On February 1, 2021, a mysterious and unplayable album appeared on Spotify. Most people didn’t see it at all, and it disappeared as quickly and inexplicably as it had arrived. For fans of Vampire Weekend, however, it was a tantalizing enigma. Titled 40:42, it contained two covers of the song “2021,” each clocking in at 20 minutes and 21 seconds. Although leaks became available if you knew who to ask, it finally had its official release on February 4.
When artists cover Mazzy Star‘s “Fade Into You,” they often seem to lean into the quietude of the 1993 classic. All the trademarks of the original make it an easy choice—Hope Sandoval’s vocals, ethereal but self-assured; the steady tambourine; the dreampop slide guitar. It’s no surprise, then, to hear Ben Harper covering the song on solo piano, or J Mascis with stunning guitar and a Neil Young twang.
To paraphrase The Office, “wunderkind” may be a weird word, but there are few others for the talent and presence the monomynous Ruel Vincent van Dijk displays at only eighteen. While his singles show a contemporary pop sensibility, his latest turn covering Lenny Kravitz on triple-J’s “Like a Version” suggests a more retro future.
It may be controversial, to the point of being nearly heretical, to compare anyone to David Bowie. In the weeks since Bowie’s passing, there has been a near-universal outpouring of emotion – not only of grief, but of inspiration and joy and freedom that Bowie brought to people’s lives. And, despite certainly being a very different artist, Amanda Palmer has roused very similar feelings in her fans ever since debuting as one half of the Dresden Dolls in 2000 and exploding into the spotlight with her massively successful Theatre is Evil Kickstarter. To her fans, Palmer has been a beacon of originality, artistic freedom, and rebellion for over fifteen years, and now she’s joined with Grand Theft Orchestra bandmate Jherek Bischoff (along with an incredible string quartet and additional vocals from Anna Calvi, John Cameron Mitchell, and Palmer’s husband Neil Gaiman) to record a benefit tribute to Bowie himself.
As a songwriter, Stephin Merritt doesn’t need any testaments to his prolificness or originality – the sheer scope of his sweeping, three-disc Magnetic Fields album, “69 Love Songs,” on top of the rest of his discography, is testament enough. And yet, other artists continuously remind us of the enormous scope and degree of his influence with covers from throughout his oeuvre. Recently, Bully and FIDLAR demonstrated this with a cheery take on “Absolutely Cuckoo,” the opener to the aforementioned triple-album.