In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Matthew Sweet’s career is a textbook example of what happens if you are exceedingly good at something that is not considered to be cool. In this case, that thing is the musical genre of “power pop.” Sweet is almost universally considered to be a master of the genre (usually defined as being a cross between hard rock and pop, with serious Beatles influences), and his best album, 1991′s Girlfriend, is generally considered to be a masterpiece, even by people who generally look down their noses at “power pop.”

As a result, Sweet is a cult hero to some critics and fans who appreciate the tight, hook-filled yet intelligent songwriting that typifies the genre, while remaining unknown to the masses who may – may - have heard one of the two or three Sweet songs that occasionally sneak into a radio or streaming playlist. Of course, the music geeks who write for Cover Me are Sweet fans; we’ve featured his cover work repeatedly, even giving him a birthday tribute featuring covers of his songs by other artists. But never before has he received the sort of career-affirming fawning adulation that can only be found in an “In the Spotlight” feature.
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Continuing the flood of Lou Reed tributes, Ian McCulloch of Scouse new wave legends Echo & The Bunnymen recently performed a Velvet Underground cover for the NME. Continue reading »

The Velvet Underground continues to be a popular source of material for cover songs (as recently noted here and here). However, this may be the first time that The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed have been covered at the Grand Ole Opry. Elizabeth Cook, like any country artist worth her weight in cowboy boots, can flat out rock when she wants to, only to shift gears and deliver a soft, sincere song, like “Pale Blue Eyes,” without being too saccharine. Continue reading »

Courtney Barnett and Billy Bragg

Listening to Courtney Barnett’s narrative style of solo work (prime example: “Avant Gardener”), it’s clear a Lou Reed influence is at play. So perhaps it’s no surprise that, when teaming up with folk veteran Billy Bragg, the two would turn to The Velvet Underground. Barnett opened for Bragg on his recent Australian tour. They took time together to record “Sunday Morning” for RocKwiz, the Australian TV show.
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With the possible exception of Martin Scorsese, no movie director has been more closely identified with his soundtracks than Wes Anderson. He has consistently selected songs by well-known artists that, through no fault of their own, have become three-quarters forgotten over the years, and reintroduced them to the world as the classics they had always been. If someone calls a song a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack (Guilty!), an instant and accurate picture is created. The soundtracks show a cohesion that’s rare in these days of we-want-a-hit soundtracks, where the earmarked smash doesn’t play until the final credits have started rolling, and they have become high points in the experience of watching Anderson’s movies. Now the American Laundromat Records label has collected covers of some of those high points on I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson, resulting in the best tribute album of the year.
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Doo wop and early ‘60s pop may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of Lou Reed, but, listening to his early work with The Velvet Underground, all of that – and much more – is there. Like The Velvet Underground did a couple of generations ago, Hollis Brown, a five-piece band from Brooklyn, clearly draws on a variety of influences to craft a classic rock and roll sound. Continue reading »

“I will now sing to you the 2013 song of the year,” Patti Smith said at her 67th birthday concert last week in NYC, then launched into a moving – not to mention unexpected – cover of Rihanna‘s “Stay.” Never one to cover a pop song ironically, Smith and pianist Tony Shanahan delivered the lyrics with poise and purpose, even when nerves caused her to forget a few of the words partway through. Continue reading »

Nov 042013

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Not much can be said about Lou Reed that hasn’t already been said. When he died on October 27 at age 71, Reed left behind an indisputable legacy of influence that dwarfs some of the biggest names in rock and roll. You can ignore him, hate his music or his voice, dislike his politics or his openness with drugs and sexuality, or downplay his role in rock and roll history — but none of that matters. If you chopped down the tree of influence that grew from the roots of Reed and the Velvet Underground, what would come crashing down would take out most of the house of rock and roll as we know it. The leaf you listen to seems to be all its own, but the branches that hold it up are massive.
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