Australian radio station Triple J might have to consider renaming their popular “Like A Version” segment “The Black Keys Cover Sessions.” Two tracks from the Akron, Ohio duo have been covered during “Like A Version” sessions in the last few months. Aussie rapper Phrase gave us his take on “Tighten Up” in October, and this week former Australian Idol contestant Matt Corby covered El Camino’s lead single, “Lonely Boy.”
When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.
There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.
Covering the Black Keys is no easy task. Their 2010 album Brothers was massively well-received by fans and critics all over the world, and Rolling Stone put their single “Everlasting Light” at number 11 on their best singles of 2010 list. To even venture into the realm of the Keys grunge rock sound you’ve got to be pretty comfortable in your cover song skin. Comfortable might be an understatement when describing cover song veteran Alex Winston, though, whose Basement Covers EP featured covers of Mumford & Sons and The Rolling Stones. She just released her cover of the Keys song “Everlasting Light” in honor of both the release of the Keys’ newest CD El Camino, and to celebrate the recent announcement that her first album will be dropping in March of 2012.
At first glance, The Black Keys‘ garage rock is an unlikely match for Australian rapper Phrase, but the Melbourne-based MC chose a track from the Keys’ breakout album Brothers for his session on Triple J‘s Like A Version. With the help of his band, Phrase maintains the Keys’ soulful groove on “Tighten Up” while infusing his own style with the addition of some rap verses.
Rave On Buddy Holly, arguably the most hyped cover album of the year, finally drops this week. Rampant previews hinted that the album would be something special, and the A-list lineup of artists doesn’t disappoint. Rave On is a solid, carefully curated collection of tracks from Buddy Holly‘s surprisingly extensive catalog, a worthy tribute to the rock pioneer.
Choosing standouts from such a varied and high-profile set of covers is a challenge. Some of the best moments come from contributors who chose to keep their covers low-key. Dan Auerbach’s vocals gracefully carry the Black Keys‘ quiet, percussion-based opener “Dearest,” while Fiona Apple and Jon Brion trip through a pitch-perfect duet in “Everyday.” My Morning Jacket offers the elegantly subdued “True Love Ways,” embellished with a lovely string section.
New Hampshire roots-rock trio Aunt Martha landed a coveted spot on the lineup of Bonnaroo next week and they’re celebrating in style: by covering songs by their Bonnaroo 2011 peers. Starting last month with Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies),” they’ve been posting a new cover recording to Vimeo every few days and it’s about time we rounded up some of the best of them.