My favourite 25 cover songs of 2014 (with original artist in parentheses);
25. Alt-j – Fitzpleasure (A cappella)
Not technically from 2014, but a beautiful cover nevertheless.
24. Sam Smith – How Will I Know (Whitney Houston)
Mr. Smith covered a bunch of tunes in 2014, and this was my favourite. He takes an already great pop song/melody, sung by a likewise preternaturally gifted singer, and makes it sound sensational in a way that only he can.
23. Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires – Born In The USA (Bruce Springsteen)
So, so different than the original. It actually sounds like a new song, such is its wayward exploration of one of The Boss’s best tunes.
22. Hot Chip – Atomic Bomb (William Onyeabor)
Hot Chip make everything they touch fun, including this cover.
21. Grouplove – Ways To Go/Spiderhead (Cover of their own song)/(Cage The Elephant)
I love that Grouplove spontaneously covered their own song before they tackled the Cage tune, for which they issue all kinds of justice. Grouplove imbed an alt-country soul to maybe the best song from Cage’s latest album, and it works out great.
20. The Cure – Hello Goodbye (The Beatles)
The Cure covering The Beatles? Yes please, I’ll have some of that.
19. London Grammar – Pure Shores (All Saints)
“Pure Shores” is one of the best pop songs of the late 90’s/early aughts. William Orbit’s production on the track is magical. It’s All Saints’ best song by a mile, and I love that it’s been given a new sound almost a decade and a half after its release. Hannah Reid’s pristine voice sounds great guiding this cover to its beach.
18. Sufjan Stevens – A Little Lost (Arthur Russell)
Sufjan for all of the feels. Always.
17. The Honey Ants – You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
The most genuine and heart-warming this song has yet sounded. The harmonies in this version are gorgeous. Paul Simon, Al, and those wishing to be called Al should all be proud.
16. Capitol Chidlren’s Choir – Father Father (Lauren Mvula)
I really wish this troupe would do more covers, as everything they do is golden. But, I guess, you know, school and all.
15. Kiesza – What Is Love (Haddaway)
Wonderfully-sung, stripped down version of the untz-untz classic.
14. Foster The People – Hold On, We’re Going Home (Drake)
Really, really dig this brooding, auto-tune employing, synth-heavy cover that Mark Foster and his people have cooked up.
13. Henry Green – My Number (Foals)
Where the original is a jittery, ooh-laden alt-pop gem, the cover is a cavernous, deep breath of a song. I like the turn down. It’s peaceful here.
12. Local H – Team (Lorde)
If you’re wondering what a Lorde track would sound like with a hard rock facelift, here lies your answer. It works.
11. Avec Sans – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)
Running Up That Hill is a classic song. Placebo’s mid-aughts cover (featured most notably on The O.C.) is astounding(ly good). You’d think it’d be pointless for another act to have another go at it, right? Wrong. Whatever the motivation, I’m glad Avec Sans made this cover. The synth work on this cover is phenomenal.
10. Say Lou Lou – Instant Crush (Daft Punk)
A warmer, more personal take on one of the better songs from Daft Punk’s last album.
9. Arctic Monkeys – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (Tame Impala)
I love the original. The lyrics, melody, and music are all fantastic. But when Alex Turner drops his signature croon on a track, he makes it his own, and that’s that. This is an amazing cover by a brilliant musician.
8. Nazca – Survivor (Destiny’s Child)
Jaw-dropping cover. Adds a healthy serving of emotional resonance that the original can’t touch. I know the original was a huge hit for Destiny’s Child, but it sounds kind of dated at this point. Frankly, this cover is better.
7. Red Hot Chilli Pipers – Wake Me Up (Avicii)
If you like bagpipes, this is your jam. When I first came across this tune, I thought the Red Hot Chilli Peppers had done the cover. Then I learned to read, and then I realized the tune’s by an aerophone-wielding collective of Scots. This instrumental cover is brilliant.
6. Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang – Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees)
This cover is batshit crazy. It’s unlike anything I’d heard, cover or otherwise, in 2014. It’s incredible.
5. Chvrches – Do I Wanna Know? (Arctic Monkeys)
Chvrches’ more-than-two-years-hot-streak knows no bounds. And it doesn’t apply to just their own stuff, but everything they touch. This cover is sensational. The synth work by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty is sublime. No synth-based cover of this song could’ve been constructed in a better way.
4. Manchester Orchestra – Escape (Jimmy Buffett)
Do you like pina coladas? Do you like cover songs that come from the deepest part of left field that they have to climb over the wall, into the bleachers, out of the stadium, down the street, and into another area code? Do you like getting caught in the rain? Do you have half a brain? If you find yourself answering yes to any of these queries, you’ll probably like this song. Hell, if you just listen to this song, you’ll probably like it. And I’ll like you. Life is simple sometimes.
3. Sturgill Simpson – The Promise (When In Rome)
What do I hear when I listen to this Sturgill Simpson cover? A beautiful fucking song. The original is a slinky synth-pop ditty in the vain of Erasure or Pet Shop Boys. It’s a really cool track. This cover couldn’t give two shits about cool. It’s a grassroots promise, and it conveys the gravity of that commitment in a profound, heart-rattling way. Extremely impressive.
2. Todd Terje f. Bryan Ferry – Johnny and Mary (Robert Palmer)
Bryan Ferry is a fucking force on this cover. Not because he’s yelling at the top of this lungs, but because his vocal is stranded on an island of pain, where life’s experiences — the tumult of reflecting on those experiences in particular — is the only hope of getting off. If a man is wise with no one to share his wisdom with, is he still wise?
All that power and I haven’t even touched on Todd Terje’s awesome track. The vibe he’s constructed is a perfect match for Ferry’s pensive, aching vocal. It’s sparse when it needs to be, filling when it should be. “Johnny and Mary” is a classic song. I feel like this cover can already be called that too. Mighty, mighty stuff.
1. The Tea Party – The Maker (Daniel Lanois)
Hands down, my favourite cover of the year. It’s the ode to deep water. It’s Daniel Lanois’ melody and lyric. It’s Jeff Martin’s typically teflon-strong vocal. It’s reminiscing about the fields of Abraham. It’s the cymbal. That purposeful, perfectly timed cymbal. It’s The Maker.
Whose maker? Mine, yours, this song’s, all song’s, all things.
It’s the guitar. It’s the best song on The Tea Party’s latest and long-awaited new record. It’s that one of the best bands in Canadian history is back together. It’s that all three of them are brilliant musicians.
All of it, moving.
Usually, I’m taken aback by covers that alter the source material in very obvious ways. That’s what makes a cover stand out. Why do it if you can’t bring something something fresh and original to the project.
What touches me and astounds me so much about this cover is that The Tea Party don’t really change things that much. It’s not a dance version of a country song. It’s not a rock version of an a cappella tune. The melody is unchanged.
The original is — although I only discovered it in 2014 — one of the best songs a Canadian band or artist has ever produced. Of this I’m sure.
And yet, I’m completely transfixed and transported. At their best, The Tea Party have always had that power. They’ve proven that on songs like “Psychopomp”, “Fire In The Head”, “Release”, and “Save Me”.
For a band that have issued some of the best and most original rock music of the last 20 years to produce a cover this affecting is a fucking marvel.
It had been 10 long years since The Tea Party last released new music. If it proves to be a one off, and they never make another record again, they should find solace in this cover.
They took a piece of art that already, wonderfully, gracefully, existed in the artistic consciousness. They didn’t make it better. They didn’t make it fresher. They made it their own. They gave us a reminder. Of what music is capable of. Isn’t that the point of it all?