Black Country, New Road – Time to Pretend (MGMT cover)
If you’re expecting the “Time to Pretend” you knew and loved a decade ago, think again. UK post-punkers Black Country, New Road, one of the buzziest bands of the new year, deconstruct the song entirely. It starts pretty sane, then gradually veers off the tracks into chaos. By the end there’s a free-jazz sax solo leading a wall of noise only barely identifiable as this, or any, song.
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels – Anthem (Leonard Cohen cover)
A few years ago, jazz sax veteran Charles Lloyd topped our year-end list backing Lucinda Williams on a stunning folk-jazz cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” Lucinda’s off doing her own covers thing these days, but Lloyd’s back at the classic singer-songwriter songbook, blowing on an instrumental excursion through one of Leonard Cohen’s best latter-day songs.
First Aid Kit – The Rose (Bette Midler cover)
The sisters in First Aid Kit have found a clever way to fill the time without touring: by serving as the house band on Swedish game show På Spåret (it translates to On the Track, which doesn’t tell you much). What “The Rose” has to do with the game show I don’t know – I don’t speak Swedish – but it’s a hell of a cover whatever the reason. Now how do we get musical guests on Wheel of Fortune?
Foo Fighters – Honey Bee (Tom Petty cover)
Promoting their new album the Foo Fighters have been on a covers kick. They covered Mountain for Howard Stern and the Bee Gees for the Bee Bee Cee. Best of the bunch, though, is their version of Tom Petty’s Wallflowers standout “Honey Bee” for SiriusXM. Last we saw Grohl do this song, he was drumming on it with Petty and the Heartbreakers themselves, filling in on Saturday Night Live shortly after Stan Lynch left the band. Now he’s front and center with his trademark giant-blue guitar, but still sounds great on this blues-rock stomp.
Lydia Hol – Rich Girl (Hall & Oates cover)
“I’d wanted to do a cover of ‘Rich Girl’ for years,” Lydia Hol said when releasing this spare and spooky cover. “My bass player wrote the darker, modified bass line and suggested the sparse arrangement. As we experimented with the band, the lyrics took on a darker dystopian meaning, and seemed to re-write themselves for this version. Hall & Oates meet Joan Didion in a big box parking lot.”
Peter Frampton Band – Reckoner (Radiohead cover)
Look beyond the lame video (seriously Peter, you can’t afford anyone better at video editing than this?). Frampton’s guitar catches the magic of Radiohead’s “Reckoner” with all the feeling and pathos of Thom Yorke’s voice. Well, almost. It comes from a new album that boasts a truly excellent title for an album of instrumental covers: Frampton Forgets The Words.
Sandflower – Wannabe (Spice Girls cover)
New York musician Sandflower turns “Wannabe” into a funky R&B jam on her new cover. “As a girl I was one of very few people of color in a very competitive school,” she wrote. “When I saw the Spice Girls, particularly Mel B., I have a visceral memory of joy and empowerment. I truly felt girl power!”
Sea Girls – Nothing Breaks Like a Heart (Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus cover)
A countrified version of “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” makes our 2019 year-end list, and now a heavier take on the Mark and Miley hit will surely vie for space on this years. Touches of New Order and post-punk make this one hit harder, but without losing the irresistible pop hook. It’ll get stuck in your head as surely as the last cover did. The earworm bouncing around your skull with just be a bit louder this time.
Shovels & Rope ft. Sharon Van Etten – In My Room (Beach Boys cover)
For the third entry in their Busted Jukebox covers series, Shovels & Rope decided to look to the youth, nicknaming it Busted Juicebox due to its kid-friendly song choices (though one could dispute whether R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” is really “kid-friendly”). Due to the plethora of indie-cana favorites joining the duo – Sharon Van Etten, Deer Tick, M. Ward, etc – they’ll surely have plenty of hip parents buying it through.
The Weeks – Your Little Hoodrat Friend (The Hold Steady cover)
The Hold Steady just released an excellent new record, Open Door Policy. I don’t think this cover of this Separation Sunday classic is in honor of that – it came out a few weeks earlier, on The Weeks’ covers album Inside the Covers – but this garage-rocky banger serves as a good reminder of a universal truth: More bands should cover the Hold Steady.