Get Lucky: The Best Cover Songs of 2013

2013 Best Covers

I’m back! It’s been a busy few months since my last post and I’m sorry it took me so long to return to blogging. I’ve actually spent that time and most of this year going to loads of gigs and listening to tons of music. In fact, I’ve probably listened to more new music than I’ve ever listened to in a calendar year before. It’s been a brilliant twelve months for music and I hope to use the rest of it to tell you about my favourite songs, albums and films of the year. Of course, it could be 2014 by the time I finish doing all that, but today I’ll start off by telling you about my favourite cover versions released in 2013 and later in the week I hope to write about my favourite original tracks

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Such a Night

I’m not usually a fan of tribute bands, but I saw one last weekend that proved to be the exception to the rule. It took place at Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick, though it would be more correct to call it a tribute to one of the greatest musical events in rock & roll. The show being celebrated was the 1976 farewell performance by The Band that took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco during Thanksgiving Day. This spectacular concert not only featured The Band along with an impressive horn section, but also some of the biggest names in music at the time. Thankfully, the show was filmed by Martin Scorsese and given a cinema release two years later as The Last Waltz. I first bought a copy on video cassette over twenty years ago and upgraded to DVD a few years ago. I’ve watched it dozens of times over the years and it always cheers me up no end when I put it on. It was no different at Dolan’s last Saturday night

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Get In Line

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The second part of my list of favourite albums from last year continues with five acts that were already familiar to me from previous years. I’m a big fan of the debut album by Fleet Foxes and I was always going to like their second record. I don’t like it as much as their first one, however, and I have to admit that it’s taken me a while to get into it. It doesn’t have any standout tracks like White Winter Hymnal on the previous album, but it works well as a consistent collection of original songs and that’s why it makes it onto my list

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Ladies First

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I’ve been meaning to put up a list of my favourite albums of 2011 for a while now, but I’ve only gotten around to it this week. I didn’t think 2011 was one of the best in recent years for new releases, though I did have a few dozen worthy efforts on my final list. When I narrowed it down to ten I noticed that it was evenly split along gender lines, so I’m going to present it in two parts

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Late Nights With The Power Pop

The American singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet celebrates his 47th birthday today. I first heard of him in 1991 when he released his breakthrough album, Girlfriend, a record I’ll be looking at when it reaches its 20th anniversary in a few weeks. The type of music Sweet performs belongs to a genre known as power pop, which feature vocal harmonies and strong melodies as well as memorable guitar licks. Groups like The Beatles and Big Star have exerted the biggest influence on the genre. Sweet has covered these bands throughout his career and, with the help of Susanna Hoffs, released two fine albums of songs from the sixties and seventies. Their version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes? is taken from the first of those and features Hoffs on lead vocals with Sweet providing harmonies and the guitar parts. It’s preceded by three songs that Sweet has contributed to tribute albums over the years. Big Sky appears on This is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies. Let Me Be the One is from If I Were a Carpenter. And his quite effective take on the theme from Scooby Doo is part of a musical celebration of Saturday morning cartoon shows. The final song is Death Cab for Cutie’s acoustic version of the opening track from Sweet’s 100% Fun album. Sweet’s just released a new album called Modern Art and you can download a free track from it at his website. From what I’ve heard so far, it sounds like it could be a welcome return to previous form. Both the new album and Girlfriend are available in a number of different formats and I’ll reveal more when I revisit Girlfriend on October 22nd. Hope you have a sweet birthday, Matthew

Big Sky (Kinks cover) – Matthew Sweet

Let Me Be the One (Carpenters cover) – Matthew Sweet

Scooby Doo, Where Are You? – Matthew Sweet

Who Knows Where the Time Goes? (Sandy Denny cover) – Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

Sick of Myself (Matthew Sweet cover) – Death Cab for Cutie

Luck of the Irish

It was with some joy that I opened the above text message on my phone yesterday. As you can see, I’ve won the not inconsiderable sum of 300,000 Great British Pounds in a rather wonderful competition called the Ongoing UK COCA-COLA 2011 PROMO. Not bad, eh? It sounds even better when you convert it into other currencies. For example, it’s worth a third of a million euro and nearly half a million dollars. The funny thing is I don’t remember entering the competition and I’ve yet to visit the UK this year. I don’t even drink Coca Cola! I haven’t phoned or emailed them yet in case they tell me that it’s all a mistake. I suppose I should’ve been spending my day wondering how I’d spend this sudden windfall, but instead I put together a playlist. The first three songs are about people dreaming of winning the lottery and wondering how they’d spend the money. It’s holidays and vacations for Harry, a new car for Bruce and a jet plane for Patti. The Format, Ani DiFranco and, in particular, The Walkabouts offer their own interpretations of these songs. The final three tracks deal with luck as Junior Tucker and the Easy Star All-Stars delve into reggae, while Frenchman Noël Akchoté delivers an instrumental version of Kylie’s debut hit. Its title and words should leave nothing else to be said about my apparent good fortune

The Lottery Song (Harry Nilsson cover) – The Format

Used Cars (Bruce Springsteen cover) – Ani DiFranco

Free Money (Patti Smith cover) – The Walkabouts

Some Guys Have All the Luck (The Persuaders cover) – Junior Tucker

Lucky (Radiohead cover) – Easy Star All-Stars

I Should Be So Lucky (Kylie Minogue cover) – Noël Akchoté