Many listeners’ knowledge of Hawaiian music begins and ends with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (which, to be fair, deserves every play it gets). But on a new album, a new trio aims to change that by adapting a dozen familiar songs across decades into a new genre they call “Hawaiian noir.” Like David Lynch in Maui, they reinvent songs by Nirvana (“In Bloom”), The Cars (“Drive”), Radiohead (“Bulletproof…I Wish I Was”), Chris Isaak (“Wicked Game”), and more with ukuleles, lap steel, and harmonies.
Known as Hula Hi-Fi, the band is new but the players – Josh Kaler, Annie Clements and Sarah Bandy – are seasoned, having worked with the likes of Sugarland, Amos Lee, Butch Walker, and more in their respective careers. Their abilities show; these are carefully constructed productions, not tossed-off ukulele strum-alongs.Continue reading »
Don’t hate me. I’m not a Radiohead purist. I wouldn’t even say I’m a fan. I appreciate a lot of their songs, but mostly they make me feel antsy. I think it’s because they are constantly pushing the boundaries of comfort in a song. There’s always an edgy, frantic feeling to their instrumentation and vocals, even in the slower songs. Case in point, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.”
Phantogram recently recorded their take of “Weird Fishes” on Australian radio station Triple J’s Like a Version. Sarah Barthel’s smooth vocals, the drums hanging just a bit behind the beat, and the distinctive arpeggi in the guitar result in a hypnotic, dreamy version of the song that transports me to a dark coffee house, open late.Continue reading »
Radiohead is one of those bands whose music is pretty tricky to cover right – it takes guts to tackle any of the legendary English band’s tracks. But Chicago-based electronic producer Shallou aka J Boston is unfazed. His new cover of Radiohead‘s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” recreates the somber tune with a chill and relaxing tone reflecting his equally laid-back repertoire.
By molding Kid A‘s (2000) dreamy closing track to his liking, he leaves behind the track’s gloomy origins in favor of a more laid-back version ripe with classic feel-good indie vibes. He said this about the cover:Continue reading »
Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
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.