Dec 162022

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40. Titus Andronicus – We’re Coming Back (Cock Sparrer cover)

Despite being a DJ on college radio in the late 1970s and early 1980s and playing many of the early punk bands on the air, I somehow totally missed Cock Sparrer, which emerged in England during this period as progenitors of the Oi! genre of working-class punk. The band’s album that features this song, 1983’s Shock Troops, is described by Brooklyn Vegan as “one of the greatest and most influential punk albums of all time,” and damn if “We’re Coming Back” isn’t a killer track. Hard and fast, but controlled, and similar to music from their American contemporaries The Ramones, it has a surprising classic pop sensibility. Titus Andronicus used a cover of the appropriately titled song to announce their return from a three-year hiatus. Front man Patrick Stickles, clearly someone who agrees with Brooklyn Vegan, stated: “All I can tell you right now is that Cock Sparrer gave us the most open-hearted and uplifting song in all of British punk’s second wave, perhaps even of any wave, foreign or domestic. I have wept to this song many times over the years, and it is a joy to share our version with the world.” Not surprisingly, then, it’s a pretty faithful cover, and does the original justice. – Jordan Becker

39. G.E.M. – Bang Bang (Nancy Sinatra cover)

“Bang Bang” is an evergreen song. It sounds great no matter the decade, whether sung by woman or man, by Nancy or Frank. It even sounds good in a foreign language, as G.E.M. demonstrated on the soundtrack to Minions: The Rise of Gru. The movie went for a retro-chic sound that was clearly aimed at entertaining the adults whose kids had dragged them to the theater, but when retro-chic sounds as good as this, you’re not going to find a soul complaining. – Patrick Robbins

38. Punch Brothers – Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot cover)

Strictly speaking, this is a cover of a cover, relating to the Tony Rice version of Lightfoot’s song. Punch Brothers give it a radical revision to either. If Lightfoot represents crashing waves and falling timber, Rice’s was more broadsheet ballad. Here the Brothers (they aren’t) apply a misty sepia toned filter, fun of sound effects, all culled from their instrumentation. A much eerier proposition, it works well, evoking the atmosphere as more tragic than just an act of a mighty God. Possibly the highlight of their cover project, Hell On Church Street, covering the whole of Tony Rice’s album Church Street Blues. The vocals and mandolin of Chris Thile rattle along a little swifter than the earlier renditions, and I’d point you also to the live version. – Seuras Og

37. Bria – Where Have All The Cowboys Gone? (Paula Cole cover)

Multi-instrumentalists, and members of both indie band Frigs and Orville Peck’s touring band, Bria Salmena and Duncan Hay Jenkins aka Bria, are set to release the second volume of their acclaimed Cuntry Covers EP series in 2023. The first taster from the forthcoming Vol. 2 was released this past November, and hot damn. Salmena first heard Paula Cole’s top ten U.S. hit “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” in 1997 when she was seven years old. She found Cole’s vocal on the song to be intriguingly “brooding and chilly” and its lyrics of “discovery, disillusionment, despair” compellingly confusing. As far as Bria’s cover, she says the duo “wanted to make it even more dystopian by turning it into a dreamy dance track.” With its woozy sax and lush electronic instrumentation, Bria’s version sounds like a long-lost cousin of 808 State’s 1989 chilled-out classic “Pacific State.” But calling it “dreamy” is an understatement; this “Cowboy” is downright heavenly. – Hope Silverman

36. Valerie June – Pink Moon (Nick Drake cover)

Surely, Valerie June is just too upbeat and perky to cover the famously melancholy Nick Drake? That, at least, is what I first thought on learning of her reinterpretation of “Pink Moon” for the deluxe edition of her aptly titled The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers album. But the Memphis singer-songwriter clearly recognized the unusual whimsicality in the English folkie’s 1972 track, with its playful lyrics around the idea of the titular lunar phenomenon being a harbinger for the end of the world. She adopts a similar musical arrangement to Drake of acoustic guitar and sprightly piano, but it’s her distinctive vocals that really take the song to another place. She transplants Drake’s slurry-jazz style with choral soul, making for a wonderfully dreamy and enchanting affair. – Adam Mason

35. The Brother Brothers – That’s How I Got to Memphis (Tom T. Hall cover)

It’s clear the young twins Adam and David Moss have listened long and hard to Simon and Garfunkel. That influence comes out in their songwriting (which is superb) and in their harmonies. But it’s the Everly Brothers that they summon on this redo of the great Tom T. Hall country classic. It’s the sibling thing — the voices are meant to bond, right down to the molecular level. But it’s not just the effortless harmonizing; it’s the interpretation, too. The tendency with “That’s How I Got to Memphis” is to approach it with a rough edge that suits the hapless narrator. But the Brother Brothers go lightly against the grain by playing it pretty and playing it straight. An electric keyboard establishes the mood of the song, a refreshing switch away from the usual strummed guitar. – Tom McDonald

34. The Williams Brothers – Death of a Clown (The Kinks cover)

An extraordinary piece of alchemy that really shouldn’t work, merging the Everly Brothers with the music of the mid-60s British Invasion beat boom. The brothers catch that sibling sound to a T, whilst the song lurches along in a cockeyed country wagon that seems miles from the original. If anything, the steel is an embellishment that seems slightly unnecessary, the bare wood attractive enough without that polish, but, as it is steel guitar, and played by Greg Leisz, anything can be forgiven. The Williams Brothers are second generation musical artists, twins who succeeded their father and uncle’s own iteration of the band, starting off as Andy and David Williams in 1974, ahead of a later run of well received LPs in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This comes from their first new record since 1993. (Fun fact: one of the aforesaid uncles was the “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” hitmaker Andy Williams.) – Seuras Og

33. First to Eleven – Crawling (Linkin Park cover)

Alternative cover band First to Eleven always seems to pick the best of the best when it comes to tunes to cover. The original “Crawling” dates back to 2000, from the album Hybrid Theory, and actually won a Grammy for best hard rock performance. This time, the band surprised us by releasing an acoustic version of the Linkin Park song, including hand percussion on a wooden box-type instrument called the cajon. First to Eleven frontwoman Audra Miller can put a vocal twist on any throwback rock song. This cover particularly shows off her vocal prowess and flexibility. The acoustic strumminess pairs beautifully with Miller’s vocal purity and soft harmonies. The band keeps the cover true to the original compositionally, but offers us a totally new palette of timbers, giving the song a more melancholy flair. – Aleah Fitzwater

32. Death Cab for Cutie – Go West (Liz Phair cover)

Time’s been good to Liz Phair’s 1994 album Whip-Smart. Like the Ramones before her, Phair came up with a sophomore effort that covered similar territory to her landmark debut and still felt bracing and, at times, thrilling. One track, “Go West,” saw Phair making a life change, moving from NYC to LA after a breakup. Uncertain that it’s the right move, she’s still standing behind it because it’s her move. Death Cab for Cutie give the song a cover that’s warm and respectable, removing the rhythm section, its thoughts adrift if not remote, giving Phair a lyrical shout-out that’s more of a murmur-out. – Patrick Robbins

31. Marissa Nadler – Seabird (Alessi Brothers cover)

“Seabird,” a glimmering bauble from ‘70s duo The Alessi Brothers, feels like a true left-field pick for “doom folk” singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. Her most recent album, The Path of the Clouds, is a darker, heavier affair, far from the airiness of the Alessis’ Quiet Storm-y soft rock. But the song is also an undeniable ear worm, and even Nadler seemingly couldn’t resist soaking in “Seabird”‘s breezy charms. Featured as the closing track on The Wrath of the Clouds—a lower-stakes (and aptly-rhymed) companion EP to the aforementioned full-length album, all b-sides and covers—Nadler dials back the color scheme on “Seabird” from saturated bright hues to a more unassuming, folksy greyscale, finding a buoyancy that still feels of a piece with her usual sound (and, impressively, is still less frothy than the original). – Ben Easton


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  4 Responses to “The 50 Best Cover Songs of 2022”

Comments (3) Pingbacks (1)
  1. Not exactly what you’d call a banner year for covers . . .

  2. Thanks for this, as always.
    A few that really hit me were compelling were Chis Thiles and Punch Brothers version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” ,
    As mentioned in the post, the YouTube live version is really something.
    Also loved hearing the cover of “If you’re gonna be dumb…”
    But … your #1 was also mine: Lose Yourself. I was awestruck.
    I learned of it from a CM post, and sent it around to a lot of folks, some of whom were as blown away as me.
    Thanks for what you do.
    Regards, Dave.

  3. Yeah, people might argue about your rankings of #2-50, but “Lose Yourself” was #1 by far.

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