20. Whitehorse – Summer Wine (Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood cover)
Whitehorse (Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet) started as a folkie duo, but soon emerged as a full-fledged rock band. They didn’t stop there, either. Whitehorse is a restless, adventurous band: they team with string ensembles and they embrace electronics and they dive into raw and raunchy blues a la Slim Harpo and Howlin’ Wolf. And Whitehorse is a natural for “Summer Wine.” They like their music dramatic and a bit larger than life, and they have the steamy boy/girl thing going on. As artful arrangers themselves, they appreciate Hazlewood’s arranger Billy Strange; check out those mariachi-style horns that enter halfway through and how they mix with surf-rock guitar on a micro-dose of psychedelics. – Tom McDonald
19. Amythyst Kiah – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover)
Proof that less is undoubtedly more, it takes just Kiah’s voice and acoustic guitar to absolutely slay this old warhorse, at a stroke investing the song with more life and love than many a gloomy doomcore electronic rendition can ever quite supply. It doesn’t hinder that she has a voice that could part the Red Sea, a heady mix of Joan Armatrading and Sinead O’Connor, and it is no surprise she is turning heads, even if some anxiety abounds around quite where to place her. As she strains upward, in the closing salvoes, ahead of dropping back, it is simply magnificent. It comes from a recent EP where she puts, equivalently, Green Day, Tori Amos and Grace Jones through her magimix. – Seuras Og
18. Young Costello – Party All the Time (Eddie Murphy cover)
Be honest, even if you’re a fan of Eddie Murphy’s ‘80s hit “Party All The Time” you probably don’t know the words to any of the verses. “Girl, I can’t understand it, why you want to hurt me” probably doesn’t roll off your tongue. The chorus, on the other hand, is insanely catchy and easy to belt out in a bar, in your car, or pretty much anywhere you might hear it. Such a dichotomy helped make the Texas ska band Young Costello’s cover so compelling. At first, there’s a bit of confusion about what exactly they’re playing, but then when they hit the chorus in full ska glory, you find yourself wanting to sing and skank along. – Curtis Zimmermann
17. Starcrawler – If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough (Roger Alan Wade cover)
The unofficial Jackass anthem has multiple versions now, with some artists sticking close to Roger Alan Wade’s original, simple folk-country style, and others going the route of The Smut Peddlers’ full band, electric version. Los Angeles band Starcrawler has chosen to do both for their version for Jackass 4.5. Their cover starts mellower than Wade’s original, with acoustic guitars and harmony vocals. Lead singer Arrow de Wilde is joined by a pedal steel guitar on the verse, and bandmate Henri Cash takes a turn on one line, but otherwise the song feels very in line with the original. But, around the minute-twenty mark, Starcrawler go full pop punk, less aggressive and dirty than The Smut Peddlers’ version, but also more fun. (Check out the X-esque guitar solo.) – Riley Haas
16. Katie Taupin – Dammit (Blink-182 cover)
Another year down, “I guess this is growing up,” but with a reunion tour in the works, Blink-182 is back giving ’90s kids the nostalgia they need. It’s a testament to the resonance of this song’s message that it can cross over to this country-folk version without even a whiff of cheesiness. Katie’s voice reminds me of Elle King’s twangy timbre, and the power and feeling she is able to achieve fits perfectly with this song’s story. – Sara Stoudt
15. Fleet Foxes – The Kiss (Judee Sill cover)
Fleet Foxes’ most recent album, Shore, was filled with small focused moments; its spirit of gratitude felt defiantly beautiful in the summer of 2020. The band carry over the same kind of clarifying spirit and musical focus to this year’s live cover of “The Kiss,” a vital, exquisite number from the late folk singer-songwriter Judee Sill. The original’s baroque-adjacent piano arpeggios feel like a natural mode for Fleet Foxes on stage, but their version finds most of its gravitas with a trio of horns, the players reveling in the song’s low and lowing incremental movements. The band featured “The Kiss” in most of their live sets worldwide in 2022, and their version feels deservedly cathartic — the kind of big deep breath that Fleet Foxes and their live audiences surely needed after so many years apart. – Ben Easton
14. Sampa The Great – DNA (Kendrick Lamar cover)
Kendrick Lamar brought out singer Sampha for his Saturday Night Live performance this fall, but here the similarly-named Sampa (no “h”) rhymes through a song he didn’t play there: “DNA.” Accompanied by a live band and some backing singers, she owns the stage. Or, in this case, radio studio. – Ray Padgett
13. Sumerlands – I’m So Afraid (Fleetwood Mac cover)
“I’m So Afraid” was Lindsey Buckingham’s live showstopper, both with and without Fleetwood Mac. It gave him the chance to prove his guitar-hero credentials, his playing both intricate and painfully loud. Sumerlands get that in their cover; the verses stay faithful and the solo at the end is the chance to express their fears and sadness their own way. It’s a showcase for metalcholy, and Sumerlands deserve that moment in the spotlight. – Patrick Robbins
12. Lady Maisery – Hyperballad (Björk cover)
The Guardian wrote that Lady Maisery delivers “some of the most some of the most exquisite, thrilling vocal harmony work in the English folk scene.” You can certainly hear that on their new Björk cover. The opening verse is pretty, no doubt, one singer backed by two “ooo”-ers, but wait until they reach the chorus. Accompanied only by rhythmic “body percussion” (hand clapping, knee slapping, finger snapping), Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans soar. The live version is worth watching to see how they do it. – Ray Padgett
11. Kula Shakur – Whatever It Is (I’m Against It) (Groucho Marx cover)
When I heard Kula Shaker’s “Whatever It Is (I’m Against It)” on the radio, I did a triple take. This song celebrated its ninetieth birthday this year, after first appearing in the Marx Brothers movie Horsefeathers. Who would have thought that the casually rebellious words that Groucho sang for laughs could still resonate well into the 21st century? Kula Shaker, that’s who. It helps that they give the song a psychedelic rock groove that makes it sound closer to nineteen than ninety. – Patrick Robbins
Not exactly what you’d call a banner year for covers . . .
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.
Yeah, people might argue about your rankings of #2-50, but “Lose Yourself” was #1 by far.