We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
The usual disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others.
Update: Hear me discuss this list, along with our Best Pink Floyd Covers ranking, on SiriusXM Volume:
Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)
Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song.
Today we continue the tradition we started way back one month ago. Since we’re still new at this, I’ll reiterate that our picks are unranked and semi-impulsive. Even the un-blurbed “Honorable Mentions” at the bottom aren’t necessarily worse than the rest; in many cases, we’ve just already written about them at length and have little else to say.
Okay, disclaimers behind us, let’s dive in.
American cable television network Starz gave a peak into the opening title sequence of their upcoming ballet drama Flesh and Bone, and with it comes a striking and sultry cover of the Animotion classic “Obsession.”
The ’80s synthpop jam, originally a duet by Holly Knight and Michael De Barres before being launched to massive popularity with Animotion’s recording, takes on new life under Karen O. With stunning visuals alongside stellar music, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman assures the opening title sequence to the upcoming ballet series stimulates intrigue.
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.
YouTube is filled with amateur cover artists. Most stink. On The ‘Tube extracts the exceptions.
Guitarist Casey Shea first tipped us to his band Everlea’s YouTube page more than a year ago. From the first video we played, it was immediately apparent that these acoustic covers needed to be categorized somewhat differently than the more amateur performances we normally dig up. Each video was beautifully filmed in a different location, swapping the usual bedroom-webcam aesthetic for barns and harbors. The cinematic backdrops frame Everlea singer Justin Dubé’s lovely acoustic takes on the Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and over a dozen others.