Orson Wilds, the Canadian duo Eric Reid and Brianna Bordihn, currently has two singles to their name. Their third release is a cover of Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto,” a song that was nominated for the Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song in last weekend’s Grammys. Their debut album is set to come out later this year.
Hot on the heels of her much-acclaimed boygenius trio last year, buzzy singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers has teamed up with Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst for yet another supergroup. Calling themselves Better Oblivion Community Center, the pair just kicked off a tour supporting their self-titled album. They debuted a couple killer (no pun intended) covers at their first shows, tackling the Replacement’s “Can’t Hardly Wait” and the Killers’ “Human.”
Our 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 post goes up Monday and, as always, the cuts to get it down to size were brutal. I know it’s going to rough going when the painful cuts begin when the list is still pushing 100. The final and toughest cut of all – the 51st Best Cover of 2018, as it were – came last: singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers’ mesmerizing take on Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out.” It still hurts that that one didn’t make it, so I’ll give it a little extra shine here (go listen to it here!).
Bridgers’ cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” might have been a year-end contender too had it come out a month ago. Just as she did with the Petty deep cut, she strips all the production away, leaving only a spare keyboard and layers of ethereal harmonies. “Friday I’m in Love” gets covered far less than comparable Cure hits, sometimes derided as a less artful pop-radio play (it didn’t even rank in Rolling Stone’s fan-voted Best Cure Songs list). Bridgers redeems the song on her stunning cover, recorded for a new Spotify Single, and will hopefully inspire more closet “Friday I’m in Love” fans to cover the song.
Dave Richardson – Bright Phoebus (Lal & Mike Waterson cover)
Vermonter Dave Richardson digs deep into folk-rock history on his new album Palms to Pines, covering the title track of Lal & Mike Waterson’s 1972 album Bright Phoebus. Deeply obscure at the time – only 1,000 copies were initially pressed – it became known as “folk music’s Sgt. Pepper” among the very, very few people who actually heard it. The record has seen a recent resurgence with champions like Arcade Fire and Jarvis Cocker leading to a 2017 re-release on überhip Domino Records. Richardson makes it sound like a classic all along.
“Different” was one word applied to McCartney III upon its release in December 2020 (a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure). But other descriptors were, quite rightly, “fresh,” “adventurous,” “surprising,” and “chameleonic.” Never “dull.” The album was, accordingly, a UK #1 and US #2 success, elevated by its poppy first single, “Find My Way,” and its much-touted availability on a hierarchy of exclusive colored vinyl: yellow, blue, white, black, and numbered red, or, if you were ludicrously quick off the mark, yellow with black dots.
With or without the brightly hued grooves, it was impossible to resist the sheer versatility on display on McCartney III, with its plethora of highlights. Album-opener “Long Tailed Winter Bird” impressed as an inspired, near-instrumental slice of acoustic blues that built unpredictably from a stunning guitar riff. “Slidin'” hit home as a supremely dirty rocker, “Deep Down” a groovy, soulful joy, and “Women and Wives” a poignant ballad touching upon the questions of mortality and personal legacy. And they were all, of course, written and performed almost entirely by Paul McCartney of Liverpool, in the fine DIY tradition of 1970’s McCartney and 1980’s McCartney II, but with added Covid restrictions.
So now comes, well, what is it? A covers album? A remix album? A tribute album? Let’s just go with the catch-all term “album of reworkings,” particularly as some of its tracks feature the great man himself, and some don’t. It’s made up, according to the promo material, of “an A-List assortment of friends, fans and brand new acquaintances, each covering and/or reimagining their favorite ‘McCartney III’ moments in their own signature styles.” It also emanates puns galore in the aftermath of “recorded in Rockdown,” which serve to enhance its experimental, melting-pot vibe: “III-imagined,” “What’s Your Take On It?” etc. You see, the songs aren’t set in stone, man! They aren’t limited to one viewpoint, or subject to boundaries and rules. Roll the dice for different results!
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
We’ve highlighted several of guitarist Bill Frisell’s covers in the past—songs by Madonna, Lou Reed, John Lennon, and more. But it’s time Frisell gets a post of his own. He’s been abundantly prolific for several decades now, and in recent years his output rate has only accelerated. He turns 70 next month, and may get Grammied again, this time for last year’s Americana album, a collaboration with Grégoire Maret and Romain Collin, with its covers of Bon Iver, Jimmy Webb, and Mark Knopler. In this post we’ll survey the whole Frisell catalog, not just the recent achievements, with a focus on songs in the rock/pop/country genres.