Talking to You, Talking to Me with the eclectic, literally-named EP Night Covers. The Kentucky-born duo revealed an intriguing range of artists in the tracklisting when they chatted with Cover Me last week. On Night Covers, they create a cohesive mini-album from diverse source material, staying true to the style established on their previous releases. The sisters told Cover Me that they “ha[d] a lot of fans asking for recordings of [live] covers” after playing the tracks on tour, which prompted them to take the pleasant, restrained, and occasionally quirky arrangements on Night Covers into the studio.Continue reading »