The Best Cover Songs of 2015

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Dec 172015

Continued from…#50-41.

MiguelRivera21040. Beat It (Michael Jackson cover)
Miguel Rivera

Miguel Rivera almost blew up the internet when his acoustic guitar version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” went viral. It has had nearly four million hits since it was released in June and I still see it pop up on my Facebook feed a couple of times a week. Not bad for an online guitar teacher from Spain. – Eric Taylor

CaitlinCanty21039. Unknown Legend (Neil Young cover)
Caitlin Canty

Coming over all Daniel Lanois does Emmylou, this expands the emotive wrench of this lament, wringing a rawness lacking in Neil’s more prosaic canter. Exquisite backing draws the ache in the vocal to the fore, as memories of better times are inexorably drawn in like moths to a flickering oil lamp. If Neil ever has regrets over Pegi, he’d do it like this. – Seuras Og

WillDailey21038. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (Arcade Fire cover)
Will Dailey

By removing the ABBA-style vocals and beats, singer-songwriter Will Dailey puts the focus back on Arcade Fire’s lyrics, full of suburban teenage angst that somehow feel more grown-up. Dailey’s voice cracks just enough throughout to keep the song raw as the barebones guitar and drum build into a dramatic full-band finale. – Mike Misch

LittleWings21037. Eyes Without a Face (Billy Idol cover)
Little Wings

Kyle Field and his band Little Wings did their fair share of covers this year, including songs by Madonna, Springsteen, Van Morrison and Lil Wayne. Their cover of Billy Idol’s 1983 classic, “Eyes Without a Face”, though, is just enjoyable. Especially the band’s attempt to match the female voice in the original as they sing the French part of the song (“les yeux sans visage”). – Eric Taylor

WilliamFitzsimmons21036. Ice Cream (Sarah McLachlan cover)
William Fitzsimmons

What happens when an oft-mocked, sepia-toned song about how “your love is better than ice cream” gets the full-on Elliott Smith treatment? For starters, you remember that the song is more than its opening line; after the ice cream (and chocolate) the song also features the lines “everyone here knows how to fight” and “it’s a long way down / it’s a long way down / down to the place where we started from.” The layered, whispering tremolo of Fitzsimmons vocals serves to illustrate some interesting double standards about gender and sentimentality. There is a thin but unforgiving line between coffee shop heaven and coffee shop hell. – Matt Vadnais

ChrisCornell21035. Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince / Sinéad O’Connor cover)
Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell starts off sounding tired of the pain he’s endured in the seven hours and 15 days that his lover’s been gone. He then gradually nears the brink of anger and indignation in this acoustic cover. The pace and lack of formality make this cover feel like a genuine, everyman song about heartbreak. – Maryam Motamedi

MosesSumney21034. O Superman (Laurie Anderson cover)
Moses Sumney

Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” would seem to be the very definition of an uncoverable song, but Moses Sumney disproves that notion with this reenvisioning. It starts off with the familiar “ah ah ah” hook of Anderson’s original, and an autotuned vocal that nicely updates the sparse technological aspect of the song to the 21st century. But then Sumney flies above his performance, soars even, leaving the lyrics behind in favor of handclaps and vocalizations that convey a sad and dreamy sense of longing. It’s amazing to witness this song being enfolded in a new pair of long, electronic, petrochemical arms. – Patrick Robbins

MyBrothersandI21033. Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers cover)
My Brothers and I

OK, get past the fact that this is such a class song that I have yet to hear any duff version, here is an attempt the vary the flow, with bursts of harmony vocals, reminiscent of the late David Ruffin outfit, Londonbeat. Well worth adding to the roster of covers of this song, and makes me want to hear their own stuff. – Seuras Og

EzraFurman21032. Crown of Love (Arcade Fire cover)
Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman was always a little too clever by half for the self-serious indie rock world, and since ditching his band the Harpoons he has started letting his freak flag fly. His newest album incorporates doo-wop, funk, and a whole lot of skronky sax solos. The bonus covers EP he released with it has all the same. – Ray Padgett

Torres21031. Special (Garbage cover)

I love Garbage, me, and clearly so does Torres, who seems to have come up with this whilst photocopying some late-90s playlists. Perhaps prompted by the cyclical machinations of the office hardware, a distant memory of an old ear worms meanders out through her bored expression. Better than the remix she sang in the bath during a hailstorm. – Seuras Og


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  11 Responses to “The Best Cover Songs of 2015”

Comments (9) Pingbacks (2)
  1. I love this so hard–it just made my night to see this list here. Thank you! I’ll also buy the hell out of your book.

  2. This is a great article.
    I have to put one cover song that i really loved this year.
    PHOTOTAXIS, a band from TEL AVIV, doing PRINCE song, WHEN DOVES CRY
    You got to listen to it. so good.

  3. Thanks so much for this post. I just went and purchased three of the tracks!

  4. Great list, but was hoping to find one of the covers I had one repeat last year, Christine and the Queens – Paradis Perdus.

  5. Great list. I do like James Blake’s “Sound of Silence”, but there’s another 2015 version of that song I like even better — the one by Disturbed.

  6. Really, really should be on this list. Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler) by Nothing But Thieves. Sounds like it was mixed with Jeff Buckley’s “Dream Brother” and works fantastically.

  7. Thnx, but 1.James Blake, when disturbed version I got goosebumps , when Blake version I fell asleep!

  8. This posting brought me so much joy. The Cigarettes after Sex REO cover is phenomenal and I wouldn’t have found it otherwise. Keep up the great work. Great site mate!

  9. The REO Speedwagon cover by Cigarettes After Sex is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time, but you missed Amy Lee’s ridiculously amazing cover of U2’s “With Or Without You.”

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