Oct 192020
 
tennis superstar carpenters

Tennis, the husband and wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, pay tribute to Karen Carpenter with a cover of the Carpenters’ ode to shacking up with itinerant musicians, “Superstar.” The pair reworked “Superstar” as a slow-moving synthesizer-driven track. Moore’s vocals are mixed with a heavy amount of echo, giving it the feel of a ‘70s disco ballad, like a lost deep cut from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Continue reading »

Oct 052020
 
best tribute albums

Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now. Continue reading »

May 212020
 

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!

When the indie band Grant Lee Buffalo burst on the scene in the early 1990s, they seemed destined for stardom. Emerging from a residency at L.A.’s Largo nightclub, the fresh young band got snatched up by a major label or two, and embarked on world tours with more seasoned pros–first R.E.M., and later Pearl Jam. Rolling Stone magazine pronounced the guy behind it all, Grant Lee Phillips, the male vocalist of the year in 1994, and Michael Stipe practically started a GLP fan club.

But instead of parlaying the attention into fame and fortune, Phillips grew disillusioned with the star-maker machinery, and the pressure to deliver instantly likable hits. His songs needed time to warm up, he said, like an old car or an old tube amp. By 2000 he had disbanded Grant Lee Buffalo and dissolved their Warner Records contract. He got to work as plain old Grant Lee Phillips. Allying himself with independent labels (Rounder, Yep Roc), he’s been recording and touring on smaller scales ever since. His work earns the critical adoration, and he doesn’t go through gyrations to transform his sound or his image. He has a knack for interesting side hustles, like composing for film and television, and acting, too. You might have seen him on seasons 1-7 of the Gilmore Girls, in the role of the wandering troubadour.

Continue reading »

Aug 082019
 
david byrne cover songs

Talking Heads only ever recorded one cover, and when I talked to David Byrne about it for my book, he seemed to have mixed feelings on the subject. “There’s always a little bit of resistance to recording a cover like that because it’s kind of a crowd pleaser,” he told me. “I’d seen it happen before, where radio DJs who pick what they’re going to play will often pick a cover song… So then a band gets known for covering somebody else’s song as opposed to writing their own material. They have to go through a struggle for years to get identified with their own songs.”

Talking Heads recorded “Take Me to the River,” it became their biggest hit up to that point, and Byrne said: That’s it. No more covers. The band never followed it up with a second.

He’s relaxed the rules a bit more in his solo career, most recently covering Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” on tour (he says he’s bringing the cover to Broadway, too). And clearly he’s been listening to covers. For his DB Radio show on his website, he just compiled a wonderfully eclectic mix of his favorite covers. The theme, he says, is artists doing the unexpected, from Sonic Youth covering The Carpenters to Miley Cyrus covering Nine Inch Nails. And when the song choice itself may not be surprising – Patti Smith covering the Rolling Stones, say – the arrangements are. Here’s what he wrote on his website: Continue reading »

Aug 062019
 
low bad moon rising

As sales of recorded music have plummeted – and streaming royalties failed to make up the difference – many professional musicians’ income streams come increasingly from so-called “syncs”: their music being licensed to commercials, movies, TV shows, etc. One popular sub-genre in the sync world is cover songs, often hit pop songs made slow and/or spooky for a trailer or show (see The New Yorker‘s recent article on the phenomenon). We’ve already posted two cover-song syncs just this week: Sharon Van Etten covering “Suspicious Minds” for a coconut water ad and the HBO show Big Little Lies licensing an old Fleetwood Mac cover by POP ETC. Continue reading »

Mar 222019
 

There are great drummers and then there was Hal Blaine. As a member of the famed Wrecking Crew of Los Angeles studio musicians, Blaine provided the backbeat to the soundtrack of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. He played drums on countless hits, backing such artist as the Association, the many Phil Spector Girl Groups, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Carpenters, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, and the Mamas & the Papas (we could go on all day). With such a pedigree, it’s little surprise that he not only played on a number of cover songs, he played on some of the greatest covers of all time!

Since his death last week at the age of 90, tributes to have been popping up everywhere. We’ll simply add our own, the only way we know how – by going through some of his best covers.

So to Hal Blaine, we count it off one last time: 1-2, a 1-2-3-4…

Continue reading »