Mar 282019
45. Sia – Paranoid Android

Sia is a household name at this point, but in 2006, when she recorded this killer version of “Paranoid Android,” she was not as well known. Still, she had established her vocal delivery and uses it to great effect here. She is accompanied only by piano and strings for most of the song, which makes for a much quieter – but no less powerful – affair than the original. Sia’s voice is the star here, carrying the song for six minutes, endlessly impressive throughout. – Mike Misch

44. Rob Falsini – Fake Plastic Trees

Falsini’s street setup is a little more refined than most buskers with an open guitar case by their sides. But where it’s at is always playing your heart out around people who really could give a fuck, and for that he gets top marks. “Fake Plastic Trees” is a common acoustic cover, but it’s the singing that’s the thing, and it’s fantastic. And you can tell because one person clapped at the end. – Sean Balkwill

43. Lena Hall – Street Spirit (Fade Out)

A prediction. If god forbid they ever make a Radiohead jukebox musical, every song will be terrible except one: “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” Unlike almost every other Radiohead song, it works perfectly for a big reach-the-cheap-seats belter. Lena Hall is proof. A Tony Award-winning Broadway star herself (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Kinky Boots), her theatrical singing builds to a glorious climax when she truly lets loose on the chorus. Just don’t try that with anything off The King of Limbs. – Ray Padgett

42. DJ Spooky & Joshua Roman – Everything In Its Right Place

Most of my favorite Radiohead covers lean into the human elements that Radiohead is so good at crafting only to thwart with layers of dissonance and disturbance; I tend to prefer Radiohead’s explorations of dehumanization to covers that attempt to replicate that. This track is an exception, a cover that in many ways explores similar tensions to the original, replacing Thom’s human and flawed vocals – distorted and refracted and stitched together – with Joshua Roman’s cello. While I’m not positive that this cover gets to ground that isn’t tread by the original, it occupies its own space confidently and beautifully. It’s also an interesting study in the purpose of lyrics in Radiohead. Roman’s cello carries with it, because of the nature of the instrument and the melody line it initially carves out, Thom’s lyrics. Without the words, though, we see more clearly the desperation of a vocal/cello line attempting to saw its way, in broad hacks and stutters, through the song’s electronic elements. The cover doesn’t necessarily take the song anywhere new but it does clarify one of the driving theses statements of this particular part of the Radiohead canon: even if one manages to remain human in these realms, the particulars of what one is “trying to say” fall away. – Matt Vandais

41. Noordpool Orchestra – You

The Noordpool Orchestra is a 42-piece Dutch ensemble that blends light classical music with jazz and pop. In 2012, the group released Radiohead, A Jazz Symphony. The whole album is worth listening to – if you like symphonic jazz pop covers of Radiohead songs, that is. The most bombastic track on the album is the cover of “You.” The song was the lead track on Radiohead’s debut album Pablo Honey. The orchestra revamps the Radiohead rocker into a full-on symphonic explosion of horns, strings, keyboards and electric guitar. At times, it plays like the theme song to a ‘70s T.V. show. In other sections, the orchestra emulates the guitar shredding sounds of fusion-jazz rockers the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This makes for a sound pastiche as diverse and odd as Radiohead themselves. – Curtis Zimmermann

40. Ayurveda – The National Anthem

Ayurveda was a hard indie band from Ithaca in the latter half of the early oughts. Although lacking the horn section from Kid A that made it funky, as well as Thom Yorke’s spastic dancing style, they generate so much energy on stage here that they probably sold it back to the grid. – Sean Balkwill

39. Matthew Herbert ft. Mara Carlyle – (Nice Dream)

Despite appearing on Radiohead’s first universally beloved album, The Bends, “(Nice Dream)” seems like an afterthought. The band themselves rarely perform it, and few other artists do either. But it’s quality over quantity with Matthew Herbert and Mara Carlyle’s tour de force cover. Recorded for the same tribute album that had Sia’s aforementioned “Paranoid Android,” the electronic musician (Herbert) and singer-slash-musical saw player (Carlyle) build a six minute soliloquy out of a song time almost forgot. – Ray Padgett

38. Phantogram – Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Sarah Barthel’s smooth vocals, the drums hanging just a bit behind the beat, and the distinctive guitar part result in a hypnotic, dreamy version of the song. Phantogram chooses to slow the entire groove down by cutting the drum beat in half. They keep the beautiful arpeggi intact, but drop the frantic backing instrumentals. The result is a beautifully chill cover of an anxious original. – Angela Hughey

37. Slaraffenland – Paranoid Android

Danish band Slaraffenland manage to take “Paranoid Android” and make it sound much less paranoid. Their horns and quirky singing call to mind the Polyphonic Spree, and they’ve mixed the vocals way down, allowing the ringing guitar and cyclical horns to be the focus. For this reason there’s a positive vibe to this cover that is hard to pull off with a heavy multi-part tune like “Paranoid Android.” The coda here is still fairly dark sounding, but they almost make it to the end without sounding like a downer. – Mike Misch

36. Show of Hands – Fake Plastic Trees

It seems to be becoming compulsory I add a Show of Hands cover to these pieces, and this is no exception. Steve Knightley sounds a slightly older and wiser version of Yorke, the lyric comfortable in that context, a seemingly unembellished strum of wistful regret. The backing unobtrusive until you notice it, Phil Beer steadily filtering in more substance than many entire bands, simple in its complexity. Stripped back, the mournful beauty shines. – Seuras Og

35. Andrew Combs – You and Whose Army?

This cover is rich with instrumentation but mostly free of distortion; the piano is far more spare and straightforward – crowded out but never overtaken by something that might be a bassoon but liberated from the noise that infringes upon the original – freed to be minimalist and clean, like Max Richter’s score to The Leftovers. While most Radiohead covers that remove dissonance tend to draw attention to how much life and humanity exists beneath the techno-ocean of a typical Radiohead song, in this case the sparseness actually emphasizes the alien aspects of the original, drawing attention to how much this song has in common with album-mate “Pyramid Song.” Like Richter’s work for the oft-misunderstood HBO show about evaluating the human in the face of an inherently meaningless world, the result is precious and doomed. This cover is the sonic equivalent of one of my dearest possessions, a well-won travel cribbage board was a beloved possession of my now-dead Grandfather. It’s simpler than the Radiohead original and somehow, for being clarified, is less triumphant, even more doomed to the ravages of time and erasures of human memory. And death. Of course death. – Matt Vadnais

34. Cold War Kids – Electioneering

“Electioneering” is one of the harder rocking songs from OK Computer and the driving, off-kilter rhythm is its strongest feature. The Cold War Kids were able to slow the song down to a crawl, but through heavy, plodding drums and Nathan Willett’s dragged-along vocals they manage to maintain that same feeling. Even at just over three minutes long, there’s something about this version that is exhausting. By the time Willett is bleating the vocals on the chorus, it’s clear that the Cold War Kids have created a song that fits their style while paying homage to the original. – Mike Misch

33. Ingrid Michaelson – Creep

Radiohead reimagined by a female vocalist and a ukulele sounds crazy, but when you’re as talented as Ingrid Michaelson, it’s no longer a far fetched fantasy. Michaelson’s voice is front and center with sparse strumming of the uke that only picks up slightly during the chorus. That sparsity highlights her vocal prowess, the clarity of her tone, and her ability to smoothly run over the notes when she adds a bit of improv to the melody. With a cover that bears no resemblance to the original aside from the tune, Michaelson successfully puts her stamp on one of the most well-known tunes in Radiohead’s catalog. – Angela Hughey

32. Andrea Superstein – Karma Police

Jazz covers of Radiohead could be a list all themselves; one pianist, Christopher O’Reilly, has practically made a career out of it. But Vancouver singer Andrea Superstein takes the mix to a different place, playing not only with the feel but with the rhythm and melody, warping one of Radiohead’s best-known songs into a form both familiar and gently twisted. – Ray Padgett

31. Birds of Bellwoods – Idioteque

Toronto’s BoB comes across as more Punch Brothers here than a song off their poppier album Victoria, and this rawer sound really works. More of this, please. – Sean Balkwill

The countdown continues on page three!

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  15 Responses to “The Best Radiohead Covers Ever”

Comments (14) Pingbacks (1)
  1. OK Im Upset. Seriously, how did you not Include Lianne La Havas – Weird Fishes?!?

  2. Pretty surprised to not see
    My Brightest Diamond – Lucky

    and Kate Rogers – Climbing Up The Walls has always been a favourite too

  3. No Easy All-Stars? Their “Radiodread” album was pretty good. This is the standout track from it (IMHO):

  4. I’m not a fan of imitation covers, LOVE when people take a song and make it their own.

  5. I’ve done a solo, acoustic harp cover of Creep that I hope you’ll enjoy.

  6. You forgot this (the best Bloom’s cover) ;)

  7. This one caught me off guard. I know everyone says this but it’s one of the better Radiohead covers you will ever hear: “I Will” by a Georgian men’s church choir from Tbilisi.

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