I always love when old dogs learn new tricks. And that’s why I love covers of songs. These songs aren’t the best covers, necessarily, but I really enjoy the musical facelifts that new bands can give to old classics – especially when it’s an entirely new sound, like what most of these bands did for these songs.
Elliott Smith – Thirteen; originally by Big Star
Thirteen is a song that gets covered a lot – whether it’s by big names like Wilco, or small names like Nat Wolff (yes, the actor). Elliott Smith’s has always been a favorite of mine, especially with his fragile voice, which compliment the lyrics.
Coldplay – Ring of Fire; originally by Johnny Cash
Pretty much all of Coldplay’s covers are amazing, but this song in particular brings me to tears every time I hear it. I think it stems from knowing that Coldplay and Johnny Cash were supposed to record a song together before Cash died. But this version pays a really beautiful homage to Cash’s classic.
Jamie Cullum – High and Dry; originally by Radiohead
I heard Jamie Cullum’s version of “High and Dry” first, so I understand any disagreements about how much it absolutely rocks. But I will always maintain that this is a beautiful version. The use of the piano and the jazzier feel is fitting and effortless.
The Lumineers – This Must Be The Place; originally by Talking Heads
This cover is so different from the original that it’s easier to appreciate it if you look at both as different beings entirely. I think this version fits perfectly with The Lumineers’ repertoire. It’s soft and lovely in a way that makes it sound unique and new.
Johnny Cash – Hurt; originally by Nine Inch Nails
The lead singer of Nine Inch Nails knew when he heard Cash’s cover that it was no longer his song, but that Johnny Cash had taken it and formed a new beast out of it. It constantly tops charts of the best covers of all time, and if your heart doesn’t break a little bit when you hear it, chances are you are not human.
Vampire Weekend – I’m Going Down; originally by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite singers ever – that even if that makes me a patriotic grandpa. But I still love this Vampire Weekend cover – and I feel like Ezra Koenig’s high and smooth voice compliments the newer style in a really natural way.
Frank Ocean – Strawberry Swing; originally by Coldplay
“Strawberry Swing” by Coldplay is one of my favorite songs of all time. But this version – with different lyrics but the same background music – reinvigorates the song and uniquely owns the melody, so liking both won’t make anyone feel unfaithful.
Sleeping at Last – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles); originally by The Proclaimers
While I do prefer the original, poppy, catchy song, this melancholic cover is still beautifully mastered. In a way, the lyrics better fit this version, and it finally sounds like the love song it was written to be.
The Last Bison – Midnight City; originally by M83
I had been searching for an acoustic version of “Midnight City” with no luck when I found this gem. I love The Last Bison; their song Switzerland is pure gold. But this song introduced them to me in a totally different – and amazing – light.
A Rocket to the Moon – Single Ladies; originally by Beyonce
Again, this is a song that has to be seen completely independent of its original (because nobody can compete with Queen B). Even still, this song definitely can hold its own with all the bluegrass-elements and the pattering rain in the background. A little cliché, but it works.