Dec 092011

When we think back to this year, we might remember 2011 as the year that the whole concept of the “cover album” became more fluid, and not always for the better. Thanks to the increased prominence of sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, a cover album could be conceived, recorded, and shared in the space of a weekend. This didn’t necessarily lead to better cover albums, but it certainly led to more of them. They came in all formats – digital, CD, vinyl, and even cassette-only – and from all directions – labels, blogs, and even some magazines.

Which, we like to think, makes this list that much more helpful. In a year where the biggest single-artist cover album we got came from William Shatner, it proved a particular challenge to dig through the many obscure artists and assorted tributes and extract the gems. Gems there certainly were though, be they from newcomers making an impression with their favorite songs or old-timers honoring groups that influenced them decades ago. It may have taken a bit more work to find them, but the end result is as strong a selection as we’ve seen.

Continue to page 2 to read the list…

Jun 132011

Williamsburg, Brooklyn has become synonymous with hipster culture, so it’s no surprise that a covers album featuring a lineup of tracks with serious indie cred would originate in the neighborhood. Somewhat more surprising? That those covers would come from an 11-piece salsa band. The self-titled debut album from the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra adds some Latin flair to tracks from indie staples including Peter Bjorn and John, TV on the Radio, and LCD Soundsystem.

It’s apparent from the get-go that the WSO is a talented group of salsa musicians. Bandleader Gianni Mano leads the ensemble through the album’s ten peppy tracks with precision and energy. However, the combination of salsa and indie is rather hit or miss, with the up-tempo excitement of the orchestra sometimes overshadowing the content of the song being covered. Blaring horns, timbales, and bongos make for a fun cover of an upbeat track like Peter Bjorn and John‘s “Young Folks,” but can feel overwhelming in quieter moments. Similarly, Solange Prat’s vocals have a very polished, almost Broadway quality that meshes well with the salsa backing but lacks the emotional subtlety needed to get the most out of softer tracks or lyrics originally voiced by less traditional singers. Continue reading »

Aug 032010

Today’s the day! Arcade Fire’s highly anticipated third album The Suburbs is out and – stunningly – it’s not being heralded as a letdown. Blogs love to rip apart new albums by favorite bands, so avoiding this fate must mean The Suburbs is pretty damn good (it is).

To celebrate the occasion, the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra (now there’s an incongruous name) released their cover of Neon Bible track “Keep the Car Running.” For a song off the band’s least acclaimed album, “Keep the Car” has done well for itself. It’s been covered by the Foo Fighters. Win Butler and Régine Chassagne performed it with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (video here). Now it’s salsa. Continue reading »