Apr 302021
 
best cover songs april 2021
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. Continue reading »

Jan 032018
 
first aid kit leonard cohen

Lorde‘s “Green Light” ranked on many publications’ “Best Songs of 2017” lists (#3 on Pitchfork). Fittingly, it’s seen its fair share of covers, from Arcade Fire to All Time Low. But when Swedish duo First Aid Kit stopped by the BBC over the holiday break, they picked a (slightly) deeper cut from Lorde’s Melodrama: “Perfect Places.” If you’ve ever heard the harmonies of sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg – the Everly Brothers meets Haim – you won’t be surprised by how gorgeously they transform the pop song into a lilting country waltz.

But let that be the amuse bouche to the real treat here. Last March, the pair led a massive Leonard Cohen tribute concert in Stockholm. We posted fan-shot videos at the time, but they didn’t do it justice. This fall, the full thing aired on Swedish television. It is, frankly, stunning. The sisters, a few friends, and a full orchestra and choir tackle twenty Cohen songs and poems, from classics like “Suzanne” to new songs like “You Want It Darker.” The arrangements are mesmerizing, making you hear afresh even a song you’ve heard a million times. I thought I never needed to hear another “Hallelujah” cover again. I was wrong (that one’s fronted by guest Annika Norlin). Even the poems – which in most tribute shows would be an afterthought – come across powerfully with the sisters’ voices raised to the ceiling. Their recitation of Leonard’s farewell letter to Marianne on her deathbed into “So Long, Marianne” will give you chills. Continue reading »

Apr 172015
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Of all the songs inextricably linked to moments in movies, few pairings initially appear more incongruous than the closing minutes of Real Genius that follow Lazlo driving away in his mobile home after a house has exploded due to a space laser and a giant tin of Jiffy Pop. As Roland Orzbal sings about hating “this indecision / married with a lack of vision,” neighborhood children fill wagons with edible detritus and Val Kilmer laughs in slow motion, biting popcorn snowflakes out of the air.

Though illogical, the scene is far more successful than the song’s on-the-face-of-it-more-fitting incarnation as a spooky Lorde cover on the soundtrack for the second installation of The Hunger Games. The reason children playing in popcorn works better than children forced to kill children is simple: the song isn’t about the fact that “everybody wants to rule the world” so much as it is about the more heartening notion that “when they do / I’ll be right behind you” and that we’ll be “holding hands as the walls come tumbling down.”
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Dec 182014
 

Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.

It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.

We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ’em.

Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.

– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)

Sep 232014
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

When it comes to religion and spirituality, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. The paint-by-numbers elements of most religious rituals leave me cold. I am not moved by scripture, nor am I frightened by hellfire and brimstone preachers – all fury, self-righteousness, and condemnation, their empty words matched by their outstretched empty palms.

In my darker and much more cynical moments, I wrestle with the notion of a human soul. Does a soul really exist, or is it something that we conjured up to serve as a salve?

And then I remember Bruce Springsteen.
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