Often, it is somebody else’s interpretation of a Tom Waits song that reveals the lyrical and melodic side of his artistry. Waits has written many beautiful songs, but you have to peel back the layers of everything else that makes him interesting to find that inner core. Tom Waits’ recording of “Dirt in the Ground,” from Bone Machine, is slow, funereal march with somber horns in the background. The mood is clear, but the lyrics take close listening to decipher. Continue reading »

Dec 192013

I’m not sure there were more great cover songs this year than any other. But there were more good ones.

What I mean by that is, the average quality of the covers we come across in the time we’ve been around has risen, rather dramatically. Whether they’re iTunes homepage singles or some guy emailing us his Bandcamp, more cover songs in 2013 avoid the old pitfalls than ever before. They don’t sound like they were recorded in a cereal box, substitute ear-bleeding volume for actual creativity, or – the worst cover sin of all – try to carbon-copying the original. With the ease of production and distribution available now, artists seemed to record covers only when they felt they had something to add, and do a halfway decent job committing those ideas to 1s and 0s. Continue reading »

Dec 132013

Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.

Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.

More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.

That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.

Start our countdown on Page 2…

Another year, another long weekend of sweaty clubs and frantic cab sprints across the east river for CMJ. A few of our past picks have broken out a little bit since we wrote about them – Lord Huron, Widowspeak, Houndmouth – so once again, we’d like to give some small boost to our five favorite bands from CMJ, along with a cover from each.

Well, our five favorite bands who had a cover that is. To the rest of our knockout discoveries (like EULA, Reuben and the Dark, GEMS, Pete Bauer) – hurry up and cover something so we can write about you too!
Continue reading »

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

From a Tom Waits interview, circa 1985:

You were in your early twenties on your first album, but you already had an old man’s perspective in songs like “Martha” and, though I can’t say why, “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You.”

I have a little trouble with those songs when I hear them. I don’t really like listening to my early songs. I guess I feel I got better as a songwriter.

Maybe they remind you too much of yourself at the time.

Probably. Yeah. A sentimental guy bellyaching. What the hell?

Continue reading »

Dec 212012

Adele dominated the cover song landscape in 2011, but Two-Aught-Twelve saw no similar galvanizing figure. Yes Lana Del Rey got covered a lot, but Leonard Cohen and Arcade Fire also seemed to garner an unexpected landslide of great covers (and speaking of landslides, so did Fleetwood Mac). “Call Me Maybe” was a huge hit that didn’t lead to much in the way of classic covers, and few seem to have even bothered attempting the Korean raps on “Gangnam Style.”

Which means that cover songs in 2012 were more diverse, ambitious, and left-field than ever before. A given YouTube search or Hype Machine browse would be as likely to turn up forgotten hits or underappreciated songwriters as it would the latest Top 40 smash. Find a sampling of all the diversity in Cover Me’s official Best Cover Songs of 2012 countdown. Start with #40-31 on the next page, and check back daily as we’ll be adding more til we hit #1.

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

It feels a little strange putting the Great Lake Swimmers in the “Under the Radar” category. After all, they’ve been recording albums for over a decade – their fifth, New Wild Everywhere, came out earlier this year. They’ve toured the world and elsewhere, with adoring crowds currently flocking to see them throughout Europe. They have nearly 50,000 Facebook fans and hundreds of thousands more around the planet. And yet, they’re still known for being little-known, their ambient-folk sound ever reluctant to cross the mainstream. Continue reading »

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Jon Bon Jovi was on VH1 Storytellers, telling the audience about the cover he’d just performed. “Bruce wishes he wrote that song,” he said. “I wish I wrote that song even more. But it was that grouchy old guy from California.”

Indeed it was. Tom Waits had fallen in sha-la-la-la-love with Kathleen Brennan (born in Johnsburg, IL; raised in Morristown, NJ), and he wanted the world to know. “Jersey Girl” marked the moment Waits climbed out of the gutter to be with the one he loved. He sings of crossing the river to the Jersey side; it could be the Hudson River, but it could also be the river Styx, with Waits leaving the underworld behind to rejoin the carnival of Planet Earth. All for the love of a woman. What could be more romantic? Continue reading »

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