Apr 012019
best cover songs march
Amaara – House of Cards (Radiohead cover)

We just posted the 45 best Radiohead covers ever, but there’s already a 46th. Unsurprising, really, considering how much this band gets covered. The musical project of actor Kaelen Amara Ohm, Amaara took on the In Rainbows gem “House of Cards.” Her cover carries echoes of the haunting original, but with a smoother electro-ambient sheen.

Chris Anderson – Eh-Hee / Digging in the Dirt (Dave Matthews / Peter Gabriel cover)

Composer Chris Anderson draws from some pretty deep wells of music knowledge on his new Song Cycle. He covers Laurie Anderson and John Cage and Tom Waits – twice. He covers Peter Gabriel twice too, on a beautiful “Mercy Street” and more subtly here, working bits of “Digging in the Dirt” into – of all things – a gospel Dave Matthews cover. “The addition of a choir was important to me to create the feeling of a ground-swell of support,” he writes in an email. “The fact that the song is about ‘knocking the devil to his knees’ made the gospel choir a natural choice.” Continue reading »

Apr 202018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

hey paula covers

“Hey Paula” is the sort of song that cries out for a good cover. It’s a tight, catchy slice of bubblegum pop, but one almost unlistenable today in its original 1963 recording by Paul & Paula (though it was clearly very listenable then – it wouldn’t be in this feature if it hadn’t topped the charts). More power to anyone nostalgic to the original release, but I have a hard time imagining this inspiring any new Paul & Paula fans today. I have a stronger tolerance for treacle than some, but this is well over my limit: Continue reading »

Nov 012010

Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.

“Walk Don’t Run” makes a strong case as a contender for the best rock and roll instrumental ever. Sure, others may argue for “Green Onions,” “Eruption,” or even dark horse “Rumble,” but “Walk Don’t Run” combines the best elements from all three. Like “Green Onions,” the riff is simple and instantly recognizable. Like “Eruption,” there’s some serious guitar work at play (no, not Eddie Van Halen-level guitar, but still). Like “Rumble,” it’s a super-short blast of sound that shows a guitar can lead as powerfully as any vocal.

That said, this “Walk Don’t Run” ditches pretty much all of those characteristics. For one, it’s not instrumental. For another, it’s definitely not short – over nine minutes. It isn’t even surf rock. Pink Fairies’ 1972 psychedelic cacophony uses the riff as a basic template, throwing some bizarre verses in between the guitar squalls. Continue reading »


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Mar 232009

Lyrics are important, but it’s a shame the art of the hit instrumental seems to have been lost. Turn on oldies radio and from Booker T. to the Ventures, instrumental guitar jams pop up and now and again. The instrumental is on death’s door, but certain segments of the indie aesthetic are trying to revive it. Explosions in the Sky is an all-instrument post-rock band (whatever that means), and Andrew Bird released an instrumental disc to accompany his recent Noble Bird. While we wait to see whether the instrumental makes a comeback, let’s take a wander through time looking some instrumentals of the past and present. But remember: Walk, don’t run.

Bob Dylan – Rumble (Link Wray)
When Wray passed a few years back, artists like Dylan and Springsteen began covering this one in their live shows to pay tribute to the unheralded master of the distortion guitar. [Buy]

Orquestra America Romantica – Tequila (The Champs)
The original’s got that south-of-the-border vibe, so this Brazilian orchestra goes with that with blaring horns, flying percussion, and drunken shouting. Because yes, technically this song has lyrics I suppose, but it’s just one word. [Buy]

The Pink Fairies – Walk Don’t Run (The Ventures)
My favorite instrumental of the bunch, it doesn’t get much more dance-crazy fun than the Ventures’ original. To, their credit, the Fairies don’t try. Instead they produce a ten-minuet psychedelic swirl that Wire magazine proclaimed one of the best covers ever. They even come up with some vocals for the beginning! Groovy. [Buy]

The Juggernauts – Wipe Out (The Surfaris)
So many sound-alike covers of this one, it’s refreshing just to here something different. The Juggernauts give it a world music feel, playing theme on acoustic guitars while employing all manner of percussion, whistling, sound effects, bird calls, etc. for the drum breaks. [Buy]

Surf Champlers – James Bond Theme (Monty Norman)
I’ve been planning on doing a post on theme songs for a while, and still may, but I couldn’t resist putting this here. It’s a little more world music, lead guitar complemented by South American percussion and reggae strumming. [Buy]

Ironweed – Nashville Skyline Rag (Bob Dylan)
When Dylan went country in ’68, he didn’t mess around. His disc Nashville Skyline included a duet with Johnny Cash, a song about all the different types of pie he likes, a steel guitar instrumental. Ironweed takes it out of Nashville and up to Appalachia, giving it that bluegrass aesthetic with banjo, mandolin, and lots of old-timey pickin’. [Buy]

DeVotchKa – Overture (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Accordion? Violins? Tuba? It’s a strange mix indeed, but what better to do a Nightmare tune justice. Not just a Nightmare tune though – a dozen of ‘em all mashed into the movie’s overture. DeVotchKa’s bizarre concoction incorporates them on as it thumps along. [Buy]

Figurines – New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 (R.E.M.)
The blogging gods over at Stereogum put together a whole set of Automatic for the People covers that included not one but two takes on this one (the other by Jana Hunter). Interestingly, both of them added wordless vocals. While hers was slow and dirge-like, the Figurines keep it fresh and bouncy. [Buy]

Cida Moreira – Fawn (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits’ sense of heartbreaking melody is second to none, so his knack for memorable instrumentals should come as no surprise. Coming from his work for the Robert Wilson play Alice, “Fawn” is a more recent example that gets a beautiful piano treatment by Moreira. Even though her wavery soprano comes in at the end, it’s just another instrument here. [Buy]

Danzo Rezno – Ghosts 38/Demon Seed (Nine Inch Nails)
Ticketmaster foe Trent Reznor did the world of instrumental music a huge favor last year when he released a four-disc set of new instrumentals, “a soundtrack to daydreams” he called it. Each song was titled Ghosts [#] and featured the dark, brooding sound that Nails fans expected. Danzo pulls out a piano take that starts out quiet until the guitars come in and then…well. He even incorporates an instrumental version of Trent’s “Demon Seed,” from his non-instrumental disc last year. Dude’s prolific to say the least. [Buy]