Jul 022019
 
rayland baxter mac miller

When singer-songwriters cover rappers, the results can be cringe-inducing. For every Gourds, there’s a dozen Karmins – groups wink-wink-nudge-nudging at a different culture without much thought or respect given. (Plus, far too many of them cheerfully quote the n-word.)

Rayland Baxter’s new Mac Miller tribute EP feels like a different beast entirely. For one, the late rapper sang himself, which helps others’ versions of his songs avoid the rap-cover clichés of ironically slow-crooning tough rhymes over a ukulele or something. For another, Baxter’s appreciation for Miller’s work runs deep. His tribute comes from a place of real respect, and sadness at a promising young talent gone far too soon. Continue reading »

Jun 282019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs of june
Ashley O [Miley Cyrus] – Right Where I Belong (Nine Inch Nails cover)

The second-most-bonkers cover of the month (just wait ’til we get to “Spicy”) comes from – who else – Miley Cyrus. On a new episode of Black Mirror, she covers/parodies angsty Nine Inch Nails songs as the most insipid of pop jams. Trent Reznor, for one, says he is very much on board (given the lyric changes, these covers required his legal approval). Miley’s songs in character as Ashley O are outrageous and borderline offensive, which is kind of the point. “On a Roll” (FKA “Head Like a Hole”) has gotten most of the attention, but “Right Where I Belong” is more listenable. Marginally. Continue reading »

Feb 042019
 
rayland baxter covers

In his recent memoir, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy philosophized on how online streaming has changed the way artists get their inspiration. “Anyone can access any era of music at any time,” Tweedy wrote. “So instead of being influenced only by the recordings and generations of musicians most accessible and obtainable to study, musicians today can draw upon almost anything ever recorded.”

These sentiments rang especially true when I first heard Rayland Baxter’s 2018 album Wide Awake. Listening to the record is like taking a trip through Baxter’s musical education. One can detect elements of alt-country rock, blue-eyed soul, new wave, the solo works of various Beatles, all sung with the confidence of a ‘70s singer/songwriter at the Troubadour. Hearing all these musical styles smash together, it makes sense that he was able to cross four decades with two covers. During a recent performance at Paste Studios, he played songs by Neil Young and the late Mac Miller. He took two serious tunes from very different artists and reworked them in his own way to make them seem lighter and definitely more fun.

Continue reading »

Jan 312019
 
best cover songs january
Beck – Tarantula (Colourbox cover)

Few expected the movie Roma to be as big a hit as it was (it’s tied for the most Oscar nominations). Even Sony must not have, as they’re just getting around to releasing a soundtrack two months after release – and as Music Inspired By The Film Roma, i.e. must that doesn’t actually appear in the film. But Beck’s beautiful cover of 4AD group Colourbox arrives better late than never. Accompanied by an orchestra and Leslie Feist on backing vocals, he’s never sounded more like Peter Gabriel. Continue reading »

Oct 312018
 
cover songs october
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.'” Continue reading »

Aug 302016
 

A few months back, Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium hosted two star-studded tribute concerts to Bob Dylan to celebrate his 75th birthday. Kesha performing “I Shall Be Released” was the big news-maker as her first high-profile performance during her ongoing legal battle, but many other members of country and Americana royalty also took the stage for an amazing couple nights. The full thing was webcast, but it hasn’t been archived anywhere, so if you missed that you were stuck with grainy YouTube videos – until now. We’ve got every song to stream below (except Kesha, which wasn’t webcast, presumably for legal reasons). For the first time since that night, you can hear pristine recordings of Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Kurt Vile, Emmylou Harris, Butch Walker, Wynonna Judd, Boz Scaggs, Langhorne Slim, John Paul Williams of the Civil Wars, Ann Wilson of Heart, and more covering their favorite Dylan songs, many for the first time ever. Continue reading »