Feb 032016

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


When Mates of State‘s Crushes (The Covers Mixtape) came out in 2010, we ranked it the sixth best cover album of the year. If I were redoing that list today, I’d make it #1 (or, at worst, #2 – I do still love that Peter Gabriel album). The reason Crushes holds up so well is the same reason a lot of people might hate it: Its almost gleeful irreverence to its source material.

On Crushes, the husband-wife indiepop duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel draw their song selections equally from indie hits of the past decade and classic singer-songwriters. But they are beholden to neither group. Americana laments become dance celebrations. Outsider indie-prog becomes glossy toy-store pop. Electronic beats and gorgeous harmonies coexist in worlds far different than the ones the original artists envisioned. Continue reading »

Aug 162011

Artists who contributed to the new John Martyn tribute album had a lot of options when choosing a track to cover; Martyn released twenty albums during his forty-plus year career. Thirty artists covered a song from Martyn’s expansive catalog to create Johnny Boy Would Love This: A Tribute to John Martyn. The British singer-songwriter, best known for his unique style on guitar, had a career that spanned genres from folk to jazz to rock and his music touched artists old and new. We previewed contributions from Beck, David Gray, and others earlier this month; now the complete album is available.

The remarkable scope of Johnny Boy Would Love This is an asset in that the album offers a rich, diverse group of tracks from well-respected artists. However, similarities between many tracks give the feeling that the collection could have been more carefully curated. Both discs are disproportionately populated with gentle, introspective covers; all the tracks respectfully pay tribute to Martyn, but not all offer something unique to the collection. There are, however, a selection of standouts among the thirty songs that make Johnny Boy Would Love This a worthwhile purchase for Martyn fans. Continue reading »

Aug 022011

Vashti Bunyan has seen something of a popular resurgence in the past few years. The late-‘60s songwriter released a grand total of one album, in 1970, then left music after it failed to reach an audience. Fast-forward thirty years. The out-of-print album became a cult favorite, selling on eBay for thousands of dollars and prompting a comeback. In the past few years alone, Mates of State, Ben Gibbard and Feist, and Fever Ray have all released high-profile covers of her songs. Continue reading »

Dec 312009

2009 will disappear into the ether in a few hours, but before it does there’s time for one last retrospective to do: The Top Covers of 2009. The Artists-to-Cover this year seemed to be Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, though somewhat surprisingly no particularly definitive tribute to the latter has surfaced.

Speaking of tributes, anything off of our Best Cover Albums list was excluded for consideration here (you can still download those songs here though). Without further ado, let the list begin!

25. Imogen Heap – Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Any cover of this song loses something without the Vincent Price voice-over. Imogen Heap may not be the Godfather of Horror, but she’s just quirky enough to pull it off. [Buy]

24. Jason Bajada – You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son (Wolf Parade)
There’s nothing harder to pull off than an acoustic-guitar and voice cover. Anyone can try – just strum the chords – but few stand out from the pack of YouTube wannabes. Bajada is one. [Buy]

23. Thom Yorke – All for the Best (Miracle Legion)
How a semi-obscure songwriter got so many A-listers for his tribute album (Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black) is a bit of a mystery, but the “Idioteque”-esq blips Yorke warbles over somehow makes perfect sense. [Buy]

22. Atlas Sound – Walk a Thin Line (Fleetwood Mac)
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox’s other band put up this tempered falsetto cover on his blog with little fanfare earlier this year. As with most things he gets his hands on, it exploded. [Buy]

21. Florence and the Machine – Addicted to Live (Robert Palmer)
Largely known for the robo-models who jerk about in the video, “Addicted to Love” gets a much-needed upgrade from blog darling Florence and the Machine whose Lungs was one of the best albums of the year. [Buy]

20. The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
This list easily could have been the twenty-five best Jack White covers of the year. On the b-side to the “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single (vinyl only, naturally), White hollers like an in-the-gutter bluesman which the band emits musical sludge around him. [Buy]

19. Ben Lee – Kids (MGMT)
To anyone who thinks this song is all synth-hook, this plucked acoustic take should change your mind. [Buy]

18. Matt the Electrician – Faithfully (Journey)
The triumphal horns bring the bombast early on, before ceding the stage to a singer-songwriter and his ukulele. [Buy]

17. Joensuu 1685 – I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen covered Suicide in 2005 and this one sounds like Suicide fighting back. The feedback frenzy of an opening lasts almost three minutes until the singing begins. And this is the short version! [Buy]

16. Anya Marina – Whatever You Like (T.I.)
I despise this song with a passion, so it’s ironic that not one but two brilliant covers were some of my most-played (the other being by Joan As Police Woman). The lyrics are as profound as ever. Shorty, you the hottest. Love the way you drop it. Brain so good, could have sworn you went to college. [Buy]

15. Eels – Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
Eels’ E recorded this vulnerable piano cover for MySpace Transmissions, the sound of a man unable to mask his pain. [Buy]

14. Feist and Ben Gibbard – Train Song (Vashti Bunyan)
Indie-tastic charity comp Dark Was the Night had more new covers than many tribute albums, but was excluded for consideration from our list ‘cause it had just as many originals. However, the harmony on this semi-obscure song form 1966 cannot be ignored. [Buy]

13. John Frusciante – Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley)
Frusciante recently quit the Chili Peppers. If that enables him to make more experimental psychedelic covers like this one, thank goodness. He should have brought Flea with him. [Buy]

12. Coldplay – Fight for Your Right (Beastie Boys)
The Beastie Boys canceled a summer of high-profile festival appearance when MCA announced he had cancer. Jay-Z subbed in at All Points West, paying predictable tribute (“No Sleep Til Brooklyn”). More unexpected was Chris Martin’s brilliant minor-key piano ballad two days later. And the crowd goes wild . [Buy]

11. Town Bike – Radio Nowhere (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen closed his four-hour appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle with a mashup of this and “Radio Radio.” Slamming it into “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” works too. [Buy]

10. Ben’s Brother – Poker Face (Lady Gaga)
Everyone from Weezer to Daughtry covered “Poker Face” this year, its catchy hook a natural for ironic sing-alongs. The indie-acoustic covers seemed to work best and “beta male” Jamie Hartman sings it so enthusiastically you almost don’t hear the tongue in cheek. [Buy]

9. Chromeo – I Can’t Tell You Why (The Eagles)
Electro-funk duo Chromeo seems an unlikely duo to cover the Eagles. Their effects-laden delivery beats the odds though, taking the 1979 single straight into the twenty-first century. [Buy]

8. Dex Romweber Duo ft. Jack White – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
Definitely the best Geechie Wiley cover this year. Jack White produced this one for his Third Man Records label and was nice enough to add his enviable yelp to this blues stomp. [Burn]

7. My Gold Mask – Bette Davis Eyes (Jackie DeShannon/Kim Carnes)
My Gold Mask sent this one our way a couple months ago, which just goes to show you artists out there, submissions are never ignored. [Buy]

6. The Pluto Tapes – Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio)
Just when you thought you were sick of this song, this slow-burn cover strips away the effects to bring the submerged tune to the fore. [Buy]

5. The BPA ft. Iggy Pop – He’s Frank (Slight Return) (The Monochrome Set)
Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook to his mom) created the Brighten Port Authority apparently solely to produce some killer club-funk tracks with his favorite vocalists. Iggy Pop, who these days seems to have made a career out of guest appearances, sneers his way through this unearthed gem. Biggest shock of all: he managed to keep his shirt on during live performances! [Buy]

4. The Gaslight Anthem – I Do Not Hook Up (Kelly Clarkson)
The Gaslight Anthem tend to cover Bruce Springsteen, The Band, and Johnny Cash. Did the heart-on-sleeve rock revivals finally succumb to the temptation of the ironic pop cover? Not a chance. Against all odds Brian Fallon gives a Kelly Clarkson song the emotional heft of “The River.” [Buy]

3. Elizabeth and the Catapult – Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)
A song so good we did a whole interview about it. [Buy]

2. Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)
Nick Cave recently called this his new favorite band, which is all the recommendation one needs. Their garage-punk racket turns this innocent love song into the best stalker rocker since “Every Breath You Take.” [Buy]

1. Kings of Convenience – It’s My Party (Leslie Gore)
Pure beauty straight out of Norway, complete with a faux-trumpet solo. Nothing more to say. [Buy]

That’s it for this year. See you in 2010!
Sep 112009

This Week’s News

As many of you know, Cover Me recently launched its very own Twitter page! To gather followers, here’s an incentive. If Cover Me gets 100 followers by Monday night, I will tweet an exclusive set of Animal Collective covers (to followers only). So get on board!

In other exciting site news, our beautiful new site logo goes up on Monday! Here are some key words to whet your appetite: Radiohead. The Beatles. Nine Inch Nails.

Highly Rec’d’s monthly mixtape is cover-themed. Go to their box.net to download covers of Weezer, Michael Jackson, Guided By Voices and 19 more!

Another covers mix is this DJ mashup with 32 tracks!

Wednesday was the Day of the Beatles, with their amazing-sounding remasters and Rock Band video game coming out. Beatles cover action has, needless to say, a bit stronger than usual. For you Brits, MOJO magazine‘s newest issue comes with a CD of Abbey Road covers. They’re excellent. Not as good are these Ten Beatles Covers That Are Worse Than Yours. Oh, Mrs. Miller…

Roseanne Cash has a new covers disc coming out with a cool backstory. When she was young her dad (some guy named John) gave her 100 songs he said she needed to learn to play. Well she did, and some of them are coming out on her new album The List. She’s premiering some via web stream on the 23rd.

Blogger Marc Cohen is setting up a website of 33-cent cover tunes. It doesn’t debut ’til November, but he’s asking for submissions now.

I mentioned last week that Beck’s latest is covers of the entire Songs of Leonard Cohen album. As that project unfolds, catch up on his last by downloading the full set of Velvet Underground & Nico takes.

Let the live cover rumpus begin! The Killers covered Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” with Wolfmother a few days ago, perhaps right as Britney Spears was covering “Ironic.” Even the latter was reportedly better than Katy Perry covering Queen at Bumbershoot.

Speaking of concerts, Nine Inch Nails performed live for the final time last night, busting out a couple Joy Division covers.

Emo-punks Paramore have been going cover-crazy in support of their latest release, first tackling Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” before moving on to buzz band Phoenix’s “Long Distance Call.”

A less annoying brand of glam-rock comes your way via Anberlin, who recently took on New Order’s “True Faith.” Pick it up for a buck here.

Muse has covered West Side Story‘s “America” as a VMA promo. They based their version on this 1968 gem by The Nice.

Not many people have noticed though — the TV world is too busy drooling over Glee. It’s a covers-friendly comedy and the cast talked to Rolling Stone about their favorite re-versions.

I’m a little sad “I Gotta Feeling” didn’t win our Cover Commissions poll, but this guy does a nice acoustic version. Well, nice until he’s tackled.

Where my Vashti Bunyan fans?? Hello? Anyone? Well apparently she’s the “Godmother of freak-folk” (I thought she was Paul Bunyan’s kid sister or something) and Fever Ray pay tribute.

This Week’s Submissions

Jer Coons – I Want You Back (Jackson 5)

David Gray – Friday I’m in Love (The Cure)

Orba Square – All Apologies (Nirvana)