Aug 192011
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

There may not be an mainstream artist out there as difficult to cover as Nine Inch Nails. By its very nature, Trent Reznor’s music doesn’t offer an easy way in. Johnny Cash did it beautifully of course, but let’s be honest, “Hurt” wasn’t exactly the most abrasive song in the band’s catalog to begin with. In keeping with the Nine Inch Nails spirit, then, many (though certainly not all) of the covers below show at least some industrial influence. It’s noisy, it’s loud, and it’s strangely cathartic. Just like the original. Continue reading »

Dec 312009
 


2009 will disappear into the ether in a few hours, but before it does there’s time for one last retrospective to do: The Top Covers of 2009. The Artists-to-Cover this year seemed to be Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, though somewhat surprisingly no particularly definitive tribute to the latter has surfaced.

Speaking of tributes, anything off of our Best Cover Albums list was excluded for consideration here (you can still download those songs here though). Without further ado, let the list begin!

25. Imogen Heap – Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Any cover of this song loses something without the Vincent Price voice-over. Imogen Heap may not be the Godfather of Horror, but she’s just quirky enough to pull it off. [Buy]

24. Jason Bajada – You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son (Wolf Parade)
There’s nothing harder to pull off than an acoustic-guitar and voice cover. Anyone can try – just strum the chords – but few stand out from the pack of YouTube wannabes. Bajada is one. [Buy]

23. Thom Yorke – All for the Best (Miracle Legion)
How a semi-obscure songwriter got so many A-listers for his tribute album (Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black) is a bit of a mystery, but the “Idioteque”-esq blips Yorke warbles over somehow makes perfect sense. [Buy]

22. Atlas Sound – Walk a Thin Line (Fleetwood Mac)
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox’s other band put up this tempered falsetto cover on his blog with little fanfare earlier this year. As with most things he gets his hands on, it exploded. [Buy]

21. Florence and the Machine – Addicted to Live (Robert Palmer)
Largely known for the robo-models who jerk about in the video, “Addicted to Love” gets a much-needed upgrade from blog darling Florence and the Machine whose Lungs was one of the best albums of the year. [Buy]

20. The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
This list easily could have been the twenty-five best Jack White covers of the year. On the b-side to the “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single (vinyl only, naturally), White hollers like an in-the-gutter bluesman which the band emits musical sludge around him. [Buy]

19. Ben Lee – Kids (MGMT)
To anyone who thinks this song is all synth-hook, this plucked acoustic take should change your mind. [Buy]

18. Matt the Electrician – Faithfully (Journey)
The triumphal horns bring the bombast early on, before ceding the stage to a singer-songwriter and his ukulele. [Buy]

17. Joensuu 1685 – I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen covered Suicide in 2005 and this one sounds like Suicide fighting back. The feedback frenzy of an opening lasts almost three minutes until the singing begins. And this is the short version! [Buy]

16. Anya Marina – Whatever You Like (T.I.)
I despise this song with a passion, so it’s ironic that not one but two brilliant covers were some of my most-played (the other being by Joan As Police Woman). The lyrics are as profound as ever. Shorty, you the hottest. Love the way you drop it. Brain so good, could have sworn you went to college. [Buy]

15. Eels – Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
Eels’ E recorded this vulnerable piano cover for MySpace Transmissions, the sound of a man unable to mask his pain. [Buy]

14. Feist and Ben Gibbard – Train Song (Vashti Bunyan)
Indie-tastic charity comp Dark Was the Night had more new covers than many tribute albums, but was excluded for consideration from our list ‘cause it had just as many originals. However, the harmony on this semi-obscure song form 1966 cannot be ignored. [Buy]

13. John Frusciante – Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley)
Frusciante recently quit the Chili Peppers. If that enables him to make more experimental psychedelic covers like this one, thank goodness. He should have brought Flea with him. [Buy]

12. Coldplay – Fight for Your Right (Beastie Boys)
The Beastie Boys canceled a summer of high-profile festival appearance when MCA announced he had cancer. Jay-Z subbed in at All Points West, paying predictable tribute (“No Sleep Til Brooklyn”). More unexpected was Chris Martin’s brilliant minor-key piano ballad two days later. And the crowd goes wild . [Buy]

11. Town Bike – Radio Nowhere (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen closed his four-hour appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle with a mashup of this and “Radio Radio.” Slamming it into “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” works too. [Buy]

10. Ben’s Brother – Poker Face (Lady Gaga)
Everyone from Weezer to Daughtry covered “Poker Face” this year, its catchy hook a natural for ironic sing-alongs. The indie-acoustic covers seemed to work best and “beta male” Jamie Hartman sings it so enthusiastically you almost don’t hear the tongue in cheek. [Buy]

9. Chromeo – I Can’t Tell You Why (The Eagles)
Electro-funk duo Chromeo seems an unlikely duo to cover the Eagles. Their effects-laden delivery beats the odds though, taking the 1979 single straight into the twenty-first century. [Buy]

8. Dex Romweber Duo ft. Jack White – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
Definitely the best Geechie Wiley cover this year. Jack White produced this one for his Third Man Records label and was nice enough to add his enviable yelp to this blues stomp. [Burn]

7. My Gold Mask – Bette Davis Eyes (Jackie DeShannon/Kim Carnes)
My Gold Mask sent this one our way a couple months ago, which just goes to show you artists out there, submissions are never ignored. [Buy]

6. The Pluto Tapes – Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio)
Just when you thought you were sick of this song, this slow-burn cover strips away the effects to bring the submerged tune to the fore. [Buy]

5. The BPA ft. Iggy Pop – He’s Frank (Slight Return) (The Monochrome Set)
Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook to his mom) created the Brighten Port Authority apparently solely to produce some killer club-funk tracks with his favorite vocalists. Iggy Pop, who these days seems to have made a career out of guest appearances, sneers his way through this unearthed gem. Biggest shock of all: he managed to keep his shirt on during live performances! [Buy]

4. The Gaslight Anthem – I Do Not Hook Up (Kelly Clarkson)
The Gaslight Anthem tend to cover Bruce Springsteen, The Band, and Johnny Cash. Did the heart-on-sleeve rock revivals finally succumb to the temptation of the ironic pop cover? Not a chance. Against all odds Brian Fallon gives a Kelly Clarkson song the emotional heft of “The River.” [Buy]

3. Elizabeth and the Catapult – Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)
A song so good we did a whole interview about it. [Buy]

2. Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)
Nick Cave recently called this his new favorite band, which is all the recommendation one needs. Their garage-punk racket turns this innocent love song into the best stalker rocker since “Every Breath You Take.” [Buy]

1. Kings of Convenience – It’s My Party (Leslie Gore)
Pure beauty straight out of Norway, complete with a faux-trumpet solo. Nothing more to say. [Buy]

That’s it for this year. See you in 2010!
Oct 132009
 

Halloween is still three weeks away, but everyone has already had it up to the neck with vampires (har!). Hopefully after the Twilight/Jennifer’s Body/True Blood fervor runs its course Dracula and his nocturnal ilk will slink off for a long sleep. When that happens, it’s the werewolf’s time to rise.


The Pluto Tapes – Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio)
TV on the Radio pulled off the rare feat of scoring a mainstream hit with this one without selling their souls. Andy Hicks of the Pluto Tapes strips back the jagged funk of the original for some slow-burn harmonies and crunchy crooning. [Buy]

Adam Sandler – Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Adam Sander’s music career is as bipolar as it is bizarre. He’s covered Bruce Springsteen, with predictably terrible results (watch the video and laugh), but then again he’s covered Neil Young with shocking decent results (watch the video and be surprised). Happily, this Zevon cover falls into the latter category. [Buy]

Jordan Galland – Hungry Like the Wolf (Duran Duran)
This may be the most popular result from our monthly Cover Commissions, and it was only a bonus track! Still, it’s a killer. Which reminds me, October’s Cover Commissions coming soon! [Buy]

By a Girl – Furr (Blitzen Trapper)
The best wolf-song of the bunch. It’s the same old story: A guy wanders into the woods, spontaneously turns into a wolf, runs around for years that way, then sees a girl and becomes a man again. You know, the usual. [Buy]

Yann Gallice – A Wolf at the Door (Radiohead)
Hail to the Thief gets its share of ire from Radiohead fans. For goodness sakes, Pitchfork only gave it a 9.3! This gorgeous hum-happy cover may make you rethink. [Buy]

Joel Martin – Wolf Among Wolves (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy)
I’m not quite sure what Will Oldham did to deserve the thirty-track tribute album I Am a Cold Rock, I Am Dull Grass, but fellow freak-folkniks like Iron and Wine and Calexico understand. Joel Martin delivers a high point of an already soaring album. [Buy]

Chester French – She-Wolf (Shakira)
Shakira on writing this 2009 hit: “The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting.” No comment. [Buy]

The Meteors – Little Red Riding Hood (Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs)
As a kid I always adored this tune on the rare occasions it graced oldies radio, but the Meteors amp it up another notch with a singer who actually sounds like the (sexually aggressive) wolf. [Buy]

Stiff Dead Cat – Dire Wolf (Grateful Dead)
First discovered this bluegrass cover when researching our Workingman’s Dead album post. This lesser gem deserves another look. [Buy]

Ellie Goulding – The Wolves (Act I and II) (Bon Iver)
Covering Bon Iver is like covering heaven. That explains why this is so angelic. [Buy]

Sep 222009
 


Strange but true: I liked Trent Reznor before I liked Nine Inch Nails. Every article you read situates him as the pinnacle of a new-media artist. An internet whore in the best way possible, he gave away his last album for free, tweeted actually interesting content until belligerent fans jealous of his new marriage made him quit and, gracious pioneer that he is, posted a lengthy how-to for new bands to become successful on his fan forum. It seems strange, but the embodiment of early ‘90s fury seems to be a genuinely good guy.

I didn’t think much of his music though until, on the recommendation of a friend, I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert on their audio-visual explosion known as the Lights in the Sky tour (review here). After seeing him surrounded by mesh screens shifting between transparent and opaque, commanding an army of ace players including old crony Robin Finck, conversion came easy. NIN just played their last live show a few weeks back, so to honor their legacy, let the covers begin.

Johnny Cash – Hurt
We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. This cover is arguably more widely known than the original (plus it’s referenced in our logo above). By way of comparison, the leading video of NIN performing this has 1.7 million views on YouTube. The Cash version? 22 mil. Reznor was right when he said about hearing the cover for the first time, “[I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.” [Buy]

Lady Dead Life Urban Sky – Piggy
A gothic NIN cover doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but these dark crooners truly create something new, slowing the Downward Spiral classic down with cello and world-weary anger that fits the sound perfectly. Bonus points for the chick singer’s sultry croon seducing despite the rage. [Buy]

The Pluto Tapes – Reptile
From the first brushed drum stroke, this one will make you sit up and take stock. It seems so perfect in this subtle acoustic take that it’s hard to even remember how aggressive the original is. [Buy]

Nine Inch Richards – Closer
A barnyard country version of one of Reznor’s most sexually aggressive songs? It’s just as strange as it sounds – they actually call it “Closer to Hogs” – and is certainly meant as a joke from the horny-farmer asides and classic-rock quotes. It sort of works though, in a completely insincere way. “Did I tell you I knew Lassie personally?” [Buy]

Devo – Head Like a Hole
I can never quite decide whether Devo are some of the best cover artists around or some of the worst. They certainly take an interesting approach – remember their “Satisfaction”? They replace most of the angst with danceable synths, but keep a bit of the original flavor for the chorus. [Buy]

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Underneath It All
We first heard from this Belgian choir a few weeks back in our Choral Covers feature. Well this female-fronted lament oozes sorrow with no need for crunchy guitars or spastic programming. [Buy]

Tiga – Down In It
This one seems like it’d be great fun to dance to if it was about three times as fast. As it stands, it’s a slow electro rattle, the pretty-boy voice offset by the cracking snare shots. [Buy]

Mae – March of the Pigs
Christian light-rockers Mae seem like a strange choice to cover NIN, but they unleash all their inner anger here on the Punk Goes 90s comp. [Buy]

Jennifer Hope – Terrible Lie
This one comes off the Gothic Tribute to Nine Inch Nails tribute disc, but is as much late-era Beatles as it is Marilyn Manson. Sitar and strings waver in and out, but Hope’s voice is really all you need. [Buy]

Ark Sano – The Day the World Went Away
Piano player extraordinaire Sano has a whole disc of NIN covers that you won’t believe. The dark anti-chords and angry phrasing translate beautifully into pounding bass or brooding tinkling. Seek out “The Downward Spiral” cover as well to hear him strum the inside of the piano and pound its wooden sides. [Buy]