The annual “The Music Of” tribute extravaganzas at Carnegie Hall are a fount of interesting covers and artist pairings. (Archival footage is often scarce, but by way of some surprising on-paper examples: Todd Rundgren covering Aretha Franklin; Cee-lo Green covering Talking Heads; Elvis Costello playing Prince… the list goes on.) Many of the illustrious performers who’ve been involved in the series’ 20 years of live shows have just appeared once, but Patti Smith—long one of New York City’s most legendary “local” artists—has been game enough to stop by Carnegie for seven appearances with the series. She may be the most consistent through-line this series has had, in fact, covering Bob Dylan in 2006; R.E.M. in 2009; The Who in 2010; Neil Young in 2011; Bowie in 2016; Van Morrison in 2019. Last week, she came by the Carnegie Hall stage for one more appearance paying tribute in this year’s installment to Paul McCartney with a cover of The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home.”
U2’s modus operandi lately has been to get small. It seems that they’re fully committing to the approach, too: Songs of Surrender, their latest release, looks back at 40 songs from the U2 catalog with new stripped-back arrangements and acoustic instrumentation. The record pares the band’s arena-sized grandeur back to something more like pub-backroom closeness. Bono described the approach in a recent interview on BBC by saying, “Edge and I had this phrase that we were throwing around — ‘Intimacy is the new punk rock.’”
Singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas has been an underrated, reliable presence in the pages of Cover Me for over a decade. Most recently, she’s been on a kick of some noteworthy, and unexpected, cover picks, like Bjork and Mariah Carey. There’s wry humor in her approach, at least in terms of song choice — taking left-field or especially poppy picks down a peg from the stratosphere, mellowing things out. But the effect has felt consistently authentic and heartfelt, and remains so on her latest cover: a version of The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame.”
When I first encountered Thomas and her music, it was in close collaboration with Sufjan Stevens. The pair have worked together frequently through the years, perhaps most surprisingly around Stevens’s 2010 record, The Age of Adz. That record, one of Stevens’ first moves away from acoustic material, felt like a total glitchy aberration (meant in the best way possible). Thomas’s solo work remains a bit less radical than Adz, but it’s in this liminal sonic space that her cover of “Eternal Flame” resides: part electronic rip in the continuum, part gentle folksy reel. The track, featuring collaborators William Fitzsimmons and Denison Witmer, is featured in an EP series that Thomas is calling Lullabies for Parents. That title feels like the most fitting description possible for what Thomas has made here: dark, heavy and drowsy, supremely dreamy.
Yo La Tengo recently began a tour in support of their latest album, This Stupid World. A good portion of the setlists have been devoted to original material from the new record, but the trio have been debuting some new and surprising live covers, too. Last week in San Francisco, YLT premiered a second-set version of “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” a traditional tune most associated with the Grateful Dead.
Nostalgia cycles move in uncanny ways. Just when you think your favorite indie rock act might’ve faded into vapors, you can count on them to spin around, twenty years later, with something brilliant. Case in point: writing about a La Blogothèque live cover from The Libertines feels like a byline we could have published in the early ’00s. But like clockwork — or, say, the swivel of a windmill… — good things tend to come around again.
Singer-songwriter Alela Diane has been making records steadily the better part of two decades, including this year’s Looking Glass, produced by Tucker Martine. Chief among the web of Diane’s influences appears to be the legendary folk-rock troupe Fairport Convention and, more specifically, Sandy Denny, that group’s magnetic lead vocalist and figurehead. In support of Looking Glass‘s recent, Diane has shared a new cover of Sandy Denny’s best-known solo number, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?,” performed in a live session for The Line of Best Fit. The video capture and Diane’s performance are both mesmerizing, spooling out in long, slow lines. Diane is practically a dead ringer for Denny here too — standing alone with the song’s singularly haunting spirit, illuminated with just the right amount of echo and bravado.