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.
The usual disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others.
Update: Hear me discuss this list, along with our Best Pink Floyd Covers ranking, on SiriusXM Volume:
Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)
Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song.
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.
– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)
Norwegian DJ Todd Terje has worked his magic yet again on Robert Palmer‘s track “Johnny and Mary,” with a little help from the legendary Bryan Ferry. While Terje has been active in the electronic scene since 1999, he released his debut album It’s Album Time just this month. Ferry lends his signature vocals and piano playing to the track. Terje’s interpretation is slowed-down and laid-back, allowing the lyrical emotion to shine.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Where would you start the lineage of hard rock and heavy metal? Many music fans pinpoint August of 1964, when “You Really Got Me” was released into the wild; two score and nine years later, it’s only gotten wilder. Thanks to the Kinks, heavy music would never be the same.
But it should be noted that “You Really Got Me” isn’t just a blueprint for hard rock – it’s also one terrific song. Have power chords ever been used so well, before or since? Have primal urges ever been more basically, urgently, and perfectly expressed? Van Halen’s version, which is probably the best known cover, doesn’t bring much new to the table aside from some pyrotechnics, which is a shame because there’s a lot more potential in the song. But other folks have been able to show just how durable a song it is…
The thought of being invited into a crypt may not come off as the most appealing proposal. When Hope And Social invited Ellen and the Escapades into their ‘crypt’ to produce a cover in a day, the Leeds-based group accepted the challenge. The result? A folky twist on Robert Palmer‘s “Addicted To Love.”