Avhath – Cool / Levitating / Don’t Start Now (Dua Lipa covers)
What’s better than one Indonesian black-metal Dua Lipa cover? Three Indonesian black-metal Dua Lipa covers! Not that you’d ever know these were Dua Lipa songs unless you were listening really closely to the lyrics (and could manage to make them out).
The Band of Heathens – El Paso City (Marty Robbins cover)
During lockdown, Band of Heathens hosted a regular livestream variety show called Good Time Supper Club. One segment, “Remote Transmissions,” featured them covering a new song every episode – over 50 in all. They’re collecting some of the best on a forthcoming album of the same name: Remote Transmissions. “Making records is always about cataloging any point in time. We wanted to celebrate the unique collaborative aspect of the show,” guitarist Ed Jurdi told American Songwriter. “What better way to document the last year than with these songs?” First up is this take on a Marty Robbins country classic.
Coldplay – Day ’n’ Nite (Kid Cudi cover)
“‘Day ‘N’ Nite’ I loved when it came out, and I still love love love it,” Chris Martin said in a statement. “This is the first time I think that we’ve really taken proper time to record a cover, because in my head I could hear a version of it quite different from the original, that hopefully just reinforces what a brilliant song it is. One way or another I hope that anyone listening will just think, ‘Wow, Kid Cudi is amazing.’” And it’s really a double Cudi cover here, as it also features a brief interpolation of his “Soundtrack 2 My Life.”
Dropkick Murphys – We Shall Overcome (Trad.)
“I’ve always found this to be such a powerful protest song, as we all know from its importance in both the civil rights and labor movements, but what I love the most is its positivity. The message of hope is needed now more than ever,” says co-lead vocalist Ken Casey. “Also, nobody has done a loud, ballsy rock version – so it just needed to happen!” It does indeed sound pretty great in this fashion, and it’s classic Dropkick Murphys.
Ethel Cain – Everytime (Britney Spears cover)
Last month we heard Rod Gator’s rockabilly cover of “Everytime” and now, from Ethel Cain, here’s a very different take on the same song. She said, “I’ve always loved this song and immediately knew I could take Britney’s melodies and make something super dreamy with it,” Cain said. “I usually record alone at home so working in the Spotify studio with all the synths and old vintage gear was a really special and fun experience. I think Britney wrote a very lovely song and it was an honor to put my spin on it.”
Jess Williamson – Loretta (Townes Van Zandt cover)
Jess Williamson is based in Los Angeles these days, but she hails from Texas, and pays tribute to her home state on the new EP Texas Blue. She covers the traditional “Texas River Song” on the flip side with a band, but goes near-solo for “Loretta,” accompanied only by an acoustic guitar (might be two) and the most subtle of backing vocals.
La Energia Norteña – Yellow (Coldplay cover)
We just heard Coldplay cover, now here’s Coldplay covered. The Dallas-based regional Mexican band La Energia Norteña brought accordion, tenor sax, and some snappy color-correct suits to a “Yellow” cover from the borderlands. And singer Adrian Zamarripa really nails those leaps into falsetto in the chorus.
Maren Morris – Criminal (Fiona Apple cover)
At a New York City show celebrating the release of her new album Humble Quest, country star Maren Morris debuted this cover of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” The whole thing streamed on Amazon Prime, but the only circulating clip is this partial audience video. Still looks and sounds killer, with Maren and her backing singers belting the hell out of it. Should Fiona Apple be added to The Highwomen lineup?
Mavis Staples & Levon Helm – You Got to Move (Mississippi Fred McDowell cover)
Back when he was still with us, Levon Helm held regular concerts in his Woodstock barn. For these “Midnight Rambles”, he’d bring all sorts of amazing musical guests to hang out and jam with him and his band. Recording the shows was verboten, but thankfully Helm’s people apparently had the tapes running, because Mavis Staples’ sit-in is becoming a live album Carry Me Home, out May 20. The first single is a killer version of this blues-gospel classic. It’s one of the final captured performances of Helm before his death the following year. He wasn’t able to sing much by that point in his life, but his drumming remains unmistakable.
Middle-Aged Queers – Fireperson (Jawbreaker cover)
Great quote from frontperson Shaun Osburn on this one: “As a ’90s Gilman kid who saw Jawbreaker at their ‘we’ll never sell out!’ show, I remember the jokes cracked about this song and the accompanying music video. The thing is, the song was a total bop. Still is. Flash forward 25 years and it remains one of my favorite Jawbreaker songs. We altered it slightly to reflect contemporary sensibilities and our own flair. The result? Our version sounds like it could be part of the Unfun or Bivouac sessions … and, well … gayer!”
Midwife – Send the Pain Below (Chevelle cover)
I love a tribute album with an insane conceit, and the forthcoming Send the Pain Below features a bunch of good not-nu metal artists covering not-good nu metal songs. I have no use for Chevelle’s original “Send the Pain Below” but this spacey, Smashing Pumpkins-esq cover by multi-instrumentalist Madeline Johnston is a knockout. If the rest of the album is this good, it could be something special.
Otu – Fell in Love with a Girl (The White Stripes cover)
If the Electric Warrior-aping album cover of a giant amp tower wasn’t clue enough, the album title tells you precisely what you’re in for: Fuzzy Tunes. It’s all psych and stoner covers of Sabbath and Motörhead and Sabbath (again). One that veers a little further afield is this heavy-as-led cover of The White Stripes’ breakthrough single.
Phoebe Bridgers – When the Party’s Over (Billie Eilish cover)
Though “Bad Guy” was the biggest hit off Billie Eilish’s debut album, and earned plenty of covers on its own, “When the Party’s Over” is becoming the song to cover. Database SecondHandSongs says it currently has one more cover than “Bad Guy” (though is largely undercounting both), and that doesn’t yet include Phoebe Bridgers’ new version. The song’s popularity should be no surprise: A) It’s a great song of course, and B) It’s a much easier song to cover than some of Eilish’s weirder material. It’s basically just a slow piano ballad that any singer can sink their teeth into, as Bridgers does ably. This won’t be the last time her name pops up on this list.
SHAED – Come As You Are (Nirvana cover)
“Something in the Way” is the hip Nirvana song of the month due its prominent placement in the latest Batman movie; apparently Kurt Cobain was an inspiration for Robert Pattinson’s character version of the superhero. So props to DC trio SHAED for going with something marginally less obvious. The band’s cover of “Come As You Are” is half disco, half yacht rock, and all infectious.
Stephen Glickman – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
Stephen Glickman’s neon-green beard gives him that sad-clown energy even before he puts on actual clown makeup. The look of this cover is very Puddles Pity Party, but with less of a wink. And – speaking of Batman – all that dancing around dingy alleyways in clown makeup looks full Joker right? The voice, though, isn’t a put-on. Stephen Glickman sounds like an opera singer on “Crazy,” infusing the oft-covered song with some deep pathos.
1300 – Gangnam Style (Psy cover)
Sure, a cynic would say that Korean-American rap-rock group 1300 are about a decade late covering Psy’s viral hit. But they explain in a charming behind-the-scenes video that they’ve been living with – and dealing with – this song for ten years. In 2012, everyone was constantly coming up to them in Australia going “Do you know ‘Gangnam Style’?” They also explain doing “Gangnam Style” lets them perform a song for Like a Version in the language they’re most comfortable with. One of them jokes about Psy, “I hope he thinks we ruined the song.”
The Best of the Rest
Alex Exists – Rock On (David Essex cover)
Aoife O’Donovan – What Else Can I Do? (Encanto cover)
AWOLNATION – Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil cover)
Bright Eyes ft. Phoebe Bridgers – St. Ides Heaven (Elliott Smith cover)
Bryan Ferry – Love Letters (Ketty Lester cover)
Camp Cope – Seventeen Going Under (Sam Fender cover)
Chris Robinson and Howlin Rain – Death May Be Your Santa Claus (Mott the Hoople cover)
The Dead South – Chop Suey (System of a Down cover)
The Deep Dark Woods – Hangin’ Loose (Tucker Zimmerman cover)
Ducks Ltd. ft. Illuminati Hotties – Head On (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
First To Eleven – Viva La Vida (Coldplay cover)
Fontaines D.C. – One (U2 cover)
Gang of Youths – A Shot in the Arm (Wilco cover)
Geographer – Kyoto (Phoebe Bridgers cover)
The Greyboy Allstars – Taxman (The Beatles cover)
Holy Schnikes! – How Bizarre (OMC cover)
Iceage – Pull Up (Abra cover)
Katy Kirby – Bad Man (Alex G cover)
My Morning Jacket with Trey Anastasio – Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (Rolling Stones cover)
The Motet – Breathe Deeply (Tame Impala cover)
Robyn – Buffalo Stance (Neneh Cherry cover)
Rosie Thomas – Always Be My Baby (Mariah Carey cover)
Ska Tune Network ft. Jeff Rosenstock – A-Punk (Vampire Weekend cover)
Spirit Adrift – Hollow (Pantera cover)
Steve’n’Seagulls – Still Loving You (Scorpions cover)
Tom Morello ft. X Ambassadors – Come On Up to the House (Tom Waits cover)
Check out previous months’ best covers lists.