May 312021
best cover songs may 2021
Amy Speace – Don’t Let Us Get Sick (Warren Zevon cover)

“Don’t Let Us Get Sick” was a moving song even before Warren Zevon got sick, didn’t see a doctor soon enough, and died. After that, the context makes it even more poignant. The canonical cover is Judee Sill’s, but on her new album, Amy Speace gives it a run for its money.

Gregory Alan Isakov – Salt and the Sea (The Lumineers cover)

Confusingly, Gregory Alan Isakov already has his own song called “Salt and the Sea.” Maybe that’s how he learned about this Lumineers song – he was thinking of suing them for plagiarism. They must have made nice, though, because they covered each other for the new album Amerikinda: 20 Years Of Dualtone.

Hope D – Toxic (Britney Spears cover)

Hope D is now an Australian singer-songwriter, but until recently, she was a covers artist. She said “Toxic” was one of her crowd pleasers, rearranged to be “dark and moody” and “really cynical.” And, also, loud as hell.

Just Friends – Hella Good (No Doubt cover)

Brooklyn Vegan calls Just Friends an “indie/pop punk/DIY/hip hop/ska/etc band,” which just about sums up the insane palette of colors they’re working with. On their “Hella Good” cover, they blend them all together. Or maybe “hurl them all at a wall” is the better metaphor. It starts as a mellow little vocal jazz number, but quickly explodes into auditory insanity.

Madaila – Cowboy Take Me Away (Taylor Swift cover)

We’ve seen Madaila around these parts covering up-tempo bangers by Whitney Houston and David Bowie. Those were full-band concert favorites, but in this quarantined era, main man Mark Daly went for a softer choice. His synthy new wave stylings still come through loud and clear though, even in a quieter setting.

Matt Berninger & Ronboy – Only a Broken Heart (Tom Petty cover)

The Resynator is a late-’70s synth. But when you italicize it – Resynator – it’s the name of a documentary about the synth inventor’s daughter using the instrument to connect with her late father. Along the way, she’s recorded a number of musicians using the synth, including this new one from The National frontman and Julia Laws. Everything recored so far is in this Spotify playlist (Grace Potter did a synthy Wildflowers cover too: “Honey Bee”).

Middle Kids – Drivers License (Olivia Rodrigo cover)

Frankly, given how monstrously large a hit Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” was – the biggest of the year, by some margin – I’m surprised more rock bands haven’t covered it. Middle Kids’ version was worth the wait. It starts quiet, like the original with more guitar, then builds to a cathartic rock explosion.

Molly Tuttle ft. Madison Cunningham – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)

I’ve remarked on the Sheryl Crow covers renaissance before, and it continues on the new companion EP to Molly Tuttle’s great 2020 covers album …but i’d rather be with you (she adds a too to the EP title). She duets with Madison Cunningham, giving the song a The-Chicks-go-folk vibe.

Ryan Culwell and Aubrie Sellers – Head Like a Hole (Nine Inch Nails cover)

This is a Nine Inch Nails cover, but another artist is equally important here: Johnny Cash. His “Hurt” serves as the obvious template, turning an aggressive Nine Inch Nails song into a spooky Americana ballad. “Hurt” at least was pretty mellow originally; bonus points to Ryan Culwell and Aubrie Sellers for taking a harder Nine Inch Nails song and making it fit this haunted template.

T-Tops – What Makes You Think You’re the One (Fleetwood Mac cover)

When we did our big Fleetwood Mac covers countdown, a lot of different genres made appearances. On that didn’t: hardcore. If only Pittsburgh punks T-Tops had released this in time. Singer Patrick Waters told Consequence, “I’ve always loved the minimal-sounding snare drum intro of ‘WMYTYTO’, and always heard it in my head coming in with loud, heavy guitars and following that pounding drum beat, and the vocals kind of lend themselves to shouting. I like that it doesn’t fit a typical pattern. Just three quick verse-chorus combos and a long outro.”

The Best of the Rest

Austra – Mirrored Heart (fka Twigs cover)

Billy Vena – This Is Me Trying (Taylor Swift cover)

Cat Popper – Breath (Pere Ubu cover)

Hayes Carll – Worry B Gone (Guy Clark cover)

Hiatus Kaiyote and Emma Donovan – Jolene (Dolly Parton cover)

India Electric Co. – Wicked Game (Chris Isaak cover)

Kelsy Karter – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John cover)

Luke Elliot – Boom Boom Mancini (Warren Zevon cover)

Nap Eyes – When I Come Around (Green Day cover)

Peter Broderick – All-Boy All-Girl (Arthur Russell cover)

Phoebes Greek Band – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)

The Record Company – I Wanna Get High (Cypress Hill cover)

Sharon Van Etten – Some Things Last a Long Time (Daniel Johnston cover)

Trixie Mattel ft. Orville Peck – Jackson (Johnny and June Cash / Billy Edd Wheeler cover)

Ursa Minor – City of Electric Light (Chad VanGaleen cover)

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