Aug 182017
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

long distance salvation

Nebraska is the Bruce Springsteen album that it’s cool to like. Springsteen’s previous album, The River, had his biggest hit in “Hungry Heart,” and he was ready to break huge. Instead, he released an album that was literally a demo on a cassette, with all the intimacy and intensity that that entails. “I was interested in writing kind of smaller than I had been,” Springsteen said, and that’s what he did with Nebraska, focusing on individuals in trouble with an intensity that was more cathartic than a mostly-acoustic album would be expected to carry.

The respect that Nebraska has gained over the past three and a half decades has been equally split among fans, critics, and artists. The latter have saluted the album multiple ways, including a 2000 release from Sub Pop called Badlands, a full-album tribute that featured artists from Johnny Cash to Chrissie Hynde to Los Lobos. It had its moments, but a much smaller release called Long Distance Salvation did a much better job at conveying the original’s impact, even as it expanded on Springsteen’s work.
Continue reading »

Apr 122013
 

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

There’s a feel to the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” that can be hard to pinpoint. There’s the Caribbean element to it, the literal storytelling of swimming in the ocean with sea creatures, but there’s no island feel to go with the lyrics; there’s the tricks, the spinning, the looming possibility of one’s empty head collapsing, and yet none of the nauseous dread that these images evoke. Instead, fittingly, the feel is one of distance – everything is there, all those lyrics and thoughts laid out, and yet they’re not what the song is about. It’s about a theme, a feeling, an environment, a difficult-to-pinpoint quality that brings the listener in. It’s a song that’s easy to cover and yet incredibly difficult to cover well, a song where a good cover is measured in its ability to capture something intangible.

Some artists, however, manage to capture it (or something close to it), and leave us not just enjoying a song but wondering the very question posed in the title. Continue reading »

Aug 062012
 

The song “Wonderful(The Way I Feel)” was originally written by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem to perform in the last released Muppets film and tour, but was left unused. James said: “So now, twice, Muppet glory has been within my grasp…it’s pretty heartbreaking, but it did propel us just to kick into high gear and finish our own record.”  The record Circuital was released last May as MMJ’s sixth album. Continue reading »

May 082012
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

It is in no way difficult to see why you might find bluegrass covers of non-bluegrass songs completely musically offensive. Let’s put it out there: it’s no secret that if you sit there and knock out a pop classic on a banjo and fiddle, you are not asking to be taken seriously. For the most part, bluegrass covers exist simply for their novelty value. Continue reading »

May 042012
 

If you haven’t been following the A.V. Undercover 2012 series, you’ve been missing out on exceptional cover songs. The series contains twenty-six performances, the most recent being Trampled by Turtles playing a bluegrass rendition of “Rebellion (Lies)” by Arcade Fire, bringing the series to its eighth cover. Continue reading »

Dec 162011
 

When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.

There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.