Top 40 Cover Songs of 2013 (20-1)

And here’s part two, the Best 20 Cover Songs of 2013:

NB: To reiterate, I’ve included the original artist(s) in parentheses.


20. Jimmy Eat World – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor Swift)

Classic JEW twist on the seminal T. Swift tune.


19. Alt-j – A Real Hero (College)

This acapella cover is downright striking.


18. Scout Niblett – No Scrubs (TLC)

This sounds like it would’ve been a low-fi grunge hit in the 90’s.


17. Chvrches – I Would Die 4 V (Prince)

One of the first songs I heard from Chvrches, and to date, a staple of their live set. One of Prince’s best songs made over perfectly.


16. Russian Police Choir – Get Lucky (Daft Punk)

This makes me endlessly happy. #RussianSwag


15. Of Monsters And Men – Skeletons (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Of Monsters And Men were already super charming before they did this cover. After? Not quite sure. I don’t want to be blinded by such light.


14. The 1975 – What Makes You Beautiful (One Direction)

I think “What Makes You Beautiful” is a world-conquering pop song. It was when I first heard it, and it still is a couple years later. What The 1975 have done to it is hidden its in-your-faceness. In its stead is an emotionally vulnerable song that sounds nothing like the original. Well done lads.


13. Ms Mr – Dance Yrself Clean (LCD Soundsystem)

This is a tonne of fun. Ms Mr had a huge year. I will never tire of hearing the line, “talking like a jerk, except you are an actual jerk, and living proof, that sometimes friends are mean.”


12. Say Lou Lou – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (Tame Impala)

Complete revamp of the original. Say Lou Lou have painted the song with sensual electronic tones to brilliant effect.


For me, the following 11 covers stand above the rest. Tread lightly, there are potent concoctions ahead…


11. Cold War Kids – Opium Tea (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds)

I had to look up the original, as this cover sounds unmistakably like a Cold War Kids original. (A formidable, frolicking CWK song at that.)


10. Arctic Monkeys – Hold On, We’re Going Home (Drake)

Alex Turner may be the only person on the planet able to accomplish what’s been done here. He takes Drake’s subtlety and throws it out the window, infusing his own brand of ever-developing, world-conquering, slick-backed, Turner magnetism.


9. Twin Shadow – W/O/W/U (With Or Without You) (U2)

Simply in love with this.


8. Tears For Fears – Boy From School (Hot Chip)

Smart move by Tears For Fears to do a trio of covers to get people talking about them again. Arcade Fire’s “Ready To Start” seems to have garnered most of the praise, but I think Tears For Fears’ take on Animal Collective’s “My Girls” and, in particular, Hot Chip’s “Boy From School” are much better. This is an incredible cover.


7. Kings Of Leon – Dancing On My Own (Robyn)

The more I heard this, the more I fell for it. Kings of Leon slow down the tempo, and Caleb Followill delivers an impassioned vocal, making this an undeniable hit. I can’t forget Robyn’s original — it was a massive statement — but I kind of feel like Kings of Leon wrote this song. It’s now a tormented, bluesy rock track, and it’s outstanding.


6. 2 Cellos – Every Breath You Take (The Police)

In case you haven’t heard 2 Cellos before, the collective consists of, you guessed it, two cellos. What those two cellos are able to do to songs, particularly this seminal  80’s hit, is nothing short of magic. The emotional resonance factor here is through the roof. This is an extremely powerful piece of music. It’s mere background info that it happens to be a cover.


5. Purity Ring – Grammy (Soulja Boy)

When I first heard this track, I thought it was a Purity Ring original, and one of their best. I found out weeks later it was a Soulja Boy cover (I know right?). Don’t let that fool you, this is electrifying electro-pop. It’s waaaay better, more full, more fun than the original.


4. Haim – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow)

I’m partial to the original. It’s probably my favourite Sheryl Crow song. To hear it updated with such tact and care gave me the warm and fuzzies all over. In particular, the simple synth chords and the electric guitar make this a supremely special cover.


3. Basia Bulat – Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen)

It’s pretty simple. I root for Basia Bulat. She’s a Canadian musician who seems like she’s giving everything of her artistic soul to her music. She’s uber-talented. She chose to cover a classic song from The Boss. And that hammered harp (pianoette). My God, that hammered harp. What a marvelous instrument. What a remarkable artist. What a wondrous cover.


2. WOTE & KRNFX – I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor Swift)

The coolest cover of the year. The most bad-ass. Walk Off The Earth are absolutely brimming with creative ideas. KRNFX kills it here. Go Canada.


1. Capital Children’s Choir – Untrust Us (Crystal Castles)

My favourite and what I think is the best cover of 2013. That I didn’t see it on any other list purporting to speak of the best cover songs of the year is a monumental crime. This version of “Untrust Us” is pure, peaceful, and full of some extremely weird alchemy. I’d love to meet the person who decided this choir should cover this song and shake his/her hand. This is what musicians hope to achieve when they cover a song, yet it’s nearly impossible for it to result in something so special, as it miraculously has here.


Capitol Children’s Choir – Shake It Out (Florence and The Machine)

Had I known of this cover last year, it would’ve placed in my top 3. An unbelievably beautiful, serene take on an already gorgeous song.

Top 100 Songs of 2012 (50-26)

50. a) Perfume Genius – Awol Marine/17/Normal Song

I am drawn to Mike Hadreas. His music is a subdued, sad, lovelorn fragrance. His singing/music is grace inherent. His stage presence is utterly magnetic — you just can’t take your eyes away from him. A unique star.

50. b) Miguel – Use Me

Miguel’s vocal bleeds passion. The music bleeds sex. The hooks never end. What a great song.

49. Maximo Park – When I Was Wild/Reluctant Love/Banlieue/This Is What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted/Unfamiliar Places/Hips and Lips/The National Health

So yeah, I’ve listed a millions songs of theirs here. Not my fault. They continue to be viciously, criminally underrated. Everything they touch is gold. One of the most consistent bands of the last ten years. It’s clear they take their craft extremely seriously, yet still, there is a vulnerability, a workmanlike sensibility that’s always present, and it gives the melodies and lyrics that much more heft. Outstanding yet again.

48. a) M.I.A. – Bad Girls

The older, wiser, sexier cousin of “Paper Planes”. Super catchy. Super badass. M.I.A. has never had more swagger than in the video for “Bad Girls”.

48. b) The Helio Sequence – December/Downward Spiral/One More Time/Hall of Mirrors

Brilliant. All of it. The Helio Sequence are an unparalleled treasure.

47. Wintersleep – Nothing Is Anything (Without You)/In Came The Flood/Zones

Brilliant. All of it. Wintersleep are an unparalleled treasure. They, like The Helio Sequence, are quarks, pieces of energy, here, there, everywhere.

46. The Weeknd – Wicked Games

What a statement by the Weeknd. “Wicked Games” is desperate, angry, pleading. Most of all though, the song is about Abel Tesfaye’s voice — he might have the best voice in contemporary music — and he uses it here to devastating effect.

45. Hot Chip – Motion Sickness

My favourite song on the London lads’ latest LP In Our Heads. “Motion Sickness”, the album opener, spins on heads and loops on threads, the result being a basket of warm-buttered bread. I love the witty wordplay, Alexis Taylor’s vocal, and that super-fun dance-pop beat. Another highlight in a career that’s increasingly chock-full of them.

44. The Temper Trap – This Isn’t Happiness/The Sea Is Calling

“The Sea Is Calling” caught me right away. It’s a brilliant tune that flows in waves of serenity and melody. “This Isn’t Happiness” took a while longer to catch me. Now — I’m hooked. The lyrical sentiment is poignant, and all components of the music work wonderfully together. And again, Dougy Mandagi is fantastic on vocals. A rising power of a band. The live version of “This Isn’t Happiness” featured below is jaw-droppingly good.

43. a) Big Boi f. ASAP Rocky and Phantogram – Lines

What a beat. Big Boi brings the bacon back home yet again.

43. b) Crystal Castles – Affection

My favourite song on III, probably the best and most accessible one on the record too. Replete with soft vocals, driving, massive synths, and beat to bet your bottom dollar on.

42. Alt-j – Taro/Matilda/Fitzpleasure/Tessellate

From a startlingly good debut album, these four tracks represent a band mixing several disparate styles into a pot-luck that’s unabashedly fresh, unique, and delicious. Alt-j (government name) can go soft or hard, with electronics or old-school guitar driven riffs. A singular talent has burst onto the music scene, demanding attention. They’ve sure as heck got mine.

41. Metric – Youth Without Youth/Speed The Collapse/Nothing But Time

Not much more to say than they do it every single time. They’ve never released an average song or album, let alone a bad one. I adore the way they construct their particular brand of pop-alt; it’s always unique, always comfortably Metric. “Youth Without Youth” is an awesome lead single, with a drum beat to crack skulls and conquer huns.

40. Silversun Pickups – Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)

Neck of The Woods is a detour of a record for The Pickups, an experiment if you will in moody, frazzled, horror alt-rock. Clean and direct hooks take a back seat to the mood — except on “Bloody Mary”, a song that bridges their new sound with older (and awesome) Silversun offerings.

39. Stars – Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It

Might be the best song they’ve ever done. Short form title = Hooks Galore.

38. Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

A pounding, melodic statement from ex-Fleet Foxes member Joshua Tillman.

37. a) Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built

The alt-rock anthem of the year? Yeah, probably.

b) One Republic – Feel Again

I kept hearing this song and eventually realized the hook is really hard to shake. Ryan Tedder is master at crafting catchy, contemporary pop.

36. a) Trust – Bulbform/Shoom

Toronto’s foremost rapscallions of 2012. I don’t want to parse “Shoom” and “Bulbform” too closely. They’re both dark, brooding, mysterious, otherworldly, and catchy as catnip to cats. I really dig the video for “Bulbform”, featured below.

36. b) The Raveonettes – Into The Night/Young and Cold/The Enemy

The Raveonettes have been consistently releasing quality records for a long time now. They have a completely unique style and their MO is always engaging; their 50’s/60’s style melodies/lyrics/structure, wrapped ever so tightly in ethereal reverb and distortion, is always compelling. The Raveonettes are a wondrous gem.

35. Calvin Harris & Florence Welch – Sweet Nothing

It was only a matter of time before Florence had a massive dancefloor smash; her biggest strength is that her dynamic voice is malleable with any type of sound, and propulsive synthy dance music happened to be an area she’d hitherto left unexplored. Calvin Harris is extremely lucky he got to her first.

34. a) Polica – Lay Your Cards Out

Sexy. Patient. Cunning. The bass and drums conspire to make this a truly special tune.

34. b) Bastille – Bad Blood

The chorus clasps like a car crash to a caboodle.

33. Skrillex – Summit/Bangarang

For as much of a backlash as the Skrillman has seemed to garner over the last little while, he’s actually incredibly adept at making pop songs. “Bangarang” wears its influences on its sleeves, and is great because of it. I bet Skrillex had an awesome time making that tune; fun is its DNA. “Summit” is another pop smash, chopping and screwing Ellie Goulding’s vocals over a six-minute synth serenade.

32. Stepdad – Must Land Running/My Leather, My Fur, My Nails

I’m so glad I found Stepdad. They make me feel good. “Must Land Running” is the more straightforward of the two; blessed with shimmering production and a monster truck of a chorus. In the Sombrero galaxy, “My Leather, My Fur, My Nails” is the inter-planetary #1, and has been for 50 years.

31. Taylor Swift – Begin Again/All Too Well

From an album rife with pop behemoths, “Begin Again” and “All Too Well” stand out above the rest. She will not make a better album than this, and her forays into different sub-genres of pop will not ever go as smoothly as they do here.

30. a) Michel Telo – Ai Se Eu Te Pego

How do you say fun in Portuguese? Oh right, Ai Se Eu Te Pego. A deserved world-wide smash; pop music doesn’t get more joyous than this.

30. b) Mumford and Sons – Below My Feet

My favourite song on Babel. Simply, a classic Mumford and Sons song, a connecting, heart-wrenching, fist-pumping anthem.

29. City and Colour – The Grand Optimist

Wow. By miles and days and eons or any other measure, the best song on Little Hell. Mr. Green has always seemed to have a knack for releasing personal, poignant stuff, but “The Grand Optimist” is a different beast altogether. It’s a soul-rattler. The dynamic shifts in the song are beyond striking, and the lyric is haunting.

28. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem/Now For Plan A

After 30+ years, they’re still going so, so strong. It’s unfathomable really. But then again, we are talking about Canada’s best band ever. I’d say the band has had a renaissance of sorts over the last two albums, We Are The Same, and Now For Plan A, but that would imply that they were at one point average, a patent falsehood if there ever was one. “Man Machine Poem” is beguiling, with hooks at every bloody turn, buoyed by Gord Downie’s incredible, gale-force-power vocals. “Now For Plan A” is pure, serene, lovable, reflective — beautiful. The harmonies and call and response exchanges with the female vocalist are downright magical.

The Tragically Hip – Now For Plan A

27. a) Icona Pop – I Love It

One of the best party songs of the year. A perfect summer song. Sweden strikes again.

27. b) Gossip – Move In The Right Direction/I Won’t Play

Beth Ditto is a one of a kind voice and presence. She and her bandmates have built a really solid catalogue of songs, culminating in the extremely accessible A Joyful Noise. “Move In The Right Direction” and “I Won’t Play” are fantastic pop-alt tunes.

26. Scissor Sisters – Let’s Have a Kiki/Somewhere

Question: What’s the music video of the year? Answer: the one for “Let’s Have a Kiki” (featured below). I’m saddened to say “Kiki” didn’t link with me initially. It took me a while to feel its hooks in my bones. Once I did, I locked the door (tight) and had the biggest Kiki one could ever imagine. There was diving, turning, working all over the damned place — and I couldn’t have been happier. “Somewhere” is the ace-in-the-hole, the dance-pop smash of the album.