Dec 172018

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50. Doom Side of the Moon – Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)

Kyle Shutt, guitarist and singer for metal vets The Sword, put together a band with the sole intent of doing a Dark Side of the Moon tribute album, released last year. The next year they released a bonus EP with this non-Dark Side gem. Despite the foreboding name and heaviness of much of the Sword’s own material, this song has a ton of unexpected elements to it. The chunky guitar riffs are crisp and Shutt handles the soaring vocals well. The finale, with its surprising, face-melting saxophone solo (!) mixed with super-thick doom metal guitars, is well worth sticking around for. – Mike Misch

49. Ramin Djawadi – Heart-Shaped Box (Nirvana cover)

An orchestral arrangement might not seem like the obvious choice for a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”, but in the hands of Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi, it makes perfect sense. The instantly recognizable melody and eerie minor third riff translate easily to strings, and the cello provides the rhythmic undertone to drive the chorus. This genius rendition suits the dark and complicated place that is Westworld. – Angela Hughey

48. Superorganism – Congratulations (Post Malone/MGMT cover)

The eight members of Superorganism hail from across the globe, so it shouldn’t surprise that they pull from disparate influences. It takes a certain audacity to blend songs by one of the most cool artists in the world and one of the least. But they do just that, mixing bits of MGMT’s boundary-pushing track “Congratulations” with the goofy Post Malone hit of the same name. That not audacious enough? Throw in samples from Jack Black in School of Rock, and some flute too. They even add zany sound effects, only barely audible, by firing off confetti cannons and clinking soda glasses. When you have this many band members, why not go big? – Ray Padgett

47. William Elliott Whitmore – Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers cover)

William Elliott Whitmore, the deep-voiced Iowa farmer, covers Bill Withers’ 1971 soul classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” on his stunning all-covers collection Kilonova. The original featured the talents of the great Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass, Al Jackson, Jr. on drums and Stephen Stills himself on guitar, with Booker T. Jones producing and arranging the strings. Inspired by the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, Withers wrote this heartbreaking song of lost love while working in a factory making toilet seats for 747 airplanes, and it hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. If anything, Whitmore’s version is even sadder, as he slows the song down, with his guitar – its opening riff strangely reminiscent of the beginning of Johnny Cash’s great cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” – backed by bass and drums, no strings. Where Withers’ voice was smooth and soulful, Whitmore’s aches. – Jordan Becker

46. Cat Power – Stay (Rihanna cover)

As ever, Chan Marshall applies her own idiosyncratic template to a cover, dispensing the need to duplicate the entirety of the tune or even the lyric. If Rihanna offered a more passive-aggressive approach, Marshall’s is a more overt, yet underplayed, statement of need, which obviates the neediness. A spare backing in the original is stripped back still further to the bone. Both are good versions, but I know which carries the greater weight. – Seuras Og

45. Meiko – Crush (Jennifer Paige cover)

One-hit wonder Jennifer Paige boasts little name recognition, but anyone listing to pop radio in the late 1990s will instantly recognize her smash “Crush.” For the song’s 20th birthday, Japanese-American singer Meiko dug it out of the nostalgia bins. Her meditative ballad strips away the gloss, making you really hear the lyrics underneath. Now, that’s not to say you’ve missed much hitherto ignoring the lyrics. But if the words aren’t profound, neither are crushes. The peppy melody and teenage sentiments contrast beautifully with the brushed drums and delicate crooning. Listening to the original in 2018 might qualify as a guilty pleasure. No need to feel any guilt listening to Meiko’s take. – Jane Callaway

44. Kendra Morris – Virgin (Madonna cover)

Madonna’s youthful, almost squeaky voice in “Like a Virgin” can make the listener feel slightly uncomfortable in its innocence. And many would argue that to be the very point of the song. Madonna’s boundary-pushing antics make our jaws drop, our palms sweat, and our feet tap all at the same time. Kendra Morris’ cover conveys a more adult vibe, slowing things down with a smooth backbeat and delicious harmonies. – Elizabeth Erenberg

43. The Mountain Goats – Bridge of Sighs (Robin Trower cover)

Every song John Darnielle performs as The Mountain Goats feels like a Mountain Goats song, but the variety of styles across his backlog is pretty shocking. Here he takes the bluesy original and creates something completely different. It opens with sparse piano and echoing vocals, building in churning instrumentation from sax master Matt Douglas over time. It’s a contemplative funeral dirge that also manages to be uplifting. – Mike Misch

42. One Grass Two Grass – Praise You (Fatboy Slim cover)

Bluegrass ranks perhaps second only to heavy metal in the novelty-YouTube-covers space. Every few weeks, some ironic banjo-and-fiddle cover of Ariana Grande or the Game of Thrones theme song circulates through the blogosphere. Few offer much replay value. The San Francisco band One Grass Two Grass – a more clever name than I initially realized (just finish that Dr. Seuss phrase) – deliver an exception with a surprising Fatboy Slim cover. It offers ample space for hot pickin’, and a melodic hook that works well in the idiom. Bonus points to whoever so deftly delivers that quick-scatted “b-b-b-b-b-b…” sample vocally. – Ray Padgett

41. Juliana Hatfield – I Honestly Love You (Reprise) (Olivia Newton-John cover)

Juliana Hatfield liked Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You” so much she included it twice on her covers album Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia-Newton John. It opens the album, then returns as “I Honestly Love You (Reprise)” to close it. While the opening version is solid, Hatfield reinventing Newton-John’s weepy torch song into a hard rocker, the “Reprise” is the superior of the two. Hatfield adds an extra minute and a half to the track, using the additional time to build up a powerful crescendo of “Ooh, Ooh”s. She then closes it off with an jaunty guitar riff that captures the frustration of unrequited love, which keeps reverberating after the album ends. Olivia Newton-John’s music never rocked quite like this. – Curtis Zimmermann


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  7 Responses to “The Best Cover Songs of 2018”

Comments (3) Pingbacks (4)
  1. Merry Christmas and HNY2019 Ray!
    Let always there will be the sound of music!

  2. Check out “Houses of the Holy” from H.C. McEntire

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