Anyone who was paying attention to cover songs a decade ago will remember The A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series. In the vein of the BBC Live Lounge and Triple J Like a Version, the entertainment web site would bring bands into their Chicago offices to cover a song. The concept, though, was the site started with a masters list of songs and the band had to pick one. The later they came in, the fewer song choices remained. It went on for years and the covers were ubiquitous (we must have posted a million of ’em). Practically every indie band of the era stopped by (many several times), and they often delivered something great.
AURORA – Across the Universe (The Beatles cover)
The first of a couple Beatles covers this month, AURORA’s “Across the Universe” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it just removes a few spokes. The Norwegian singer-songwriter strips everything away but keys and a bunch of voices (there’s a guitarist too, though barely audible). It’s all the song needs.
As an avant-garde jazz-influenced album, David Bowie’s final record Blackstar would seem damn-near uncoverable (unless you’re an avante-garde jazz band). But the songs keep getting covered, and by some surprising artists. Sting covered “Lazarus.” Nine Inch Nails covered “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” Amanda Palmber and Anna Calvi covered the title track. (So did Car Seat Headrest and Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm, blending it with Radiohead, no less).
The latest comes from indie-rock vets Spoon, who tackled “I Can’t Give Anything Away” on The Strombo Show, a radio program that is quickly become Canada’s answer to other international cover-shows BBC Live Lounge and Triple J “Like a Version.” Britt Daniel’s understated vocals deliver the quiet melody and bigger chorus perfectly, but the secret star of this stripped-down version might be pianist Alex Fischel. Needless to say, it sounds quite different than Nine Inch Nails’ take on the tune.
And, while we’re at it, here’s a bunch of other Strombo Show covers from recent episodes too.
Underneath Mac DeMarco‘s silly grin and hipster getup is a genuine troubadour who has more to do with classic-sounding songwriters like Paul McCartney, Elton John, and more recently Tobias Jesso Jr. The best proof is last year’s “Another One,” in which DeMarco does a better ’70s John Lennon than John Lennon often did during his solo career.
Every once in a while, a band will throw in a cover or two to their live shows. Mac DeMarco couldn’t limit his cover choices, so he decided to squeeze as many as he could into a punch-drunk medley.
In the latest episode of AV Club’s Undercover series, Mac DeMarco and his crew bring their brand of weirdo rock to the studios to perform a cover of Weezer’s classic Blue Album track. Mac explains, “I remember looking at the list and I said ‘Oh there’s a Weezer song’ – very chill – probably easier than covering like another song. So uh, you know, we were able to learn it in the car on the drive here, which is only two and a half hours hours, which is not that much time to learn a song.”