It’s no secret that we love a good cover here at Wears The Trousers. We’re always trawling around looking for intelligent reworkings of other people’s songs. Some are to be admired for sheer imagination, some for their classic feel, and others are simply mind-blowing stuff. Here’s our ten favourites from 2010.
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from the album Les Shelleys [FatCat; November 2010]
Sung almost a cappella, Angela Correa and Tom Brosseau’s cover of Dylan’s (mostly) true-to-life tale of racial segregation and social injustice sticks to Bob’s very matter-of-fact delivery but with the hushed, unshowy harmonies that made Les Shelleys one of our 2010 live highlights.
from the album Philharmonics [PIAS; October 2010]
We’re total suckers for musical loveliness from the geopolitical hotspot of Scandinavia and its Nordic cousins. Danish expat Agnes Obel ticks all of our swoon-boxes, possessing as she does a hushed, precise voice that tickles our sweet spot and makes us go all woozy. We were introduced to her through this spooky, hushed cover of John Cale’s gorgeous ballad ‘I Keep A Close Watch’, and we’re still in love with it.
from the album Made The Harbor [Bella Union; June 2010]
Hugely successful American vocal quartet The Mills Brothers had a hit in the mid-1930s with ‘How’m I Doin’ – one of over 2000 recordings the Ohio family made during their career – but we hadn’t ever heard it until Mountain Man so wonderfully recreated it in their own authentic way. Slotting in midway through their soothing debut album, it brought a welcome sense of joy to proceedings.
from the album Downtown Church [Credential; January 2010]
For her sixth album, self-professed “lapsed Catholic” Patty Griffin teamed up with longtime friend Buddy Miller to record a contemporary gospel album. The result, predictably, was a passionate and heartfelt exploration of spirituality and human nature. ‘Move Up’ is one of the album’s liveliest tracks. Here, Griffin engages in a powerful call-and-response refrain with backing singers Jim Lauderdale and the McCrary sisters Ann and Regina. Authentic and uplifting, it’s a wonderful recording by one of our most gifted singer-songwriters.
from the Eidolon EP [self-released; December 2010]
This genius cover of Monica’s 1995 R&B hit ‘Don’t Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days)’ is the latest in an every-growing line of covers from Casey Dienel that includes Justin Timberlake’s ‘My Love’, Neon Indian’s ’6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know)’ and Arthur Russell’s ‘Lucky Cloud’, and proves yet again what an incredible interpretive artist Dienel is turning out to be.
from Brooklyn Vegan presents Sunsalute: A Tribute To Katrina & The Waves [Brooklyn Vegan; May 2010]
To celebrate Katrina Leskanich’s perennial ‘Walking On Sunshine’ reached the grand old age of a quarter-century in May this year, culture blog Brooklyn Vegan called upon a bunch of their favourite contemporary artists to cover a song from the Katrina & The Waves back catalogue. Dating back to 1983, ‘I Really Taught Me To Watusi’ probably won’t be familiar to most people but Merrill Garbus drags the song out of its dated production into a fuzzed-out modern indie-rocker full of that amped-up ukulele sound and epic percussion that makes her live shows so spectacular. The throwaway original doesn’t exactly reach meaningful new depths here, but for completely bonkers fun and plenty of that infectious Garbus charm it’s well worth a listen.
Brooklyn’s Scary Mansion are far from the first to cover Cyndi Lauper’s enduring 1983 hit ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, but no one else has reinvented the feelgood skirt-swisher to sound quite so fragile as Leah Hayes has done here (though Spain’s Russian Red came close in 2008 with her gorgeous cover.) The filtered vocals and crawling bassline give the song a frayed and distant strangeness.
from the ‘Ghost Town’ 7″ [Wichita Recordings; September 2010]
Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit broke through internationally when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ racked up a huge number of hits on YouTube, introducing those drawn in by their unreal harmonies to a talented pair of songwriters in their own right. Covers of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier‘, Devendra Banhart’s ‘This Is The Way‘ and Graham Nash’s ‘Simple Man‘ followed, among others, but it was this unexpectedly brilliant makeover of Fever Ray’s ‘When I Grow Up’ that really showed what Klara and Johanna can do with someone else’s tune.
from the ‘Mercy Street’ 7″ [Rabid; September 2010]
Worked up for her 2010 mini-tour, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s take on Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album track ‘Mercy Street’ is a masterclass in reinvention. In Karin’s own words, “We made it more intense and faster to fit our eccentric percussionists and energetic live musicians. It’s a monotone track but we work with the dynamics trying to make it sparkle. I listened to it a lot when I was around fifteen, it still moves me. Made me start reading Anne Sexton too.”
from the album I Will Be [Sub Pop; March 2010]
Originally released in 1964, ‘Baby Don’t Go’ was a sleeper hit for Sonny & Cher, achieving chart success only after ‘I Got You Babe’ catapulted the married duo to fame the following year. Forty-five years later, Dum Dum Girls reinvent the single as the perfect album closer, a melancholic finale stuffed with angelic harmonies and twinkling guitar that provides a fitting comedown from an otherwise urgent collection of clever, edgy pop.