Thursday, June 20, 2013

Best Covers of 2013 So Far

June is the time of year when music bloggers take stock of what has been happening into the year so far.  Best albums and best songs lists flood the internet giving us a good chance to catch up on what we may have missed, or to focus back in on music we especially liked but have maybe forgotten about.  This year there seems to be a larger-than-normal influx of great covers - everything from Paul Simon to Bruce Springsteen has been covered, with artists truly showing another side of each song.  Here are some of the best covers of 2013 so far.

The Last Bison Covers M83's "Midnight City"
The Last Bison is a folk-driven family band out of Virginia fronted by the impassioned Ben Hardesty, whose vocals and playing are normally so fervent it sounds as though he might snap a string at any moment.  Their take on M83's "Midnight City" draws the band inward a bit, by showcasing a more restrained style of playing.  It's this restraint that gives it anticipation- they are able to hold themselves back in a way that builds and builds until the right moment, complete with fiddles and banjos and a whole host of other instruments not present on the original, leaving you feeling a bit exhausted after watching. In other words...holy smokes.

The original:

First Aid Kit Covers Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song"
Swedish act First Aid Kit's sophomore album from last year ("The Lion's Roar") is full of strong harmonies and folky guitar, a premise that is translated perfectly on a not-oft heard but beautiful song by Paul Simon. Like the female harmonic counterpart to Simon & Garfunkel's timeless harmonies, First Aid Kit gives us the feminine perspective and plays a simple and effortless, yet powerful rendition of "Kathy's Song."

The original:

Pickwick Covers Richard Swift's "Lady Luck"
Pickwick w/ Sharon Van Etten released their cover of Richard Swift's groovy and soulful "Lady Luck" back in January, a cover that takes the original's lo-fi riff and gives it a bit more oomph while staying fairly faithful to the original.

The original:

Daughter Covers Bon Iver's "Perth" and Hot Chip's "Ready For The Floor"
Daughter has an ethereal, otherwordly vibe with echoed guitars and bittersweet vocals that create a unique sound, which they applied to an equally as echoed and otherwordly artist in covering Bon Iver.  What is unique about this cover is that it also includes Hot Chip's "Ready for the Floor" which is very different from the softness of both Bon Iver and the vocals of Daughter's Elena Tonra, and it is this soft approach that brings them both together as if it were meant to be.

Bon Iver:

Hot Chip:

Night Beds and Carousel Cover Robyn's "Dancin' On My Own"
Night Beds' Winston Yellen has vocals and songs full of quiet yearning and longings, so strangely it makes perfect sense for him to cover this pop driven tune by Robyn.  The original tune itself, despite its heavy dance beats and upbeat vibe, has an incredibly longing underbelly, captured perfectly with Winston's vocals on this cover.

Night Beds cover Robyn

There seems to be an epidemic of people dancing by themselves in the covers world right now, and Carousel recently got in on the Robyn action by also covering "Dancing on My Own," offering up a more synth-happy version.

The Original:

Laura Marling and Eddie Berman Cover Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark"
In one of the most unexpected and quietly poignant covers of the year, Laura Marling teamed up with LA based newcomer Eddie Berman to recreate the Bruce Springsteen classic, only they do so by  giving it a slower, calmer vibe.  The gentle sway in their version permeates into Eddie and Laura's motion during the video, giving a bit more bittersweetness and an almost lullaby quality to the song.

Bonus: ONE Presents Protest Songs
The ONE Campaign has released an abundant list of covers of protest songs, each of which is available on the ONE agit8 website.  Here's a little taste of what you can expect, with Mumford & Sons and Elvis Costello covering Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad.

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