Sep 302022

Go back to the beginning

20. Architecture In Helsinki – Pet Sounds

Art-pop ensemble Architecture in Helsinki put together this far-out version of Pet Sounds’ title track for Do It Again, a full-album tribute released in 2006 (also featuring the likes of Daniel Johnston, Vic Chesnutt and the Oldham Brothers, the latter of whom are also included in our list). “Pet Sounds”’ exotica-plus sensibilities feel like a surprisingly natural fit for AiH, whose own sprawling sound found a thrilling coherence in the mid-00s, right around the time of this cover’s release. The band augment the arrangement with some wobbly synthesizers and a fair share of chipper vocalese lead lines — a homespun indie-rock symphony. – Ben Easton

19. Yola – ‘Til I Die

The British singer Yola is known for collecting awards in the Americana category, but her take on “Til I Die” transcends that genre label and all others. Performing one of Brian Wilson’s most personal and troubled pieces, Yola is equal to its emotional heft. Her band summons up the oceanic forces Wilson was writing about without drowning out the sensitivity of the singer. – Tom McDonald

18. Los Lobos – Sail On Sailor

Los Lobos included a cover of “Sail On Sailor” on their 2021 album Native Sons. The album was meant as a tribute to artists from the band’s hometown of Los Angeles. Such logic makes this song’s inclusion a bit baffling when you look at its history, as it’s not quite an L.A. tune. The Beach Boys included it on their 1973 album Holland, which the band recorded near Amsterdam. The original song also featured South African vocalist Blondie Chaplin on lead vocals. The Los Lobos album won a Grammy for Best Americana Album, when it’s clearly a rock record, so go figure. Contradictions aside, the band delivers the song as a laid-back mid-tempo rocker that fits in with its extensive catalog of originals and covers. – Curtis Zimmermann

17. Trousdale – Wouldn’t It Be Nice

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is as perfect a pop song as has ever existed in the history of humanity. Pretty much everyone has had a crush on it at some point in their life. This universal lust has led to its being covered roughly ten trillion times. Hell, there are three versions in our countdown alone! But this ongoing onslaught of appreciation for “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is something that should be embraced. It ain’t often the world agrees upon the greatness of one particular thing. Trousdale’s stunning take of ‘Wouldn’t it Be Nice” sits somewhere between The Staves and The Chicks and showcases the trio’s pristine harmonizing to perfection; it is a little folk, a little country, and all gorgeous. – Hope Silverman

16. Paul Simon – Surfer Girl

As always, even with just a simple acoustic guitar, Paul Simon delivers a calm yet powerful rendition of “Surfer Girl.” This version seems a little bit more mournful without the bouncy background vocals, bass, and drums of the original. However, this lets us focus in on the one question on the singer’s mind: Do you love me? Simon is not afraid of the question even in falsetto range towards the end of the song, mimicking the original’s higher-pitched background laments. – Sara Stoudt

15. Ramones – Surfin’ Safari

The Ramones maintain the high energy of this tune, yet go a step further by cranking up the metronome. The background vocal echoes remain, a little less cheery yet not quite jeery. Even at this brisk pace there remains a little room for a brief guitar solo, and then before the second hand traverses the clock face twice, the surfing invitation is complete. – Sara Stoudt

14. Karina Denike – Lonely Sea

Karina Denike is a vocalist, singer-songwriter, and band leader from Cambridge, England. This version of “Lonely Sea” is a vocally-driven trio featuring Melody Ferris and Lily Taylor. It was released in 2012, but these harmonies still sound new and spicy to my ears today. (Of course, Beach Boys harmonies are always spicy and welcoming.). This cover is full of bass-y guitar with lots of reverb, a haunting vibraphone, and melancholy three-part harmonies. Overall, this one sounds bittersweet and pays a great homage to the somber Surfin’ USA original. – Aleah Fitzwater

13. Frank Black – Hang on to Your Ego

“That was too much of a doper song to me,” said Mike Love. “Some of the words were so totally offensive to me that I wouldn’t even sing ’em because I thought it was too nauseating… I just didn’t want to have anything to do with it.” Brian Wilson wasn’t one to court controversy, so he okayed changing the words to “Hang On to Your Ego” to make the more positive “I Know There’s an Answer.” But there were those who preferred the original, and Frank Black was among them. Black took “Hang On to Your Ego” into the Modern Rock top ten, thanks in part to a relentless dance beat and the rocking guitar of fellow former Pixie Joey Santiago. – Patrick Robbins

12. Mari Wilson – Disney Girls

If you had but one song to be remembered for, “Disney Girls” isn’t half bad. Written by Bruce Johnston, always the seemingly cleanest cut of the Boys, even as they embraced their raddled middle period of the middle 1970s, it is a beautiful song, and pure-voiced alto males have long queued up to give it a go. Mari Wilson is that rarer beast, a female singer willing to try her hand. This Brit, obsessed by the Shirelles and the Chiffons, her hair more bee hived than the Honey Monster, could clearly identify with the words. No relation to her Cali namesakes, this rendition, later in her career, and with hair shoved down, is a little bit supper-club jazz lite, but she lifts it by the heft of her emotional delivery, eyes all aglisten. (By the way, fact fans, Johnston was also responsible for “I Write The Songs”, made a smash by a certain Mr. Manilow.) – Seuras Og

11. Jim James – I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

Jim James’ cover for “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” is more of a cross-genre remix than a traditional cover song. For the music, James took Isaac Hayes’ sprawling 18-minute cover of the Jimmy Webb song “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” and chopped it down to just five minutes. Then James sings the lyrics to “I Just Wasn’t Made Wasn’t Made for These Times” over it. The end result is a symphonic-pop masterpiece that captures the sadness of the original, but with an uplifting and celebratory ending. – Curtis Zimmermann


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  3 Responses to “The 40 Best Beach Boys Covers Ever”

Comments (3)
  1. Psychic TV’s Good Vibrations is great,

  2. Yo La Tengo’s Little Honda is last on my list. It’s just not a grungy song. I’d rather hear the Hondell’s hit, which was just a sterile copy. I’d rather hear Murray Wilson’s solo album!

  3. It’s hard to go wrong with those iconic melodies. I stuck to the arrangement but tried to imagine Good Vibrations as an ELO/Who mashup.

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