At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.
“When We Were Young,” Adele’s second single off 25, peaked at #14 on the pop charts. Amazing by most artists’ standards, but middling by hers (particularly following “Hello” topping every chart in existence). But as with so many of her songs before it, it’s lived on well past its chart run through endless covers. The latest, and maybe greatest, comes from Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth.
He performed it on the Swedish game show På Spåre, backed by local pop group Augustifamiljen. It’s a bigger and more lavish production than most of Kristian Matsson’s covers, which tend more towards fingerpicked folk tunes. But he sells it perfectly, finding a middle ground between his singer-songwriter sensibilities and Adele’s bigger soul belting.
Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Mike is back in his hometown of Cleveland after many years away. His return was not necessarily the reason the Cavs won the NBA finals, but it hasn’t been ruled out. He’s been writing his essays for Cover Me since 2011, 4 states ago. He still thinks the Counting Crows do a damn fine cover and he loved being part of the crew that got to find the best Bob Dylan covers for Dylan’s 70th birthday.
Kristian Matsson and Amanda Hollingby Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth and Idiot Wind aka husband and wife are the near perfect pair. Both are indie singer-songwriters from Sweden, one sounds like Bob Dylan when he plays, the other takes her stage moniker from a Bob Dylan song. But they are perhaps at their best when they collaborate in music.
It may seem like an odd juxtaposition to hear of The Tallest Man on Earth covering Frank Sinatra. After all, the Swedish musician, né Kristian Matsson, has a distinct folk-rock sound pervading his solo career. It becomes less of a surprise, however, in light of the fact that the cover is of the tune “Cycles” (which, for Sinatra, is rather folksy) and that his performance is a guest spot at an Idiot Wind show – that is, Matsson’s wife Amanda Bergman.
Despite having styled her stage name after a Dylan song, Bergman’s sound is much more imbued with piano and crooning vocals than Matsson’s, and expectations of a Sinatra cover would hardly seem off the mark.
The team-up on “Cycles” is a beautiful one, and it seems almost as though the tune was written solely for Matsson’s dreamlike strumming and for the duo’s harmonizing. It’s a down-and-out kind of song, yes, but it’s a hopeful one and an uplifting one. What’s more, the duet hits just the right balance of Matsson’s raspy folk and Bergman’s gorgeous vocals and any lyrical slip-ups toward the end serve only to add to the song’s charm. Enjoy.
Idiot Wind and The Tallest Man on Earth – Cycles (Frank Sinatra Cover)