I’m going out on all four limbs when I say 2013 has been the best year for cover songs that I can recall. More and more artists are issuing covers; whether it’s to draw publicity to one’s own music, or via some irrepressible artistic impulse, cover songs abound. This is a good thing. Sure, there will be crappy ones, and sure, about 98% of the time, a cover song isn’t as good as the original, but I think that’s missing the point. It’s nice to see musicians pay homage to other musicians/songs. Invariably, an artist gives something of themself when they do a cover, and the best cover songs add not only something new, but something indescribable, something magical.
I’m always searching for and welcoming of cover songs. You could even say my appetite in pursuing this type of music is voracious. I thoroughly enjoyed curating this list, and think it’s one of the most meticulously constructed “Best of 2013” or “Best Cover Songs” lists around. If you’re reading/listening, hopefully there’s something here for you to enjoy, as these covers run the gamut of musical genres. Here are my Top 40 Cover Songs of 2013:
NB: One minor addition to this year’s list: I’ll be including the original artist(s) in parentheses.
40. The xx – Finally (Kings of Tomorrow)
Testament to The xx: this sounds like one of their songs.
39. Eddie Berman & Laura Marling – Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen)
38. Erasure – Gaudete (Classic Christmas carol)
Erasure have always been, and will always be, pop maestros — even whilst singing in Latin.
37. Phosphorescent – Ya Hey (Vampire Weekend)
A quiet(er), reflective, love-torn cover. Matthew Houck is a magician.
36. Sparrow Sleeps – The Middle (Jimmy Eat World)
Ever wonder what Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” would sound like if it were a lullaby? Someone did, and made this wonderfully unique version.
35. Bastille – We Can’t Stop (Miley Cyrus)
Too. Much. Fun. Adding Papa Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” into the mix is icing on the cake.
34. The Killers – Lovers In A Dangerous Time (Bruce Cockburn)
I feel fortunate to have seen this cover in person. I think this might have been a one-off. If so, what a one-off it was. Flowers’ vocal soars with Cockburn’s lyrics.
33. Prince – Even Flow (Pearl Jam)
Prince is a bad, bad man. This is short and awesome.
32. Sad Clown With The Golden Voice – Royals (Lorde)
Of the 37,589 covers of “Royals” on the internet, this is the best one.
31. Boyce Ave & Fifth Harmony – Mirrors (Justin Timberlake)
30. Ed Sheeran & Passenger – No Diggity (Blackstreet)
Off-kilter cover that works magnificently. Sheeran and Passenger sound fantastic.
29. Pentatonix – Little Drummer Boy (Belongs to Christmas)
Pristine and perfect.
28. Bastille – Requiem For Blue Jeans (Lana Del Rey)
Sort of a mashup. Sort of a cover. All the way wicked.
27. Folly And The Hunter – Marry The Night (Lady Gaga)
Love that this slow, tempered version plays over Gaga’s actual video for “Marry The Night”.
26. London Grammar – Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)
My God, Hannah Reid’s voice. My God.
25. Walk Off The Earth f. Selah Sue – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli)
WOTE continue to turn everything they touch into gold.
24. Straight No Chaser f. Dolly Parton – Jolene (Dolly Parton)
A cover featuring the original artist? Yessir. A really good one too.
23. Sleeping At Last – The Safety Dance (Men Without Hats)
This is a stunning cover. Brings out a beauty in the melody/lyrics that one could’ve only imagined.
22. Ghosts – If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson)
The music seems secondary to this wild, brilliant, image-centred collective, though this cover pushes through; it’s the best piece of music they’ve yet released.
21. Tears For Fears – My Girls (Animal Collective)
This is so bloody good.