May 312024
Bat for Lashes
Bambie Thug – Zombie (The Cranberries cover)

This month, Bambie Thug represented Ireland in Eurovision, coming in sixth (the country’s highest placement since 2000). Shortly before the finals, they released this cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”amidst criticism of their outspokenness about the devastation in Gaza. The top YouTube comment puts it well: “The significance of Bambie choosing to cover this song will not be lost on anyone in Ireland or the UK, or many places outside them. It’s just about the most impactful call for peace an Irish person can give, and they’ve done it as well as anyone ever has.”

Bat for Lashes — Home (Baauer cover)

EDM producer Baauer, best known for his “Harlem Shake” viral dance a decade back, seems like an unlikely person for indie-folk queen Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan, pictured above) to cover on her new album. But there’s a good reason. The album, The Dream Of Delphi, is Khan’s tribute to her daughter, Delphi. And Baauer’s “Home” was her daughter’s favorite song when she was younger. Khan explained: “We just played it over and over and over again every time we got in the car and she’d giggle and squeal. So I did it for her, really – because when she looks back on this album, we can say that was your favourite song that you loved as a little baby.”

Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp, Mavis Staples, Dion, Darlene Love, Stevie Van Zandt — Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Trad. cover)

This year, the annual music awards at the new Bruce Springsteen Archives in Jersey honored John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Mavis Staples and Dion DiMucci. They all appeared and performed, and, as is inevitable at these things, came together on an all-start type finale. The song they chose was “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” which Mavis in particular has sung her entire life. Naturally, Bruce got in the mix too.

Chris Stapleton – I Should Have Known It (Tom Petty cover)

Petty Country came out today, May 31. As I’m writing this blurb a few days before, the jury’s still out on whether it’ll be good. The early tracks have been hit and miss. In the “hit” camp though I’ll put Chris Stapleton’s scorching take on a super-deep cut: “I Should Have Known It,” off the second-to-last Heartbreakers album, 2010’s Mojo.

El Mató a un Policía Motorizado — Slippery People (Talking Heads cover)

There are many higher-profile artists on the new tribute album Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute to Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. You’ve got Lorde, The National, Miley Cyrus, Paramore, etc. But I’m not sure any of them top the Argentine indie rock band El Mató a un Policía Motorizado. Their “Slippery People” translates the lyrics into Spanish, and brings a slinky rock groove to the music. Plus the low-voiced singer sounds like a Latino Serge Gainsbourg.

Joanna Newsom — Slurf Song (Michael Hurley cover)

Joanna Newsom spent part of the month performing a Los Angeles residency, debuting new songs during these rare concert appearances. In addition to regular shows, she gave one matinee for kids. She performed kids classics like “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” and two tracks from the Jim Henson extended universe, “Tadpole” and “The Frogs In The Glen.” This video shows her playing a kids-adjacent song by whimsical cult songwriter Michael Hurley. Maybe his “Werewolf Song” was a bit too spooky.

Mahalia — When The Sun Goes Down (Arctic Monkeys cover)

“The Arctic Monkeys feel like they were part of all of us,” British singer-songwriter Mahalia said of her choice of song. “There’s just certain parts of the way that Alex Turner would write that I think really resonated with a lot of us as a kid.” She takes the classic from Arctic Monkeys’ beloved debut and slows it way down, turning it into a downtempo soul-funk ballad.

Rising Appalachia – I Need a Forest Fire (James Blake & Bon Iver cover)

The folk duo Rising Appalachia—Chloe Smith and Leah Song—included this James Blake song on their new covers EP, Folk and Anchor. They said: “We live in a time of rapidly destructive—and so often man-made—wildfires in many parts of the planet. Singing a song that says ‘we need a forest fire’ felt cautionary but enticing, as we explored the many metaphors that ‘forest fire’ could represent… We came to believe it is about the burning of the ego, the takedown of destructive habits and destructive relationships, even destructive sides of self.”

Slash ft. Iggy Pop — Awful World (Lightnin’ Hopkins cover)

We already shared one track from Slash’s new album, his version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” with Demi Lovato on lead vocals. Here’s another, with one of his peers taking the mic: Iggy Pop. Iggy covering an old blues song is a shoe-in, and they keep the music appropriately greasy while Iggy sing-drawls all over it.

Vampire Weekend — When He Returns (Bob Dylan cover)

Vampire Weekend love deep-cut Bob Dylan. On their last tour pre-pandemic, a highlight of the sets was an extended take on 1984’s “Jokerman.” Now, at New Orleans’ recent Jazzfest, they dug into Bob’s gospel era with this powerful take on “When He Returns.”

The Best of the Rest

Amythyst Kiah​​​ – In The Pines (Lead Belly cover)

The Buoys — Vampire (Olivia Rodrigo cover)

Carson Peters — Long Twin Silver Line (Bob Seger cover)

Cody Jinks — Take This Bottle (Faith No More cover)

Danielia Cotton — Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ (Charley Pride cover)

Dua Lipa — Sunshine (Cleo Sol cover)

Garbage – Song To The Siren (Tim Buckley cover)

Gus Dapperton — Believe (Cher cover)

John Oates — Long Monday (John Prine cover)

Kane Brown — Georgia on My Mind (Ray Charles cover)

Kara Jackson — Right, Wrong Or Ready (Karen Dalton cover)

Luke Grimes – All Apologies (Nirvana cover)

MUDIE X SUBB – Outer Space (The Muffs cover)

Ricky Montgomery – Reptilia (The Strokes cover)

RVSHVD — Dear Mama (Tupac cover)

Sierra Hull + Wyatt Flores – Shake The Frost (Tyler Childers cover)

Skylar Grey — Numb (Linkin Park cover)

Squirrel Flower & friends — Cortez the Killer (Neil Young cover)

Check out previous months’ best covers lists.

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