Avril Lavigne & All Time Low – All the Small Things (Blink 182 cover)
One way you can tell millennials are getting old: There are now nostalgia-bait festivals catering to the music of their (our) youth. Such was the case with When We Were Young, the emo and pop-punk fest in Vegas a couple weeks ago with Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Bright Eyes, and dozens more. A video high point is this extremely fun and infectious cover of “All the Small Things” by All Time Low and Avril Lavigne, performed right after Blink 182 announced they were getting back together. Best part: When the entire crowd hollers alone to “Work sucks / I know”!
Bruce Springsteen – Don’t Play That Song (Ben E. King cover)
Next month, The Boss releases his soul covers album Only the Strong Survive. He’s released three singles from it so far, each with a live performance video. The latest is a take on Ben E. King’s 1962 song “Don’t Play That Song,” but Bruce’s version draws more heavily on Aretha Franklin’s arrangement of the song, which topped the R&B chart in 1970.
The Cactus Blossoms – Tell Me That It Isn’t True (Bob Dylan cover)
The best part of the Cactus Blossoms’ new EP title, If Not For You (Bob Dylan Songs Vol. 1), is its ending. Now, maybe this is “Vol. 1” like Dylan did with his book Chronicles – 18 years later there’s still no second volume (though a different Bob-book drops tomorrow!). But the duo of Jack Torrey and Page Burkum are so well suited to covering country-Bob songs, we hope this is the first of many.
DM Stith – Man on the Moon (R.E.M. cover)
DM Stith records for Sufjan Stevens’ label, so you know he thinks outside the box. His R.E.M. cover stretches “Man in the Moon” to the 13-minute mark, for a lengthy drone meditation. He layers vocals and synths on top of each other, so the extremely extended runtime never bogs down even as it never picks up either. He vibes out for what seems like five minutes on “Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk,” and it earns every spacey second.
FEUERSCHWANZ – Blinding Lights (The Weeknd cover)
The German group Feuerschwanz (fire-eagle) brings over-the-top theatricality to folk-metal. The fact that they started as a comedy act won’t surprise you when you watch this music video. But they can seriously shred too, making for an epic steins-raised-aloft take on “Blinding Light.”
Lucy Dacus – It’s Too Late (Carole King cover)
Lucy Dacus recorded two Carole King covers, this and the more mellow “Home Again,” for a new Third Man Records single. She told The Guardian, “When I listened to Tapestry from my mom’s CD collection, I was young enough that it didnʼt register as good or bad – it just defined what music sounded like to me, and itʼs still a foundation of how I understand songwriting. Sheʼs clever in the good way – queen of internal rhyme – and I love how her melodies reinforce the tone of the lyrics. She keeps it simple, but thatʼs what makes it universal.” She added, “When I was asked to cover a couple of her songs, it was a no brainer. Her work feels like a part of my DNA and Iʼm grateful for it.”
NewDad – ILU2 (Charli XCX cover)
NewDad’s Julie Dawson explained the band’s new Charli XCX cover: “We’ve always been huge fans of Charli XCX and thought it could be cool to take one of her songs and make our own version. ‘ILY2’ with its distorted synths seemed like it could translate very well as a loud shoegazey song so we tried it out!” Sure enough, it rocks hard, while keeping the insistent hooks front and center.
Nina Hagen – 16 Tons (Merle Travis cover)
Punk veteran Nina Hagen returns with her first album in 11 years on December 9. The first single is, of all things, a cover of Merle Travis’s country staple “Sixteen Tons.” The song has been recorded by Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. It won’t surprise Hagen fans to learn her version sounds precisely nothing like any of those. She brings a dirty-alley electroclash energy, with her gruff growl making the sound perfect for Halloween.
Peter Gabriel – Here It Is (Leonard Cohen cover)
From our review of Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen: “Peter Gabriel takes to “Here It Is” as if his own. With very little of his vocal cracks and fissures, sung straight, it is hypnotic and mesmerizing. If a criticism of later Cohen is evident, it is sometimes that his vocals tended more to intonation, even if by necessity. Even at a lower and echoed register, Gabriel is undeniably singing the stark narrative/warning. It’s a difference, and I think the song’s better for it.”
Rina Sawayama – Happier Than Ever (Billie Eilish cover)
“Happier Than Ever” starts soft and then, halfway through, suddenly gets loud as hell. Rina Sawayama mirrors those dynamics, but she gets to the explosion much faster. It takes Billie three minutes to start yelling; Rina gets there in one. One of an unusually large number of covers from the BBC Live Lounge featured this month. Good month for the veteran cover series!
Trampled by Turtles – A Lifetime to Find (Wilco cover)
Jeff Tweedy produced Trampled By Turtles’ new record, so, naturally, they covered a Wilco song. A new Wilco song, in fact, from the band’s 2022 double album Cruel Country. “It was a real honor for us to record one of Jeff’s songs,” said Trampled by Turtles’ Dave Simonett. “I love the story he tells and the way he tells it. A conversation with death, who hasn’t had one of those?”