Dec 082017

Follow all our Best of 2017 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

best covers albums 2017

Cover albums come and go from memory. It’s sort of inherent in the genre. When a major release comes out – a cover album by one prominent artist, or a tribute compilation by many – it tends to garner an avalanche of blog posts, then get forgotten within a year or two. Many deserve to, no doubt…but not all.

So, since we’ve been looking back a lot this year to celebrate our tenth birthday, I dug back into our previous year-end album lists. My original plan was to see which of our past #1s held up and which didn’t, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they were all still enjoyable. But many, even those that were big deals at the time, have been semi-forgotten.

So I thought, before we dive into this year’s crop, let’s remember what came before. We didn’t do a list the first couple years, but here’s every album we’ve named #1 so far, along with an excerpt of our reviews:

2009: The Lemonheads – ‘Varshons’
“Twelve songs of booze-pop genius cover both classic tunes by songwriters like Leonard Cohen (Liv Tyler guests!) and Townes Van Zandt and obscurities from July and the unfortunately-named FuckEmos.”
See that year’s full list here.

2010: Peter Gabriel – ‘Scratch My Back’
“Against all odds, Gabriel builds an orchestra-filled, indie-fied, emotion-fueled masterpiece.”
See that year’s full list here.

2011: Baaba Kulka – ‘Baaba Kulka’
“It’s a boisterous Iron Maiden celebration by a collective that may not have a metal bone in its body, but invite big grins while you sing (and dance) along with the wildest crossover album this side of Warsaw.”
See that year’s full list here.

2012: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Americana’
“When you press play the first thing that strikes you is the fuzz of the power chords, the strained bellows, the cardboard-box bashing of the drums. Neil and the Horse’s ragged glory rages so hard the source material becomes secondary.”
See that year’s full list here.

2013: Xiu Xiu – ‘Nina’
“Xiu Xiu’s Nina Simone tribute album isn’t an easy listen. It’s not necessarily an enjoyable one either. What it is though is riveting.”
See that year’s full list here.

2014: Andrew Bird – ‘Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…’
“In Bird’s delivery, the Handsome Family’s songs of old, weird Americana kitsch will hopefully reach listeners who might find the originals too weird.”
See that year’s full list here.

2015: Bob Dylan – ‘Shadows in the Night’
“Him releasing an album of songs associated with Frank Sinatra was no surprise at all; he’s been operating in the Ol’ Blues Eyes vein for decades now, just with a (very) different instrument.”
See that year’s full list here.

2016: Various Artists – ‘God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson’
“When it comes to preserving the depth and breadth of the contexts and traditions of American music that informed Blind Willie Johnson’s ecclesiastic but world-weary growl, it helps that the nine artists here…are able to handle the spiritual aspects of Johnson’s work.”
See that year’s full list here.

Okay, now that you’re all caught up – let’s see what this year holds!

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…


Mar 272017

“17 years after America lost WW2, the country is divided and controlled by Japan and Germany. From out of the lawless neutral zone comes The Man in the High Castle’s Resistance Radio, a secret network of pirate DJs broadcasting sounds of hope.”

That’s a cooler introduction than most musical compilations get. This incredible soundtrack for Amazon’s popular TV series The Man in the High Castle was produced by Danger Mouse and Sam Cohen, who adds his own musical talents to covers of “The House of the Rising Sun” and “Get Happy.” Cohen joins a high caliber line up of musicians including Beck, Karen O, The Shins, and Norah Jones as they imagine a world where the Axis has won and musicians have gone rogue.

The current trend seems to be a marked return to the golden age of music and this influx of nostalgic talent works perfectly for the producers of the soundtrack. On advanced tracks, Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, and Benjamin Booker perform covers that are nearly identical to their predecessors. Continue reading »

Apr 282016

The Grateful Dead – the iconic (nay, legendary) Palo Alto ensemble whose longevity, sheer number of live performances, eclectic and improvisational musical styles, as well as religious fanbase cemented them as one of the most influential and groundbreaking groups of rock and roll history – will be honored this May in an upcoming epic homage titled Day of the Dead.

As one of our own feature writers, Jordan Becker, so elegantly put in his In the Spotlight segment: “The Dead were not only a band; they typified a lifestyle that extended the hippie culture of the 1960s decades after most of the world turned it into a punchline.” Dubbed the “pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world,” their legacy lingers on, and with contributions from an overwhelming number of some of the music industry’s most respected names today, their music will be celebrated. Continue reading »

May 222014

Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” is a heart wrenching tune – a slow, meandering, soulful eight minutes and twenty seven seconds of gritty Bruce to tug at your heartstrings. Recently, Glen Hansard covered this song, using his trademark impassioned vocals to try and work up to Bruce’s level of intensity. It’s a fantastic cover (with an Eddie Vedder appearance to boot), and on its heels comes yet another emotionally driven cover of the tune. Continue reading »

Jan 222013

Australian radio station Triple J has something we here at Cover Me love called “Like A Version.” The station wrangles some great artists to interpret whatever song they feel like covering. Sharon Van Etten recently stopped in, talked about how she is touring with Nick Cave later this year, and put out a heavy rendition of Cave’s “People Ain’t No Good.” Continue reading »

Mar 152012

In 2010 the A.V. Club introduced a new music video series called A.V. Undercover. The idea is simple: A.V. Club readers vote on songs to be covered, a list of 25 songs is selected, and then each song is covered live in a round room located in the A.V. Club offices. As one song is played, it is crossed off the list, so the first band has a pick of 25 songs, and the second band has a pick of 24, and so on. The exciting part of following this series is that readers know which songs are going to be played, but the band performing isn’t revealed until a video has been produced. That said, sometimes there are bonus tracks, as is the case with the first Undercover of 2012, which features Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater playing “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Continue reading »