Dec 132019

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50. Anderson .Paak – Old Town Road (Lil Nas X cover)

If yours is not one of the 810 million listens on Spotify, or if you have not yet joined 399 million other like-minded YouTubers in checking out Lil Nas X’s record-shattering hit “Old Town Road,” then this Anderson .Paak rendition of the song just might be your jam. Anderson and his impromptu jazz band completely inhabit the song in a version recorded as part of the BBC’s long-running Live Lounge series. This splendid version features a couple of Motown-worthy backing singers, along with a tender and understated trumpet. – Walt Falconer

49. Handmade Moments – Are You That Somebody (Aaliyah cover)

Handmade Moments, the duo of Anna Moss and Joel Ludford, collected and released some of their most beloved YouTube covers on the album Number Ones at the end of this year. This one is my personal favorite. The ‘90s R&B vibe is perfectly reimagined by a mixture of tasteful beatboxing and acoustic guitar. I guarantee your head or foot is bopping along already with the first “dirty South.” Moss’s sultry vocals do Aaliyah proud, while Ludford commits to his rap solo, channeling his inner Timbaland without sounding cartoonish. – Sara Stoudt

48. Joan As Police Woman – Kiss (Prince cover)

Casually making the singer of the original seem a clumsy singles bar suitor, Joan Wasser takes away any hint of a creepy fumble and shows the boys what a real woman might be able to offer. The arrangement is a sultry amble through a darkened club, the double bass saying so much more in its simple 12-bar repetition, electric piano and jazzy guitar chording chipping in, the barest of percussion pushing on and up the expectation. – Seuras Og

47. Lucy Dacus – Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)

After releasing two critically-acclaimed albums in 2018 – one as a solo artist, one as a member of supergroup boygenius – Lucy Dacus has had a lot to celebrate. But instead of resting on her laurels this year, she released a new EP titled 2019, commemorating her favorite holidays on the calendar. One of the finer tracks honors a future national holiday on September 23rd, the birthdate of your boss and mine, Bruce Springsteen. Despite its beautifully evocative, melancholy sentiment and melody, “Dancing in the Dark” has always been a bit of a polarizer in the Springsteen catalog. Its prominent synth line and brazen, unabashed poppiness didn’t sit right with Bruce purists initially. For the purists (as well as the rest of us who’ve always loved the song), Dacus’s version should serve as both a revelation and reclamation, and hopefully it will eradicate those existing prejudices. A fat anxious guitar replaces the synth, kicks down the door, and exposes “Dancing” as the fist-pumping anthem of affirmation it always was and will forever be. – Hope Silverman

46. Aimee Mann – Hold On (Tom Waits cover)

Tom Waits can write a beautiful melody with the best of them, but while his voice has its own kind of beauty, no one would mistake his gravel for goose down. When Waits sang “Hold On,” he turned the volume down to a rough murmur, to get the quiet hopefulness across to the listener. It was the right move, but by pulling back so hard on the reins, he couldn’t give the song his all; instead, he had to take away his most. Aimee Mann doesn’t have that handicap, and her firm, straightforward vocal gives a tensile strength to the lyric’s unwavering self-confidence. If the feminist slogan “Nevertheless, she persisted” could have a soundtrack, it should be this. – Patrick Robbins

45. Mikal Cronin – Torn (Ednaswap/Natalie Imbruglia cover)

Mikal Cronin, an unashamed romanticist who has produced a bevy of lovelorn songs of his own over four CDs, as well as providing bass for Ty Segall’s altogether messier (in a good way) muse, has taken the angry and spurned feeling of the original and imbued it with a close to self-pitying angst. But endearingly so, I should add, with a dignity that should never sit alongside such feelings, the dignity mainly coming with the icy piano accompaniment. (If you want to shed that dignity and explore the raw underbelly, catch the live version, just Cronin and guitar.) – Seuras Og

44. The Killers – Carolina in My Mind (James Taylor cover)

Earlier this year, James Taylor was unable to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! due to illness. The Killers stepped in and filled the giant shoes of the beloved singer-songwriter with aplomb, covering his classic “Carolina in My Mind.” The cover stayed appropriately reverent, with singer Brandon Flowers using his storytelling vocals to great effect. Accompaniment also stayed true to the original, and the gorgeous chorus harmonies added to the overall beauty of the moving cover. – Angela Hughey

43. Whiskey Shivers – Sandstorm (Darude cover)

You might be reading the name of this one and thinking you don’t know the original. Trust me, you do. And you’ve heard it a million times – but never like this. Austin bluegrass group Whiskey Shivers gives “Sandstorm” a totally raucous backyard stomp sound through banjo and fiddle. As with the rest of the songs on their covers album this year, there is an unhinged punk feeling to their brand of bluegrass. It’s done to perfection here. Expect this to be a hit whether it’s pumping up the dance floor, the home crowd at the big game, or the gathering around the bonfire. – Mike Misch

42. The Mynabirds – Glory Box (Portishead cover)

Disclaimer alert: I absolutely love the original “Glory Box,” the voice of Portishead vocalist Beth Gibbons being one of the wonders of the world. So, caveat emptor, anyone deigning to better that is always going to be on a sticky wicket. So how does Laura Burhenn tackle this? With reverence. She herself rightly describes it as more homage than cover, in that it begins as close to a copy. Perhaps a little tidier, a little more polished as befits our current ears, the deliberate crackles of the original excluded. But listen on, as it gradually veers away at 2:56. Yes, the same echoed drums hit at that place in the song, but rather than the original’s fade, it opens then into a late summer of added invention, a glorious low guitar motif, some squeaky keyboard and a joyous hint of hypomania in the ending loop. If you go straight from here to the original, well, good, I would say Laura has done her job well. But don’t forget she sent you there. – Seuras Og

41. Robbie Fulks – Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat) (Bob Dylan cover)

One of the deepest of the deep Dylan cuts to be covered by a major artist, “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)” is the last track on Dylan’s 1978 album Street Legal. The song is covered, most reverently, by Robbie Fulks on 16, a surprise passion project where he covers the album in its entirety, giving the tracks the full Bloodshot Records treatment. Fulks leans into each syllable as if his life depended on it, with this Nick Cave-channeling version rolling and swerving to a crescendo not in the original, but wholly satisfying. – Walt Falconer


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  One Response to “The Best Cover Songs of 2019”

Comments (1)
  1. What about Steve Earle & Los Refugios Tiernos – Señor (from Mayans MC), Bob Dylan cover

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