Dean and I are really into cover songs. We’ve ended up on hours long internet binges listening to them. These are our top fives (boy, was it tough to pare down our lists!).
1. ‘Lola’- The Raincoats
Holy cow, those girls are cheeky! I love, love, love the Raincoats. This off-kilter version of the Kinks (already wonderful) original is just brilliant. It makes me feel giddy and drunk- sheer happiness in a song.
2. ‘Superstar’- Sonic Youth
This is a helluva tribute. It’s hammy, but I think it’s also sincere… which is how I feel about the Carpenters. Thurston Moore’s sad, echo-y voice sets a fitting mood. The piano fluttering through the chorus is sublime.
3. ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’- Nouvelle Vague
A dreamy and bittersweet cover. I would argue that all the Nouvelle Vague covers are worth listening to… but this one is surprisingly moving. The singer’s light voice drifts through the verses (or the night, let’s say) as though in a lonely lullaby. Lovely stuff.
4. ‘Since You’ve Been Gone/Maps’- Ted Leo
This is my only novelty pick because Ted Leo is too awesome.
5. ‘Jolene’- The White Stripes
Looking at my faves, I guess I’m pretty tickled when bands play around with gender. While Dolly’s voice was sweet and pleading, Jack White’s voice makes the narrator sound downright unstable… it’s pretty fucking impressive. This is the version where Jolene backs off not out of pity but because she’s scared shitless.
1. ‘Crystalised’- Gorillaz
Dean: I do love the sound of pianos. The original song has a very understated and underproduced sound, especially through the choruses, with a wonderful bass guitar riff. Converting this riff to be played on toy piano and xylophone makes me incredibly happy. It’s definitely my favourite cover song to mellow out to. Until that awful Radio 1 noise comes on at the end of the track. Like being woken up from a beautiful dream by a dog licking your ears.
2. ‘Hot ‘n’ Cold’- uncredited Ukranian Polka band
Dean: On the novelty side, I definitely find this song very enjoyable. From the cheerful faces and the obvious fun they’re having playing this, the “Eyy!” at 0:33, the one character at the front at 2:04 who sings when he isn’t meant to, and the sheepish grinning as they try to ignore the slip-up, and the occasional shouts of “Fuck you!” from the guys at the back, it’s just so infectiously positive, and thankfully made me forget about the poor man’s Lily Allen for a bit.
3. ‘Word Up’- Neil Hannon
Dean: Taking an overproduced song of the 80s and taking it to just one acoustic instrument (in this case: the banjo) is a ballsy maneuver. I already have an affinity (read: boy-crush) on Neil Hannon, with his often sardonic and/or hammy music as the head of The Divine Comedy. Again, the man looks like he’s having a ball playing this, the crowd’s clapping along. He gets and a bit of participation (and several laughs) out of the audience. To claim the fellow’s taking the piss a bit might be a fair comment, but when I think of music as something to be enjoyed, this song comes into my head.
I mean, that’s one of the best self-deprecating banjo solos you’re ever going to hear.
4. ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’- Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison, and co.
Dean: From something quite noticably underworked to an absolutely overworked tribute performance. And yet through it all, Clapton’s solo takes center stage, sounding as vivid and meaningful as it was when it was first put together for the White Album. And with less of the cockiness of the Prince solo, where he just wanted to steal the show, this just feels far more meaningful.
5. ‘I’m Only Happy When It Rains’- Richard Cheese
Dean: If you’re not including a bit of Richard Cheese in a cover list, it’s not really a cover list. To mashup this song from the mid-90s with Singin’ In The Rain is a pretty cute idea in the first place. To add that lounge style singing on top that Cheese is famous for is inspired. Again, significantly better than the awkward alternate cover by Metallica.