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.