Dec 172018
 
best cover songs of 2018

Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.

Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…

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Oct 312018
 
cover songs october
AJ Lambert – Lush Life (Frank Sinatra cover)

Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter covers Frank Sinatra. You think you know where this story ends: fawning nepotism. But despite familial loyalty, A.J. Lambert isn’t afraid to twist “Lush Life,” adding a Lynchian undercurrent of menace. More of an overcurrent in the crawling, nose-bleeding video.

Amy Shark – Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus cover)

Every month, one or two of these selections invariably hail from Spotify’s terrific new cover-sessions series. My only gripe is that they came with no information, the sort a band would write in the YouTube description or press release announcing a new cover, or say on stage before performing one live. That’s now solved with Spotify’s new “Under Cover” podcast, in which the artists performing the covers talk about them. We learn that Amy Shark tried to make “Teenage Dirtbag” a Pixies song, and that she considered the song her anthem when she was young. She says: “The first time I heard ‘Teenage Dirtbag,’ I was in high school. I was crazy obsessed with it to the point where it was in my head every day all day. I would sing it in all day in school. Even teachers would say, ‘Amy, please listen to something else.'” Continue reading »

Oct 092017
 
american girl covers

On Friday, we rounded up the best Tom Petty covers to come since his passing. And today, we begin to dig deeper into the archives for a series of Petty tributes featuring older covers.

Petty tended to write songs more crisp and economical than many of his peers – no Dylanesque word salad or proggy flights of weird instrumentation – which lent themselves to abundant covers. You could play any number of Petty songs within a few months of picking up a guitar (being able to solo like Mike Campbell – well, that might take a little longer).

There are many amazing Petty deep cuts to mine. Why, just in the past year we’ve heard two fantastic covers of songs from his obscure 2006 solo album Highway Companion (by Jane Kramer and The National). But we figured we’d start with a classic, a song so obvious I was frankly surprised to dig through the archives and discover we hadn’t given it the Five Good Covers treatment years ago. Well, better late than never. Rest in peace, Tom. Continue reading »

Dec 172015
 

Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

CoverMeBestSongs2015

I didn’t realize it until I began laying out our post, but this year’s Best Cover Songs list shares quite a few artists with last year’s. And some that showed up here the year before that. Jack White’s on his fourth appearance. And Jason Isbell and Hot Chip not only both reappear from last year, but have moved up in the rankings.

Though we’re always on the lookout for the new (and to be sure, there are plenty of first-timers here too), the number of repeat honorees illustrates how covering a song is a skill just like any other. The relative few artists who have mastered it can probably deliver worthy covers again and again.

How a great cover happens is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this year as I’ve been writing a series of articles diving deep into the creation of iconic cover songs through history (I posted two of them online, and the rest are being turned into a book). In every case the artist had just the right amount of reverence for the original song: honoring its intention without simply aping it. It’s a fine line, and one even otherwise able musicians can’t always walk. Plenty of iconic people don’t make good cover artists (I’d nominate U2 as an example: some revelatory covers of the band, but not a lot by them). Given the skill involved, perhaps it’s no surprise that someone who can do a good cover once can do it again.

So, to longtime readers, you will see some familiar names below. But you’ll also see a lot of new names, and they’re names you should remember. If the past is any guide, you may well see them again next year, and the year after that.

Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.

– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)

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Jul 202015
 
titusandronicus

Titus Andronicus‘s highly-anticipated new double album The Most Lamentable Tragedy clocks in at 29 songs. Amidst killer singles like “Dimed Out” and “Fatal Flow” are 10-minute epics, short hardcore blasts, and a pair of covers: the Pogues‘ “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and Daniel Johnston‘s “I Had Lost My Mind” (they also riff on this one on original track “I Lost My Mind (+@)”. Now you can hear both covers. Continue reading »

Apr 252013
 

It seems tough, when presented with a band named “Diarrhea Planet,” to focus initially on anything other than that name – that is, until they start to play. When that happens, the Nashville band becomes something that could exist without a name at all; it just is rock and roll. Bands – especially punk bands – bring all sorts of attitudes when they approach so-called classics, but Diarrhea Planet brings nothing but talent and enthusiasm to their take on Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run.” Where other acts might imbue their arts with sarcasm or, alternately, overplayed sincerity, they bring music. Continue reading »