Monday, 4 February 2013

8 Unexpected Covers (That are Actually Worth Listening to)

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Korn’s cover of Another Brick in the Wall it’s that quality music just can’t escape the tainting of unimaginable creative slaughter after it finds the hands of some angsty teen’s pants eruption of a ‘band’ with an oversized ego. Let’s face it: in the world of musicians playing other musicians stuff, the majority of covers aren’t even fit for Hillary Duff’s IPod.

But there are exceptions. In some far flung corner of the musical universe, people are making sense of what it means to recreate a musical masterpiece, and the results are ear-gasmic. Get ready for a cover apocalypse: 8 re-does you’ll want to re-do again and again

1) Bon Iver covers Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me

In an off the floor studio solo take, budding alt-folk musician Bon Iver appeases his fans by beautifully modifying an early 90’s classic. The song, originally sung by Bonnie Raitt but made famous by Bruce Hornsby, is elegantly stripped and simplified by Justin Vernon (under the pseudo name of ‘Bon Iver’), yet somehow also elevated by the powerful vocals set beside a grand piano.

We receive another small treat during the last moments of the song as Vernon incorporates a snippet of ‘I Found Love’, another (great) Raitt hit.

The original:

The cover:

2) Youth Group covers Alphaville’s Forever Young.

We’re moving backwards in time to the German ‘synthpop’ band Alphaville and their less famous original single ‘Forever Young’. Although the band couldn’t attribute their success to this piece, a plethora of covers would arise during the subsequent two decades, most of which were total crap and included people merely rapping over the original (thanks, Jay-Z, but no thanks).

Insert Australian-native band Youth Group. After being asked to cover the song by American T.V producers from The O.C, which is a terrible series with an amazing soundtrack, Youth Group responds with an actual quality rendition. Infusing Australian rock-pop with retro roots, Youth Group almost one-ups Alphaville…..Almost.

The original:

The cover:

3) Tokyo Police Club covers Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone

So perhaps this example won’t fit into the ‘musical masterpiece’ category, but that doesn’t mean it can’t turn into something awesome. Here we have one contemporary artist borrowing from another, although both are from completely different and opposing genres. Tokyo Police Club, a four piece post-punk/pop band from Newmarket, Ont., decided in their latest cover album that selecting radically dissimilar songs to play would be a good idea. One such outcome was a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’.

Whether you like it or not, it’s hard not to admit how TPC has transformed this pop annoyance into something a little more tolerable. And kind of funny, when you think about it.

The original (listen at your own risk):

The cover:

4) Sun Kil Moon covers almost an entire Modest Mouse Album (and still keeps it classy).

Modest Mouse fans are usually surprised to learn about how Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek pretty much reformatted an entire set of their works in his 2005 album ‘Tiny Cities’. All eleven songs from this era are Modest Mouse reworks including covers of ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’, ‘Tiny Cities Made of Ashes’ and ‘Dramamine’.

Listen as Kozelek tampers the eccentric nature of a Modest Mouse tune and wraps each song in his authentic bliss. This selection is but a snippet of his work but is a personal favourite of mine – enjoy ‘Tiny Cities’:

The original:

The cover:  

5) James Vincent McMorrow covers Steve Winwood’s Higher Love

Anyone who grew up in a household that included a radio auto-tuned to any station boasting ‘today’s hits, yesterday’s classics’ will instantly recognize the aforementioned song. This chart topping hit from the mid-80’s once preceded the likes of Madonna and some other band called Bananarama, and will forever be etched into the minds of young adults who were forced to listen to it in their youths.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and meet Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow, an indie folk artist with the larynx of an angel. In true JVM style, Higher Love is usurped and transformed into a chilling piano cover and thrown into the eardrums of many lucky listeners.

The original:

The cover:

6) Moneen covers Alexisonfire’s Accidents while Alexisonfire covers Moneen’s Passing of America

For the early 21st century punk rocker in all of us, this little treat is a must-have. Moneen and Alexisonfire are known industry buddies, often making surprise guest appearances at each other’s shows or, in this case, covering each other’s songs in an EP cleverly entitled ‘The Switcheroo Series’. The 6 track album includes two covers of each respective bands songs and an original by both Alexisonfire and Moneen. The results are both creative and hilarious.

Moneen’s ‘Accidents are on purpose’ (original Alexisonfire song here):

Alexisonfire’s ‘Passing out in America’ (original Moneen song here):

     7) Yael Naim covers Britney Spears’ Toxic

Again, not an original we’d quickly throw on the awesome shelf. On the contrary, if there’s anything we’ve learned thus far it’s that sucky music doesn’t have to stay that way if someone far more talented can get their hands on it. My next example: Yael Naim’s completely creepy and memorizing version of a Britney Spears song that came straight out of the local sewage treatment facility (a place vaguely familiar to Spears).

I honestly have a hard time reaching the end of this cover. Not because it isn’t great, but because I start yearning for faux leather spandex and a life size Russian doll at about the first chorus. Let me know if you feel the same way or, you know…Just me?

The original (GAAHHHHH DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT!):

The cover:

     8) The Postal Service covers Phil Collins’ Against all Odds.

Our final cover finds its way out of a side project from the guy who made nerdy kids everywhere a desirable demographic. Yes indeed, Ben Gibbard is taking a slice from one of the best percussionists we’ll ever know, and he’s going Postal. Deal with it.

The original:

The cover:

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, you probably don’t agree with every entry. Hey now, there’s a comment box! Look at that. A place to voice yourself.   

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