The 15 Best Cover Songs of 2013

Music Lists Cover Songs
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The 15 Best Cover Songs of 2013

Although 2013 was one of our favorite years in recent memory for original music, there were also plenty of surprises in the realm of cover songs. From Fiona Apple’s surprise appearance in a Chipotle commercial to cover Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” to Tame Impala’s spot-on (but still unexpected) cover of OutKast’s “Prototype,” it was a fun time keeping an ear toward the Internet for re-imaginations of our favorite tracks.

Below, we’ve listed our 15 favorite new takes on old favorites in 2013. Share your own in the comment section.

15. Morrissey – “Satellite of Love” (Lou Reed)
Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” isn’t anything new for Morrissey, but it took on new meaning for the singer after Reed’s passing this fall. Morrissey cemented the importance of the touching tribute when it was included in his own short set at the Nobel Peace Prize concert.

14. Tears for Fears – “Ready to Start” (Arcade Fire)
With “Ready to Start,” one of the more covered acts of recent days becomes the cover band, taking on Arcade Fire’s Suburbs track with glitchy beats and some of the same synthesizers that would inspire this year’s Reflektor.

13. Okkervil River – “Dance Hall Days” (Wang Chung)
For a year that was defined by nostalgia for Okkervil River with The Silver Gymnasium, the band didn’t hold back with a take on an ‘80s staple, Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days.” With a horn section and Will Sheff’s unmistakable low-croon, this one could slip by in a live set without younger fans knowing any better.

12. Built to Spill – “Age of Consent” (New Order)
Built to Spill  pulled out all the stops for this cover-heavy surprise set in San Jose. One of the highlights was New Order’s singalong-inspiring “Age of Consent”—and the fan video definitely makes us jealous we weren’t there.

11. Iron & Wine, Glen Hansard, Kathleen Edwards, Calexico – “Fairytale of New York” (The Pogues)
This star-studded take on a holiday classic was a surprise for anyone who didn’t catch this Christmas-inspired supergroup at WFUV’s Holiday Cheer Concert at the Beacon Theater in New York, but those who tuned into Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last week were in for a surprise treat. With a packed stage and verses traded between Edwards, Sam Beam and Hansard, this one justified its last-minute inclusion on our list.

10. Wilco, My Morning Jacket – “Cinnamon Girl” (Neil Young)
On the road with Bob Dylan as part of his AmericanaramA tour, Wilco and My Morning Jacket came together to cover Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” last July. While the pair have not released new material since MMJ’s Circuital and Wilco’s 2011 LP The Whole Love, fans were just happy they stocked sets with covers—and lots of ’em—including a take on “Cinnamon Girl” that would send crowds into fits.—Lori Keong

9. Chris Thile – “Sonata No. 1 in G Minor IV – Presto” (Bach)
Chris Thile, the celebrated mandolin player from The Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek isn’t the first popular musician to cross over into classical music, but he might be the only one who has done it this successfully. Genre-jumping of any kind is an extremely risky venture, and you don’t have to look very far to find examples of artists who have failed miserably when they’ve attempted to deviate from their established styles and images. Thankfully, these performances of Bach’s solo violin pieces arranged for the mandolin are so subtle, uplifting and accomplished that they should have the opposite effect and add to Thile’s already considerable reputation as one of the finest young string players on the circuit today.Douglas Heselgrave

8. Lorde – Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
Lorde  must have been a Donnie Darko fan. Like “Mad World” before it, Lorde took “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears for the latest Hunger Games installment. By slowing the song to a crawl, Lorde revealed the slow-churning bummer that existed under the synth-washed ’80s production.

Although 2013 was one of our favorite years in recent memory for original music, there were also plenty of surprises in the realm of cover songs. From Fiona Apple’s surprise appearance in a Chipotle commercial to cover Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” to Tame Impala’s spot-on (but still unexpected) cover of OutKast’s “Prototype,” it was a fun time keeping an ear toward the Internet for re-imaginations of our favorite tracks.

Below, we’ve listed our 15 favorite new takes on old favorites in 2013. Share your own in the comment section.

7. Arctic Monkeys – “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake)
One of 2013’s biggest rock bands takes on its biggest rapper for Arctic Monkeys’ disco-friendly cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Trading Drake’s silky auto-tuned lines for Alex Turner’s cool-headed howls, Arctic Monkeys made this modern pop hit their own without upsetting fans in the process.

6. The Flaming Lips – “All You Need is Love” (The Beatles)
This beautiful, spacious cover of a Beatles classic takes on all the haunting production quirks of The Flaming Lips’ latest, The Terror: slow-burning (and anxiety inducing) synths, dollops of reverb and Wayne Coyne’s reassuring croon. It’s not an easy task to take on songs by one of the most beloved bands of our time, but reassigning that song’s tone to a specific point in your career is another accomplishment entirely.

5. Over the Rhine, The Lone Bellow – “Slip Slidin’ Away” (Paul Simon)
We could have expected that combining two harmony-driven folk acts for a take on a Paul Simon classic would be good, but The Lone Bellow and Over the Rhine’s take on “Slip Slidin’ Away” for NPR’s eTown radio had epic results.

4. Haim – “Strong Enough” (Sheryl Crow)
Haim has had enough comparisons to late ‘80s/early ‘90s pop artists for us to see this one coming, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. This percussion-heavy take on Sheryl Crow’s hit has been played all over, but the Lorde-featuring version for VH1 was particularly fun. Maybe it won’t make you dig out your old Crow CDs, but it’s a fine slice of work from a decade that Haim was a product of.

3. Diogo Mello and His Dad – “Don’t Let Me Down” (Beatles)
Think of something cute. This beats it: an adorable child just shy of two years old wailing out The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” with a ukelele in hand. Meet Diogo Mello and his father, our father/son duo of the year and possibly ever. During the three days after it was posted online, the video racked up almost 300,000 views, and it now sits at over 7 million. Don’t be the last one in on the adorableness.—Patrick Filbin

2. Tame Impala – “Prototype” (Outkast)
We had no doubt that Tame Impala would do OutKast right when covering “Prototype,” but we never thought this retro-rooted outfit would pull out a cover so true to the song’s roots. This echoing tribute to the ATLiens gets it all right: the tight, funky bass flow, sandpaper guitars—and you can’t deny that Three-Stacks impression.

1. Fiona Apple – Pure Imagination (Gene Wilder)
Say what you will about Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” campaign—many complained of hypocrisy within the now-huge burrito chain when painting itself as a clear-cut alternative to current food-production methods. But one thing that was untouchable about the ad was Fiona Apple’s inspiring take on “Pure Imagination,” a song sung by Gene Wilder in the screen adaptation of 1971’s Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory.

Apparently Apple did the ad out of pure respect for Wilder. She said the following in a Pitchfork interview last October:

Chipotle was in a big rush and they initially wanted Frank Ocean, but he screwed up his voice. And they wanted to use “Pure Imagination,” a song I wanted to do in a show when I was 18 but was too afraid to. I didn’t want Gene Wilder to be upset about that song being sung by some idiot. I thought that I had the best chance of doing it well. This is the absolute truth: The only person that I care what they think of the Chipotle commercial is Gene Wilder.

And there you have it. What we’re left with is a classic song with Apple’s staples—beautiful instrumentation, her voice in top form. It’s stunning, dark, and even though it’s a familiar tune that I’ve known by heart for decades, it’s one of the more feeling-stirring things I’ve heard all year.

Also in Music