Published Dec 16, 2014
5. Flaming Lips
With a Little Help from my Fwends
Luckily, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is too good a record to be ruined. Otherwise, Wayne Coyne and his motley crew of Oklahoma psychedelic space-rockers might have managed to do just that with their October track-by-track remake of the classic Beatles album. That's not to say that the band's reimagining — which features glitched-out production, a series of sci-fi sounds and contributions from the likes of J. Mascis, Foxygen and Miley Cyrus — isn't interesting. But it's also incredibly incoherent, somewhat scary and downright weird. For many, it'll sound like their favourite Beatles record being vivisected, converted in confetti and endlessly trampled by an army of men in plastic bubbles.
4. Justin Rutledge
The prospect of recording an album of Tragically Hip covers is daunting for many reasons: What songs to choose? How to do Gord Downie justice? How not to infuriate Hip lovers? Seasoned Toronto singer-songwriter Justin Rutledge managed to release April's Daredevil, ten covers of "golden era" Hip tracks ("Courage," "Grace, Too" and "Locked in the Trunk of a Car" all made the cut), relatively unscathed. The project has its critics, but the stripped-down renditions are a humble homage and a chance to marvel at the poetry of Downie's lyrics.
3. Cur de Pirate
In CanCon-quota-crushing fashion, every season of CBC's Francophone medical drama, Trauma, has featured a soundtrack from a Quebecois pop singer. In January, Cur de Pirate (aka Montreal's Béatrice Martin) left her mark on the TV series with a dozen hushed interpretations of tracks that traverse contemporary music history, from Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and Kenny Rogers' "Lucille" to The National's "Slow Show" and Bon Iver's "Flume." Relying primarily on a muffled piano and Martin's tranquil voice, the record possesses an appropriately serene bedside manner.
2. Oh Susanna
The title of Suzie Ungerleider's cover album, Namedropper, is as much descriptor as confession. At the urging of her producer and collaborator Jim Bryson, the Toronto-via-Vancouver alt-country singer-songwriter, who performs as Oh Susanna, asked some of her musician friends to pen tunes for her to sing on the record. Those contributors comprise a coast-to-coast checklist of roots songwriters: Joel Plaskett, Ron Sexsmith, Amelia Curran, Jim Cuddy and Luke Doucet, to leave out plenty of recognizable names. To Ungerleider's credit, the slow-burning compilation feels notably coherent, playful and, perhaps most importantly, entirely free from gimmick.
1. Soft Pink Truth
Why Do the Heathen Rage?
Consider black metal's fanaticism and grim lyrical content — murder, hate crimes, church burning — and recasting the genre as campy dance music might seem like a dangerous move. That didn't stop the Soft Pink Truth (aka Drew Daniel of Baltimore electro duo Matmos) from creating June's Why Do the Heathen Rage?, a homoeroticized collection of techno covers of black metal songs by the likes of Venom, Mayhem and Hellhammer. Though a few growls and squeals remain intact, the record strays wildly from its sources, throwing retro synths, female dance vocals and a sample of "I've Got the Power" into the mix. It's equal parts tribute, parody and trolldom — and all entertaining.