Fourteen Awesome Covers from 2008 (Pt. 1)

The first of my year-end lists comes in the form of a two-part installment of awesome covers from this year. From straight covers, to bold remixes, to complete reinventions, to tribute albums, 2008 was packed with surprisingly good covers… a few of which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. However, the first half of these are all new to the pages of my blog. Enjoy and look for part two on Monday!

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Panda Bear - Boneless

I’m starting to get the impression that a year in music won’t feel complete without contributions from Animal Collective, especially in light of their serious domination of last year. Obviously, A.C. output has been less abundant in 2008, but all that they’ve given us has been great. Panda Bear‘s sole offering is his fantastic “remix” of The Notwist‘s “Boneless”, which is a pretty modest labeling. It’s really a cover, or more accurately, a full-blown reinvention of the original. Panda works his sampledelic magic, pulling riffs from the obscure, layering sounds, sun-soaked melodies, call-and-response, and sweet cascades of vocals between soft, falsetto chants of “BooOOOooneless”. As if I needed anything beyond repeated listens of Person Pitch to remind me of how much I want another Panda Bear solo record. The good news is that if the setlist from his recent show in Miami is any indication, one may be on the horizon.

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Buy: Sorry, no download link for this B-side, but the 7-inch single is still available as a digital download from the Domino Records webstore for just under $2 (well worth it!).

WHY? - Close to Me

WHY? has easily become the best thing happening over at Anticon these days. And after honing his skills on two excellent albums with a full band line-up (Elephant Eyelash and, more recently, Alopecia), Yoni Wolf decided to try his hand at The Cure’s “Close to Me”. A bold choice, as no doubt many listeners are likely to have a certain level of attachment to such a classic track. But, WHY? transforms the original’s bouncy, melancholic pop into a churning, distorted ball of beats and feedback where Yoni’s nasally drawl feels right at home. I suppose it also helps that his psyche wholly resonates with Robert Smith’s sweetly tortured lyrics; add some bizarre imagery and these words might fit nicely on one of his own albums.

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Download: WHY? – Close to Me (The Cure cover)
Buy: Pick up WHY?’s latest, Alopecia, from the Anticon online store.

Deerhunter - Oh It's Such a Shame

With three albums, a handful of EPs, and a ton of other music out in 2008, it’s been quite a year for Bradford Cox projects. The selection for this list comes from Deerhunter and Jay Reatard‘s split 7-inch of traded covers. Deerhunter adopts the choppy, palm-mute heavy past/future punk of “Oh It’s Such a Shame” and smooths it out into a more extended burst of fuzzed-out energy. Definitely one of the more straightforward covers on the list, but nonetheless awesome.

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Download: Deerhunter – Oh It’s Such a Shame (Jay Reatard cover)
Buy: Physical copies are sold out, but the “Fluorescent Grey”/”Oh It’s Such a Shame” 7-inch is still available as an MP3 or FLAC download from Matador Records.

Banjo or Freakout - Archangel

Alessio Natalizia burst onto the scene this year with a whole lot of free lo-fi pop, blog-posted under his Banjo or Freakout alias. There’s been a pretty continual outpouring on said blog, of both covers and originals, with a lot of his tracks getting featured on the pages of numerous blogs and webzines. My favorite of the many exceptional covers is probably his take on Burial‘s “Archangel”. Deconstructing dark, lumbering strings, breaks, static, and chopped-up, modulated vocal loops, Natalizia reimagines the song as a tranquil, hissing drone of bedroom-pop that feels just a stones throw away from some of Bradford Cox’s Atlas Sound work or even the more subdued, ambient moments of Animal Collective‘s discography. And while it’s obvious no cover could ever hope to live up to the original, this attempt is so interesting that it pretty much makes that fact irrelevant… this guy is someone to keep your eye on.

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Download: Banjo or Freakout – Archangel (Burial cover)
Buy: Available on the first Banjo or Freakout covers CD for £5, which is limited to 150 copies and may or may not be sold out.

Enjoyed: A Tribute to Björk's Post

Enjoyed: A Tribute to Björk’s Post is the latest in a series of Stereogum curated tribute albums. I found the last two to be a little hit or miss, but this third offering is pretty fantastic (save for maybe a track or two). It was even tough to whittle it down to just three songs, but ultimately the fractured minimalism of Dirty Projectors‘ “Hyperballad”, High Places‘ rhythmic, beat-laden take on “The Modern Things”, and No Age‘s pop-as-dissonance approach to “It’s Oh So Quiet” all standout for me. But, I really do recommend downloading the whole album over at Stereogum.

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Download: Dirty Projectors – Hyperballad (Björk cover)

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Download: High Places – The Modern Things (Björk cover)

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Download: No Age – It’s Oh So Quiet (Björk cover)

7 thoughts on “Fourteen Awesome Covers from 2008 (Pt. 1)

  1. Nice list. I’ve been really enjoying that Why? cover this whole year and the other picks are good as well. Looking forward to part II.

    (still partial to Bjork’s original versions though)

  2. Well, yeah of course you are partial to Bjork’s versions! I don’t think anyone could top her on her own song. That being said, I don’t really see covers as an attempt to best the original version of a song (especially on a tribute album), but rather to cast it in a new light or realize it in a new context. I mean, you’ll definitely get some that are better, or at least that you prefer more, but I think that’s beside the point. I’d say that more than half of the covers on my full list aren’t “as good” as the originals… but they’re still really cool.

  3. Fair enough. There are many different ways to do a cover and have it be successful and it all depends on the nature of the song, I think. In some cases it’s awesome when a cover strays enough from the original to become it’s own entity (much like the Fiery Furnaces cover of Norwegian Wood on the Rubber Soul tribute album). It’s also nice when a cover remains faithful to the original composition but displays it in a new light (This is usually done through tone or instrumentation).

    A Bjork cover is a really tricky thing because her tone and the inflections in her voice are so important to the overall composition that it’s difficult to reinterpret without recreating. I liked the Decemberists take on Human Behaviour on the “Read” compilation because they simply recreated it with more traditional instruments and simplified it to its core. This also goes for M. Ward’s cover of “Sadie” by Joanna Newsom. I don’t know, perhaps I just need to give them some more listens. Out of all of them I think High Places cover of “Modern Things” was the most successful.

  4. I could probably argue why I think these are really successful, but for Enjoyed Stereogum had each artist write up something on their cover… check those out, might provide some insight into their visions. Or maybe you just don’t like them. A number of people that commented on the Dirty Projector’s cover on the Stereogum page didn’t get it at all:

    “Is this a country version or something? Boy, you must really hate Bjork… and if she ever listens to this, the feeling will be mutual.”

    Wow.

  5. “It’s Oh So Quiet” isn’t a Björk original.

    The original was entitled “Blow a Fuse” and was performed by the late Betty Hutton.

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