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.
Animal Collective – In the Bleak Midwinter
February’s a little late for Christmas songs, perhaps, but this one was worth the delay. It’s not just a two-month delay either. Try 18 years. Animal Collective recorded this in December 1999 for their debut album Campfire Songs, but it didn’t see the light of day until this month when band member Geologist spun it on a radio show. Christmas comes late – or very, very early.
Car Seat Headrest – Fallen Horses (Smash Mouth cover)
Smash Mouth – Something Soon (Car Seat Headrest cover)
Great songs, and an even better story. Indie-rock darlings Car Seat Headrest and national joke Smash Mouth – bands that could not be further apart on the hipness spectrum – started tweeting at each other in January 2017 after a user said that they should cover each other. One year later… they have.
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Runaway (Kanye West cover)
Every now and then an album comes out that, within weeks of its release, everyone is covering. Adele’s 21 had that. Lorde’s Melodrama went partway there. But few were bigger than Kanye West’s 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Within a few months of its release, we were already ranking the best covers of “Runaway.” Things have died down since, of course, but that doesn’t make the songs any less cover-able. As Charlotte Gainsbourg showed in this beautiful, not-so-dark-or-twisted live performance.
Frank Ocean – Moon River
Before he was a superstar, Frank Ocean first garnered blog attention with his creative use of samples by the likes of Coldplay and The Eagles (he got in trouble over that one). Whether it’s via a sample, remix, or cover, he’s a master re-worker of songs, as seen in his stunning new version of the oft-covered “Moon River.”
Low – Let’s Stay Together (Al Green cover)
Let’s be honest, is any cover of this song ever going to top Obama’s? It’s a hard act to follow, but “slow-core” pioneers Low deliver a beautiful take in their own way. They’ve been performing it live for several years, but finally released a proper recording for Valentine’s Day.
Meshell Ndegeocello – Waterfalls (TLC cover)
The only artist to appear on both this list and January’s, Ndegeocello beautifully covered Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April” to launch her upcoming covers album Ventriloquism. And the second single is just as good. For ’90s kids, “Waterfalls” evokes nostalgia for skating-rink birthday parties and middle-school dances. There’s a lot of weight for people who grew up with this song. Ndegeocello’s version is familiar enough to latch on to (or skate to), but breaks the song out of its 1990s-era bubble.
NoSpoon feat. Tuğçe – Düşünme Hiç (Ajda Pekkan Cover)
This one requires some explanation, because I know your instinct is probably to skip over it. We’d never heard the original song “Düşünme Hiç” either (I don’t even know how to pronounce that). But it was hugely popular in Turkey in the 1980s, a pleasant lite-disco number you can find on YouTube. Younger Turkish artist Cem Değirmen aka. NoSpoon turns into a massive dance banger, complete with a cool fire-dancing video.
Screaming Females – No More I Love You’s (Annie Lennox cover)
Jersey punk trio Screaming Females (that’s them up top) regularly surprise with their cover choices. They destroy the songs you’d expect them to, sure – your Misfits and your Neil Youngs. But they’ve also done raging versions of Taylor Swift and Sheryl Crow. Their new Annie Lennox cover shocks in its own right, as it doesn’t entirely dispense with the original’s poppier elements (including the backing vocals). But there’s a menacing undercurrent of distortion that threatens to explode – and finally does on a furious guitar solo.
Sune Rose Wagner – More Human Than Human
White Zombie’s “More Human Than Human” would be an ’80s metal classic except for one thing: It came out in 1995. It sure doesn’t sound like 1995 though. If it did, though – if White Zombie had been listening to more Nine Inch Nails and less Iron Maiden – it would probably sound like Raveonettes guitarist Sune Rose Wagner’s new cover.
Wolf Alice – Boys (Charli XCX cover)
You’ve heard Charli XCX’s songs even if you’ve never heard of Charli XCX. She both co-wrote and sang on smash hits “I Love It” (Icona Pop) and “Fancy” (Iggy Azalea). Her latest single, “Boys,” is one of her biggest solo hits to date, threatening to break her into that superstar tier herself. It’s a catchy dance-pop jam. Well, it was until Wolf Alice sunk their teeth into it…
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Thirteen (Big Star cover)
“Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ first new recording in five years!” the headline blared. And it is – an acoustic version of “Maps” for Spotify. A little underwhelming. The B-side, this Big Star cover, perhaps doesn’t live up to the anticipation of fans desperate for new YYYs music. But if you divorce it from its context, it’s a beautiful and subtle cover. Hopefully the first taste of more music to come.
Aimee Mann – Drive (The Cars cover)
Biffy Clyro – Modern Love (David Bowie cover)
Field Music – River Man (Nick Drake cover)
Iron & Wine – What I Am (Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians cover)
Jenny Bruce – Change (John Waite cover)
Kelly Hoppenjans – Enter Sandman (Metallica cover)
The Land Below – Song 2 (Blur cover)
Lykke Li – Time in a Bottle (Jim Croce cover)
PJ Harvey – An Acre of Land (Traditional cover)
St. Vincent – Consideration (Rihanna ft. SZA cover)
Check out the Best Cover Songs of 2017 here.
Annie Lennox’s version of No More I Love You’s was itself a cover of The Lover Speaks
It’s “Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians”