Angel Olsen – More Than You Know (Ann-Margret cover)
Many have covered this 1929 American songbook standard, but Angel Olsen’s solo piano cover was purportedly inspired by Ann-Margret’s 1961 take. Olsen doesn’t bring any frills or gimmicks;. If you didn’t know Olsen was one the coolest, most blog-beloved artists around, you’d think she was an unusually talented piano-jazz singer. Catch her at a cabaret near you.
Georgia – Panini (Lil Nas X cover)
Lil Nas X didn’t dominate the Grammys like many thought he would (I love Billie Eilish, but “Old Town Road” was by almost any definition the Record of the Year), but he might consider it a bigger victory that people are covering songs other than his indomitable hit. “Panini” is a deeply goofy song, but pop singer Georgia brings some serious soul to it.
Guthrie Galileo – Climax (Usher cover)
Songwriter and producer Guthrie Galileo has held regular Usher tribute nights in his Burlington, Vermont home, and compiled some of his best reworkings for a new tribute album. He keeps the R&B sensuality while tweaking the production with new electronic flourishes. And Guthrie has no trouble hitting the high notes on “Climax.”
Hether Fortune x Cremation Lily – This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb (Thursday cover)
If you don’t know much about screamy post-hardcore band Thursday, their original recording of this might surprise you. It’s a tender piano ballad; I kept expecting it to explode into thrashing, but it never does. Hether Fortune, who told us about her favorite covers a while back, turns it into a dark electro meditation. Sounds like something Trent Reznor would put on as pre-show music.
LOLO – Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
Out today, the compilation album Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound: Classic Protest Songs Revisited features a number of winners (a few more in the bonus tracks below). But the most striking is undoubtedly Panic at the Disco collaborator LOLO’s wild dance-pop frenzy on “Fortunate Son.” When she briefly breaks it down halfway, her spoken word is worth of Tina Turner herself.
Lukas Nelson and Shooter Jennings – Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys (Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings cover)
“Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” Willie and Waylon sang. Forty-plus years later, those babies respond. It’s clearly a gimmick, ginned up to promote the Netflix series The Ranch, but Lucas and Shooter sell it.
Patti Smith – After The Gold Rush (Neil Young cover)
Patti Smith closed her 2012 album Banga with a cover of this Neil Young song. It was a beautiful rendition – until the children’s chorus came in. Lord knows Neil hasn’t been above a children’s chorus himself, but rare is the song that one improves. This deliberative live performance on The Tonight Show strips the frills, centering Smith’s ever-powerful vocals.
Rachelle Garniez – Raspberry Beret (Prince cover)
New York cabaret singer Rachelle Garniez has a killer album coming out soon, Gone to Glory, that honors recently-departed musicians from the famous (Bowie, Lemmy) to the more obscure (Bea Wain, Della Reese). Firmly in the former category is the lead single “Raspberry Beret,” where the accordionist brings in her klezmer background for a pop music Second Line.
Rafiq Bhatia ft. Cecile McLorin Salvant – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Ewan MacColl / Robert Flack cover)
An unexpected collaboration between experimental electronic producer Rafiq Bhatia and Grammy-winning jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” brings an eerie darkness to the oft-sung song. Salvant’s vocals can stand up to Roberta Flack’s with no trouble, but the bed Bhatia lays them on sounds very, very different. The fact that they first bonded over their shared love of Twin Peaks will not surprise you.
The Venemous Pinks – I Want You (Joan Jett cover)
In 1982, Joan Jett covered a little-known song by British rock band The Arrows. She didn’t change the arrangement all that much, but simply by adding her own considerable energy and swagger she made “I Love Rock and Roll” a #1 hit. Now the Venemous Pinks have done the same with Jett’s own song. Their “I Want You” doesn’t differ wildly, but they sell it with a forceful energy (and, fair warning, slightly NSFW video).