May 312019

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs may
AURORA – Across the Universe (The Beatles cover)

The first of a couple Beatles covers this month, AURORA’s “Across the Universe” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it just removes a few spokes. The Norwegian singer-songwriter strips everything away but keys and a bunch of voices (there’s a guitarist too, though barely audible). It’s all the song needs.

BAT! – Tainted Love (Gloria Jones / Soft Cell cover)

A truly BAT!-shit cover by a masked psychobilly supergroup. “Most people think it’s a Soft Cell song, but our version is a Batrock tribute to the original version from 1965 by Gloria Jones,” the one that goes by Green Bat says. Red Bat adds: “Tainted Love is perfect for a bondage video!”

Dan Navarro – Sweet Sixteen (Billy Idol cover)

On his new album Shed My Skin, Dan Navarro – Dave’s first cousin – includes a twangy country-western take on Billy Idol’s “Sweet Sixteen.” It’s an unexpected choice, but works beautifully in this format, completed with tasteful accordion and haunting backing vocals.

Lettuce – Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears cover)

Your mileage on this one may depend on how you feel about jam bands. Me, I’m the sort of jam-band fan who perfers the Grateful Dead’s first sets, before they get too weird (or, as many would term it, “not really a jam band fan at all,” which I’ll take). Even in a five-minute running time, the six guys in Lettuce find room to jam out with some funk guitar, blue-eyed-soul vocals, and a short instrumental breakdown that will no doubt grow ten times in concert.

Sharon Van Etten – Black Boys on Mopeds (Sinead O’Connor cover)

Beloved singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten graced our February list with an old gospel cover, and she returns with another stunner. Sinéad O’Connor’s 1990 police-shooting protest song “Black Boys on Mopeds” has inspired a lot of covers these last couple years (wonder why…) and Van Etten’s solo performance for SiriusXM ranks among the best. The wordless moans that close it out bring chills.

Sinkane – Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel cover)

Listen/download at Aquarium Drunkard.
Click the link to download two brilliant covers Sudanese-American singer-songwriter Sinkane (Ahmed Gallab) recorded for Aquarium Drunkard. His reggae-tinged “Come Together” is good – sounds more like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – but even better is this Peter Gabriel cover. He writes: “I really like covers that re-imagine the original song. It really makes you realize how universal music truly is. I’ve always wanted to do that with this song. To play it in such a way that makes the listener question which track is the original one.”

Skegss – Here Comes Your Man (Pixies cover)

Australian garage-rock trio Skegss aren’t the first to associate the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” with the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man.” The latter is famously about a drug dealer, and the former has been long rumored to be (though Frank Black says otherwise). Regardless, they sound pretty good together in this raw and ramshackle live recording.

Sons of an Illustrious Father – Don’t Cha (Pussycat Dolls cover)

This pop trio were inspired to cover this song at a queer dance party in Nashville. Lilah Larson told Another Man magazine about it: “It was clearly the best thing happening in town that night and was therefore being infiltrated by ostensibly hetero couples, who were sort of uncomfortably ogling the frolicking queers – including us – in a way that belied their envy and lust. The original song came on and [bandmate Ezra Miller] and I in a typical moment of psychic connection looked at each other and agreed that the track, sung from our perspective, would perfectly encapsulate this common experience.” There’s a lot more to learn about it at Another Man – wish all new covers came with this much context and backstory.

Tropikal Fuck Storm – Can’t Stop (Missy Elliot cover)

When someone names their band Tropikal Fuck Storm, someone can rest assured the music will be a little bonkers. (Though wouldn’t it have been great if they’d turned out to be a harmonizing acoustic duo?). Their garage-pop “Can’t Stop” dials up the franticness to its limit, barreling ahead at a lunatic tempo. Hard to be believe a piece of such high-energy ridiculousness doesn’t come with a music video.

Walk Off the Earth – Old Town Road (Lil Nas X cover)

Given how dominant Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” has been on the charts – as I write this, Billboard just announced it tops the Hot 100 for its eighth week (aided by a wonderfully bonkers new music video) – we’ve seen relatively few covers of it. Don’t get me wrong, the thousands of YouTube singers who cover every big hit immediately hopped aboard, but little beyond that. Walk Off the Earth might fall into that thirsty-YouTuber category, but they tend to bring a lot more imagination to their covers. They went viral a few years back with a five-people-one-guitar cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know” – 186 million views and counting – and have a new gimmick for “Old Town Road,” using nothing but bells, drinking glasses, and loose change. It works beautifully (and includes a nice coffee-cup tribute to their recently-deceased fifth member).

Wildhoney – Kiss Me (Sixpence None the Richer cover)

On a new single B-side, dream-pop shoegazers Wildhoney cover Sixpence’s big pop hit with a lot of melancholy, but not a hint of irony.

The Best of the Rest

Alessia Cara – I’m Like a Bird (Nelly Furtado cover)

B&B Project – Deutschland / Du Hast / Mein Herz Brennt / Sonne (Rammstein covers)

Ben Gibbard – Filler (Minor Threat cover)

Chromatics – Petals (Hole cover)

Dega – Passionfruit (Drake cover)

J.S. Ondara – Heart of Gold (Neil Young cover)

Joan As Police Woman – Kiss (Prince cover)

Julien Baker – Everybody Lost Somebody (Bleachers cover)

Lana Del Rey – Doin’ Time (Sublime cover)

Mac DeMarco – One Evening (Feist cover)

Molly Tuttle – Zero (Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover)

Morrissey – Only a Pawn in Their Game (Bob Dylan cover)

Penny & Sparrow – Annie’s Song (John Denver cover)

Ransom Pier – Fruits of My Labor (Lucinda Williams cover)

Shannon Lay – Something On Your Mind (Karen Dalton cover)

Sigrid – bellyache (Billie Eilish cover)

Sophie Auster – Take Me Home (Tom Waits cover)

Vampire Weekend – Jokerman (Bob Dylan cover)

YUNGBLUD – Best I Ever Had / Do I Wanna Know (Drake / Arctic Monkeys cover)

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