So, the best of 2011 lists starts here. While I will be listing my twenty favourite songs of the year soon, I purposely do not include covers in that list – no matter how good. This is mainly as when I’m talking about new music, I think it should be generally written and released in the year I’m talking about. Hence, my five favourite covers of the year. To be honest, Trent Reznor and Karen O could probably have snuck in there with Immigrant Song but as I only heard that in its entirety two days ago, I’ll stick with my original list:
5. Superchunk – Where eagles dare: Superchunk have made it a Halloween tradition to cover Misfits songs and while they’re probably not better than the originals, the indie veteran’s bring an undeniable bounce to the song. It takes seconds to start singing along with the chorus “I aint a goddamn son of a bitch” and enjoying a two minute blast of punk joy has never been so easy. It can be downloaded here.
4. Adele – Lovesong: OK, so Nouvelle Vague have been pulling off jazzy covers of punk and post-punk classics for years so there’s nothing new in a soul version of a Cure song. What makes this cover transcendent is Adele’s voice calling like a siren highlighting the longing and devotion of Robert Smith’s words. Even the hardest of hearts could not love a song with a chorus that goes “However far away, I will always love you”, particularly when it is sung as gorgeously here. I predict this will be the most popular wedding dance song for the next ten years.
3. Ryan Adams – Black Sheets of Rain: Of course there would be a Bob Mould cover! Black Sheets of Rain is the title track from Bob’s difficult second album, a record which is often seen as so miserable with a heavy air of depression hanging over the songs and sandpaper dry production to accentuate the misery. However, lurking under all the pain are some excellent songs and Adam’s makes the grinding murk of the original a distant memory with this elegant re-imagining. It’s incredibly beautiful and Adam’s reminds us that he is capable of producing heartbreakingly moving performances (also check out his cover of Heartbreak a Stranger – superb also).
2. Jack White – Love is Blindness: I spoke about this song recently and I still think it’s an incredible work. While there is an underlying hurt in the original U2 version that is palpable and real, White brings an off kilter rage to the song that lights it up like a bonfire. The solo can be best described as a shrieking animal caught in a snare and White’s vocal shows a man on the edge. A great, great cover of a great, great song.
1. James Blake – Limit to your love: Already sparse in its original form, James Blake breaks down Feist’s version into a subterranean gospel lament… with bass… deep, deep bass. As with all great covers, now I’ve heard this version it has superseded the original and any time I hear the Feist version, it sounds like a clumsy imitation of Blake’s fragile masterpiece. If you’ve never understood the buzz around James Blake, listen to this. If you still don’t get it, there’s a new Nickelback record out there for you somewhere.