aeseaes – Realiti (Grimes cover)
Bandits on the Run – Back to Black (Amy Winehouse cover)
If something feels vaguely familiar about the opening to Twin Danger’s cover of Queens of the Stone Age‘s “No One Knows,” there might be a good reason for it. The sultry saxophone blast that kicks off the track comes from Stuart Matthewman, cofounder of Sade, who first achieved fame in the ’80s. The vibe from the band that surrounds him and the slinking vocals from Vanessa Bley are certainly reminiscent of Matthewman’s better-known group. The source material for this track, however, is a bit rougher around the edges.
Queens of the Stone Age have been rocking since the late ’90s, lead by singer and guitarist Josh Homme. Their 2002 song “No One Knows,” featuring Dave Grohl on drums, was their breakthrough to the mainstream and remains one of their most recognizable hits. Its heavy reliance on staccato guitar riffs and blistering drum rolls doesn’t seem to lend itself to a late-night, jazz cover, but Twin Danger prove otherwise. The piano picks up the essence of the churning guitars of the original, Bley’s voice draws you in, and the horn section bursts into the foreground often enough to mix things up. The video is below, but there are so many pans and cuts that its frenetic pace feels out of sync with the music. You’ll be better off listening without the visuals, or better yet, go buy the track on iTunes or hear it on Spotify ahead of Twin Danger’s album release on June 30th. [via Speakeasy]
Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.
Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.
More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.
That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.
Start our countdown on Page 2…
Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine has established herself as something of a covers aficionado, taking on a diverse roster of artists from Drake to Buddy Holly. She debuted her latest cover while taping her upcoming episode of MTV’s Unplugged, which will air on April 8. Following in the footsteps of her excellent collaboration with Billy Bragg on “Fairytale of New York,” Florence teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme for a cover of Johnny Cash and June Carter’s classic duet, “Jackson.”
Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.