Few weeks pass without some prominent new Leonard Cohen covers, but they’ve been coming especially quickly of late. No surprise, really, with the man’s own posthumous album out last week to rave reviews. So, to try to keep up, we’ve rounded up a few of the best recent entries, in order from most Leonard Cohen-y to least Leonard Cohen-y.
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.”
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Jordan Becker: What’s your favorite foreign-language cover song?
As usual with We Are Scientists, they explain things better than we ever could. Here’s the statement they gave…
“The path to covering Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” was for We Are Scientists a long and twisted one, spanning at least two generations.
“We had Top Gun on VHS when I was a kid — we’d watch it three or four times a week. My dad would always play tasteful pedal steel whenever Kelly McGillis was on-screen. That’s kind of where the idea for it started,” says Chris.
Keith continues: “Chris and I first watched Top Gun together on the tour bus a few years ago, and I remember Chris kept singing these really lovely ambling pedal steel parts under his breath when Kelly McGillis was on-screen — well, I thought he was doing a trumpet at the time.”
Later, in the spring of 2013, the band decided to record a cover along with several other tracks that would ultimately land on the forthcoming Business Casual EP (Oct. 14). Chris volunteered that he had always wanted to do a version of “Wonderful Tonight,” by Eric Clapton.
“Man, that song’s a total piece of shit,” Keith told him.
“Ha. I guess you’re right,” said Chris. Then, as was his habit during moments of tension, he began quietly humming an improvised pedal steel part for “Take My Breath Away.”
“Wait, you realize that’s pretty much the same chord structure as Wonderful Tonight, right?” Keith said.
“That Top Gun sex song — it’s pretty much just Wonderful Tonight without awful Eric Clapton. Let’s just cover that.”
They had found a solution that would let everybody win except Eric Clapton. The next day, they brought in multi-instrumentalist and occasional Scientist Max Hart, whose extemporized pedal steel part — both lilting and playfully reminiscent of Top Gun’s brazen sensuality — outdid even Chris’s gilded memory of those childhood recitals. When Andy Burrows’s pounding drums drop into the mix, the evocation of blasting jet engines and throbbing adult desire is unmistakeable and timeless.
“Everybody wins except Eric Clapton,” says Keith, “which of course is what everybody except Eric Clapton wanted.”
“Take My Breath Away” comes off the band’s new ‘Business Casual’ EP.
Robert Manning, who has been struggling with Multiple Sclerosis for roughly seven years, came up with an idea to raise money for charities that research the disease. According to Manning’s website, the project is “To get artists I love to record a cover of my song “Washington Parks” all for raising money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis (the disease) and the MS Society (the charity.)”
There’s no shame in enjoying a dingy college bar with your buddy’s band rambling through a set of well-known covers over a fuzzy sound system. You just don’t expect that sort-of-rehearsed cover band to be We Are Scientists playing in Williamsburg. Wednesday night – supported by Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange, and (when not awkwardly facing the corner) Aaron Pfenning of Rewards – the Brooklyn-based duo loosely bumbled through all ten songs off Weezer’s 2001 The Green Album, before closing with their “two favorite Weezer songs.”
The evening was rife with sheepish grins between lead singer Keith Murray and Hynes – who supported on lead guitar – as the two dropped chords and lyrics. Whatever missteps were made along the way didn’t deter the enthusiastic crowd, which was small enough that when Pfenning offered to buy a drink for whomever could predict the two encore songs, you could easily hear someone yell, “Aaron, you don’t have any money.” No one else ventured a response.