Published Dec 24, 20135. Chvrches
"Killing in the Name" (Rage Against the Machine)
While Chvrches lean towards synth-pop on most days, the UK outfit bring a twee-folk vibe to their timid take on Rage Against the Machine's cop-castigating rap-rock classic. "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me," has never sounded so adorably anti-authoritarian.
"We're Only Gonna Die" (Bad Religion)
Sloan decided to give a shout-out to their punky past lives this year when they issued their "Jenny"/"It's in You, It's in Me" 7-inch. Included with the single was a download for 12 covers of various old school hardcore crews like Angry Samoans and Minor Threat. Sloan's run-through of early Bad Religion number "We're Only Gonna Die (Of Our Own Arrogance)" keeps thing speedy, with Chris Murphy taking over for Greg Graffin's erudite punk croon. How Could Hell Be Any Worse? More like, how could Sloan be any better?
3. Twin Shadow
"I'm on Fire" (Bruce Springsteen)
George Lewis Jr. went on a cover song rampage this fall, serving up home-brewed redos of Lou Reed, U2, Tori Amos and more, but it's his airy, synth-driven take on the Boss's Born in the U.S.A. classic that lights us up most. The nocturnal number gets a noir-pop makeover, full of whispery vocals, a snappy drum machine pulse and late-night dub touches. It's given us a bad desire.
2. Feist with Timber Timbre
"Don't Give Up" (Peter Gabriel)
So's "Don't Give Up" is one of Peter Gabriel's most affecting songs, getting by on his and Kate Bush's impassioned cries and their message of hopefulness. '80s-era synths are swapped out of Feist and Timber Timbre's contribution for Gabriel's And I'll Scratch Yours project in favour of hypnotic strings and conch shell conks. Flipping the gender dynamic of the original, Feist takes on Gabriel's lines, while Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk's rich and earthy baritone booms on about the importance of keeping your friends nearby.
Sometimes the best covers are the most subtle. Slowcore trio Low didn't do much to the basic structure of Rihanna's impactful ballad, with Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker tag-teaming around that melancholy piano melody the same way RiRi and Mykki Ekko did before them. There's an effortless grace, though, to how the married couple and longtime bandmates' vocals mesh together that makes this cover just as memorable as the original version of one of 2013's biggest hits.