Like A Limb Torn Off: Cover Songs That Don’t Suck

I recently came across a post (which I refuse to link) that touted a list of covers which “stole the show” from the originals. As with anything music related, this was one person’s opinion and sadly for him he was completely wrong. 🙂 Because I disagreed so wholeheartedly I slapped together my own list. These are covers which I have deemed both the original and the redux amazing. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments below.

YouTube list is here if you wanna follow along or you wanna skip reading and just enjoy some bitchen tunes.

1. “No One’s Gonna Love You” – Original: Band of Horses / Cover: Cee Lo Green: I’ve probably written about this song more than any other. To say it has a special place in my heart is trite but true. From the opening chords of the BOH version my heart just aches. Ben Bridwell’s falsetto lends itself perfectly to the tortured feelings of love and longing conveyed. With the cover, Cee Lo is able to create an equally beautiful and haunting track. The faster pace and polished sound give it Mr. Green’s signature and an extra something special.

2. “Hallelujah” – Original: Leonard Cohen / Cover: Jeff Buckley: 
Seriously who hasn’t covered this song!? I heard the Buckley version when I was an emo kid circa 1998 (implying that I’m not anymore… hmmm). Leave it to me to get all obsessed with an artist after he’s dead. His voice is amazingly beautiful and Hallelujah gives me chills. Cohen’s version features his trademark style of speak-singing and also paints a delicious portrait of love and heart ache. (Honorable Mention: Rufus Wainwright’s version from Shrek.)

3. “Your Ghost” – Original: Kristin Hersh featuring Michael Stipe / Cover: Greg Laswell:  Laswell did an entire Covers EP which I’m partial to. Spoiler alert: he’s gonna get another mention here because the songs are unique yet done in his own way while still managing to pay homage to the originals. Both versions of the song are morose and beautiful. And comparing the feminine vocals of the original with the deep, sultry Laswell version, each gives an exceptional and haunting quality to the song.

4. “Such Great Heights” – Original: The Postal Service / Cover: Iron and Wine: 
The Postal Service song is done at an easily digestible pop pace- danceable and fun, lyrics take somewhat of a backseat on this one. The Iron and Wine version is decidedly different. Slowed down to the typical meandering of a tune by Sam Beam you can’t help but hear every single, delicate word. Sung like a whispered confession to a long-distance lover, the cover version has a lullaby quality that melts me into a puddle of girlishness. Doesn’t hurt that it’s featured in a pivotal scene in Garden State (and if you haven’t seen it, well… where the hell have you been?).

5. “Georgia” – Original Cee Lo Green / Cover: Band of Horses
: The jazzy upbeat Cee Lo song showcases his vocal prowess- as always. It’s also a great little tribute to his home state, not sure why it was only on the digital version of The Lady Killer but I was stoked I happened upon it. To me it’s a nice look at what Ce Loo can do with some of the bells and whistles stripped away- truly awesome. For the Band of Horses version they teamed up with the University of Georgia Redcoat Marching Band to turn this tune into a battle cry of sorts for Ben Bridwell’s beloved Georgia Bulldogs. Artists I love covering one another, what more could I ask for?

6. “Killing Moon” – Original: Echo and the Bunnymen / Cover: Greg Laswell
: The Echo and the Bunnymen tune crafts a chilling vibe. It reminds me of growing up in a musical household of eclectic tastes. I didn’t realize that not everyone grew up on everything from Echo and the Bunnymen to REM to The Beatles to Fleetwood Mac, but I’m pretty stoked that I did. The eerie quality of the song lends itself  well to the film Donnie Darko, which happens to be a favorite of mine. Laswell does a solid rendition with a softly sung melody. The changes in the tempo and the more vocally driven quality give his version a different flavor which I find equally appealing and haunting.

7. “Crazy in Love” – Original: Beyonce featuring Jay-Z / Cover: Snow Patrol: 
Sometimes you just gotta shake your ass, right? Crazy in Love is perfect for a midnight dance party (I’m not the only one that does that, am I?). Beyonce’s sexy, fast-paced song has a perfect beat to bounce to. Snow Patrol’s take on the tune makes it little more rock and roll, while maintaining the fun, sensual quality of the song.

8. “Where is My Mind?” – Original: The Pixies / Cover: Placebo: 
The Pixies are just awesome. These alt-rock gods are killer on this song. Guitar heavy, great beat and Black Francis’ voice are a triple threat- giving me an epic music boner. The fact that anyone would take on this quintessential Pixies classic means they got balls, right? Placebo does a great rendition in their signature style. Brian Molko’s inflections and emphasis on words are much different from Black Francis’ but still work well with the hard-edged song.

9. Mad World – Original: Tears for Fears / Cover: Gary Jules
: Tears for Fears totally takes me back to my youth (Pocket Rockers anyone?). Their version of this song is New Wave at its finest, synthesizer-heavy and quick paced. Didn’t realize I’d have so many movie references in the post but oh well, deal with it. Gary Jules somber take on this song, from the Donnie Darko soundtrack, is eerie and beautiful all at once – especially if you’ve seen the film.

10. Love Vigilantes – Original: New Order / Cover: Iron and Wine: 
New Order’s song is little bit pop, a little bit 80′s goodness and a whole lot of English New Wave. It also takes me back to being little J (still had a big mouth though, natch.). Iron and Wine is one of my favorite bands, if I haven’t made that abundantly clear. Their take on the song is folksy and sweet. Sam Beam’s rhythmic vocals and simple arrangement of the song give it new life 20 years after the original.

11. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'” — Original: Velvet Underground / Cover: My Morning Jacket: In my recent devouring of all things MMJ I came across the cover. I could probably drop dead of happiness. The original is quintessential 70s rock and meanders for a luscious seven and a half minutes. Good song for a sunset (totally stole that idea from someone). The cover is pretty close to the original with just a bit of re-imagining. Jim James can do (nearly) no wrong in my eyes at this point. *swoon*

For more interviews, song obsessions, and musical musings with Sounds in San Diego follow along on Facebook or get tweety with me on Twitter.


About Jen Van Tieghem

There aren’t many things I love more than music. While life spins away at a rapid beat I’ve realized it’s important to spend it doing what I love – enjoying music in San Diego. I have a handful of favorite venues, a heart full of favorite bands, and decided to write about it.

2 comments on “Like A Limb Torn Off: Cover Songs That Don’t Suck

  1. Hallelujah! Yes, one of the best. It gives me chills!


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