Anderson .Paak – Old Town Road (Lil Nas X cover)
Given how thoroughly “Old Town Road” dominated the summer – the longest-reigning Billboard #1 in history, for those under-a-rock-dwellers among you – it seems shocking that it took until now for the first truly great cover to emerge. Less shocking: that it came from rapper/singer/drummer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak. Back in May, he performed a more straightforward version with Lil Nas X himself, but for BBC’s Live Lounge he and his band The Free Nationals reinvented it into a soul groove with shades of D’Angelo.
Bob Boilen – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
These days, Bob Boilen is best known as the host of NPR’s o.g. music podcast All Songs Considered and the man with the most famous tiny desk in the world. But long before that, he was an electronic musician influenced by Brian Eno, and he still periodically puts on that hat. Earlier this month, he dropped a covers album on Bandcamp crafting ambient instrumental versions of Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and other favorites. The best track is the most surprising: a barely-recognizable ambient journey through “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
Garden on a Trampoline – Please Be Patient with Me (Wilco cover)
Is the Sky Blue Sky renaissance finally upon us? Wilco’s 2007 album divided fans over the band’s drift into seemingly simple and relaxed melodies after years of sonic experimentation. Over the subsequent years, it’s generated relatively few covers compared to Being There or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. But Chris Thile covered “Shake It Off” earlier this year, Jen Clohey’s “Impossible Germany” should land any day now, and now Garden on a Trampoline aka longtime Cover Me friend Jim Laczkowski tackles “Please Be Patient With Me” on his great new covers album Cover Me Please. At this rate, we’ll be ready to do a Sky Blue Sky “Full Album” feature before long.
illuminati hotties – I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Whitney Houston cover)
Brookyln Vegan called this closer to The Microphones than Whitney Houston, which is an apt comparison. Singer Sarah Tudzin says: “‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ is a perfect song. The sentiment behind it is so forlorn, while the track behind it rages on in 80s exuberance in such a way that only a power-diva like Whitney Houston could pull off. It’s a song that has always fascinated me, so I started covering it live from the angle of heartbreak that is illustrated by the lyrics, and ultimately decided to record it to tape and slow it down even further.”
Jenn Champion – Undone (The Sweater Song) (Weezer cover)
Vinyl-only cover albums series Turntable Kitchen has appeared on this site many times, but I’ve never been more excited than I am for Jenn Champion’s full-album remake of Weezer’s Blue Album. The S and Carissa’s Wierd singer paid tribute to Weezer – and the original album’s producer, the late great Ric Ocasek – by reinventing these songs from the ground up. “I knew I wanted to take a synth heavy approach to this album,” she wrote. “I will say it was a challenge, a really fun challenge, to keep true to what makes these songs so great while putting them through an electronic lens.”
Jenn Grant – Boys of Summer (Don Henley cover)
“Boys of Summer” may be a summertime staple, but Jenn Grant got the timing right by releasing it this month. In the chorus, the titular summer boys have, after all, gone. She writes: “When I started playing guitar when I was a kid, I just naturally gravitated towards making up my own songs rather than learning other people’s songs. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to be better at, so here is the first cover song I’ve learned lately; it’s a beautiful one by Don Henley and it marks the end of a season, a new one beginning and sometimes the emotions that hangs in the air.”
Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul – Tucson Train (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Do you think Little Steven asked Bruce’s permission before covering the Boss’s new song with his own band? Probably not – it’s pretty clear from his Twitter that Steve Van Zandt DGAF. Plus it’s not like Springsteen is doing much with it, declining to tour behind stunning new orchestral album Western Stars. Playing it in – where else – Tucson, Van Zandt shows how this music can be performed without a violin or cello in sight.
Lucy Dacus – Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Another Bruce cover – the man did just turn 70 after all. You saw our Best Bruce Springsteen Covers Ever list right? Lucy Dacus’s “Dancing in the Dark” landed too late to qualify, but it rocks. Forget all those slow/sad versions. Dacus recorded the grungey rocked-out version Bruce might have if he’d written the song in the ’90s rather than the ’80s.
Mark Hoppus – Just What I Needed (The Cars cover)
Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus writes: “A couple years ago, I was asked to record a creepy cover of Just What I Needed for a tv show. They wanted moody and strange, dark, and drony, with space for dialogue to go over it. I went into the studio with my friend James Ingram and this is what we came up with. The show was cancelled so quickly the episode never aired, but if you can imagine a grim and grizzled detective determinedly working a murder case that shook them to the very core of their being, this is the music the show requested. It’s been sitting on a hard drive ever since, and with the sad news of Ric Ocasek’s passing, I thought I’d put it up here. Enjoy it. And go listen to The Cars.”
Sinéad O’Connor – Rainy Night in Soho (The Pogues cover)
When Sinéad O’Connor has appeared in headlines in the past few years, it’s sadly often for something sad or alarming. But she remains a singular talent – forget the gossip pages and check out her two most recent albums, both great – and it’s a joy to see popping on the blogs for her musical gifts once again. For a recent appearance on The Late Late Show – that’s the Irish version, not the James Corden one – she discusses her recent conversion (she prefers the term “reversion”) to Islam. Moreover, she performed two songs: her biggest hit, “Nothing Compares 2 U” (itself a cover, of course), and The Pogues Irish-rock classic “Rainy Night in Soho.” Despite the singer’s relative silence in the past five years, her voice hasn’t lost a step. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a musical re-emergence, but whether or not she ever records another album, here’s hoping she’s found peace and happiness at last.