Dec 152023

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40. Soccer Mommy — Soak Up The Sun (Sheryl Crow cover)

You can’t tell Sheryl Crow or Soccer Mommy what to do or how to feel. They are going to soak up that sun no matter what you say. This is a faithful cover that may catch you by surprise if you don’t associate Soccer Mommy with Crow’s heartland rock style. However, Soccer Mommy released this cover to celebrate Crow’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Soccer Mommy has the same light, breathy delivery as Crow and maintains the jaunty tone of the song while simmering a rebel attitude right under the surface. — Sara Stoudt

39. The Nude Party — Somebody Tryin’ to Hoodoo Me (Dr. John cover)

In a way, this is a very old-school cover. The Nude Party add a very psychedelic/druggy pop sound to a very traditional blues/R&B track, reminiscent something off of the famous Nuggets compilation. The vocals are detached and echoey, as the rest of the band sounds like it’s being filtered through the weed smoke, with swampy tones and a discombobulating habit of pinging between both sides of your stereo speakers. — Brendan Shanahan

38. Lillie Mae & Family — Razor Love (Neil Young cover)

“Razor Love” is a deep cut from Neil Young’s 2000 album Silver & Gold. The song got a little bump from its appearance in an early episode of Transparent in 2014, and now gets another boost from singer and multi-instrumentalist Lillie Mae. The artist is from a large, musically-gifted family–in fact, her current project is officially billed as “Lillie Mae & Family.” Most of her previous recordings were with Jypsi, a band consisting of Lillie and her siblings. (Their mom’s maiden name is “Razor,” and this is perhaps all we need to know about why Lillie Mae took to it.) Her version is a lovely, intimate, atmospheric spin on the song, with studio effects so subtly applied that they go unnoticed at first. Check out the “Razor Love” video, too, which came out ahead of her new release, Festival Eyes. — Tom McDonald

37. Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway — White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane cover)

Grace Slick wrote “White Rabbit,” a psychedelic reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, in 1965 or 1966, while part of The Great Society, a band remembered today mostly because Slick was its singer before departing for Jefferson Airplane. The Great Society performed the song, but never recorded it. The Airplane did, on their second, classic album, Surrealistic Pillow. That version is mysterious and a little “trippy,” and will, as long as people listen to rock music, be considered as one of the foundational texts of 1960s psychedelic rock. Guitarist and singer Molly Tuttle chose to cover the song because she loved Alice in Wonderland as a child (and because she, like Slick, grew up in Palo Alto). Tuttle’s version, with her crack band Golden Highway, is reminiscent of the original, but with the expected bluegrass flourishes, and a couple of instrumental breaks that turn the song into more of a jam than the original (and, interestingly, a little closer to the way that The Great Society performed the song). — Jordan Becker

36. Bowling For Soup — Flowers (Miley Cyrus cover)

Straightforward covers sometimes just hit the spot, and that’s the case with veteran rockers Bowling for Soup’s cover of Miley’s big hit. Slightly sped up to suit their more punk sound, but otherwise keeping the original tune and harmonies, this is sure to be one requested during their live shows. — Brendan Shanahan

35. Shayna Steele — Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Can you imagine Shayna Steele’s treatment of “Gold Dust Woman” being the closing track of Rumours? Of course you can’t. There’s nothing mysterious about this performance; from the opening notes, Steele is punching and punching hard. If Stevie Nicks was using a silver spoon to dig that grave, Steele is operating a cracked-out steam shovel. She’s in control, she’s in charge, and if anyone’s going to rock on, it’s going to be her. And she’s not putting her kingdom up for sale, either. — Patrick Robbins

34. Leyla McCalla & Hurray for the Riff Raff — Zanj (Trad. cover)

“Zanj,” which means “angel” in Haitian Kreyol, is a song originally recorded by Haitian protest singer Manno Charlemagne. Charlemagne was a political protest singer and folk musician often compared to Dylan or Marley, who protested the repression of the Duvalier regime, and spent good chunks of his life in exile as a result. Originally released in 1978 on Manno et Marco, the song is a gentle ballad sung in Kreyol, so I have no idea what the lyrics mean. Leyla McCalla, daughter of Haitian immigrants was raised in New Jersey, studied classical cello, busked on the streets of New Orleans, was a member of Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters, recently released a version of “Zanj” featuring Alynda Segarra from Hurray for the Riff Raff. McCalla said that “The poetry of the Kreyol didn’t carry into English, and so we ended up rewriting the verses while trying our best to capture the spirit of the song.” Their cover, a similarly tender ballad, is about how politics can shatter dreams. A difficult and timely message delivered in a beautiful song. — Jordan Becker

33. Skinny Pelembe Feat Beth Orton — Who By Fire (Leonard Cohen cover)

Oldies like me know more about Beth Orton than Skinny Pelembe, so no bad thing that Pelembe has enrolled her languid drawl to grace his version of Cohen’s iconic anthem. A semi-industrial rumble, heavy on the drum’n’bass, introduces a lone guitar picking up the melody. Pelembe has a smoky smolder to his voice, taking up the speed a fair old bit from Leonard, before the spectral echo of Orton’s voice becomes just about discernible for the second verse. Which is when it becomes interesting, as she multi-tracks into a serenade of sirens, wailing discordantly and disarmingly through the third stanza, heavy on the effects. Just as you are beginning to accommodate all of this, it ends. Wonderful. — Seuras Og

32. MUNA — My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion cover)

Ever since Celine Dion released “My Heart Will Go On” on the Titanic soundtrack, the song has generated covers in every genre imaginable. Heavy metal, opera, pop, jazz, even a folk cover in the style of Mumford & Sons recorded by the punk band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. So, yeah, it’s been well-covered over the years. In 2023, the pop trio MUNA added their own chapter to the “My Heart Will Go On” story with a dreamy take on the classic. Their version features intricate guitar picking, and even more intricate vocal harmonies. It’s enough to keep the heart going until the next great cover. — Curtis Zimmermann

31. Murder By Death — The Logical Song (Supertramp cover)

There were sections of the British Music press in the early ‘80s which seemed to believe that “The Logical Song” was responsible for the New Wave and punk movements. Prog-adjacent band Supertramp had made the entirety of British working class youth rise up in distaste at songs written by rich kids. That was, of course, very unfair. It was not Roger Hodgson’s fault that his parents had the money to send him to Boarding School, and the song makes very clear that he did not wish to leave them, and the song is about that loss. It gave him an upper class accent to sing in, but the pain and loss are real. Murder by Death take the song in a different direction. They are talking about the loss of innocence of a nation. They hint darkly at a period of recent history where their country is taken away from its innocent youth, where liberalism was a bad word, and liberal acts even worse. Of course that period could return again. Thus the song is pensive and concerned. The beautiful Americana of the sound and America of the topic seems to be at risk, they suggest, and this hangs like a pall over the proceedings. — Mike Tobyn


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  10 Responses to “The 50 Best Cover Songs of 2023”

Comments (10)
  1. I’m always leery of any year-end lists, but I look forward to the CoverMe Best every year. Always fun to find new covers to enjoy. Heading for the top 10, I assumed they missed the best cover of the year – but there it was, exactly where it should be – at #1. Ride the Pony indeed.

    Great job team! Confirmation bias for the win.

  2. My #2 at your #1 (and really it’s my #1B). As we have determined over at Cover Lover, the best compliment we can give to Slothrust’s version, is “this song fucks.”

  3. What a lot of crap covers in this list . . . and not even a mention of Lenny Kaye’s all-star band covering the Nuggets album?? That’s just for starters . . . what a depressing end-of-year list.

  4. Or . . . looking forward to some really good covers. They’re out there.

  5. “Fast Car” a song of hope?


    I suppose you also think “The Future’s So Bright (I Got to Wear Shades)” is a song praising ambitious young MBAs too.

  6. Love the covers by Slothrust and Sunny War!

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