Two years ago, we looked at the Best R.E.M. songs of all time, but today we look how some of those great songs have been interpreted by others.
We noticed three things while compiling this list: 1. Everyone wants to slow down R.E.M. with the exception of folk supergroups. 2. It’s refreshing to understand the lyrics of those early songs. 3. There aren’t tons of R.E.M. covers out there. Here are the 20 best we could find:
20. Samson and the Philistines – “Talk About the Passion”
Okay, so we really just like this one because it’s in Italian. Off the sub-par tribute album Surprise Your Pig.
19. Dr. Dog – “Find The River”
Dr. Dog make R.E.M. sound like late-era Beatles on Stereogum’s Drive XV: A Tribute to Automatic For The People.
18. The Corrs – “Everybody Hurts”
Runner-up: Annie Lennox & Alicia Keys.
17. Jawbox – Low
Another Surprise Your Pig entry.
16. Ingrid Michaelson – “Nightswimming”
With nothing but a loop pedal on her vocals, Michaelson recreates most of the instrumental parts. Runner-Up: The Wrens.
15. The Veils – “Drive”
Another song from the Stereogum tribute. And yes, they’re all this slow.
14. 10,000 Maniacs – “Don’t Go Back To Rockville”
Sounds a lot like a 10,000 Maniacs song.
13. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – “Shiny Happy People”
Symphonic renditions of pop music often struggle not to sound like emasculating elevator music, but this one has enough unbridled joy to keep from plunging down the shaft.
12. Motion City Soundtrack – “Pop Song 89”
Loud! Fast! Thank you!
11. Redbird – “You Are the Everything”
Folk trio Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and Peter Mulvey offer a loose take that sounds like three friends around a fire with a bottle of whiskey.
10. Great Big Sea – “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”
The mandolin licks are a nice touch.
9. Editors – “Orange Crush”
Just when you think they’ve just slowed down R.E.M. like everyone else, the British quartet takes it back up a notch.
8. Pavement – “Camera”
Pavement slows “Camera” way down, making it a little spooky and off-center.
7. Hem – “South Central Rain”
Off the No Word From Tom album, Hem offers the prettiest vocals an R.E.M. song has ever been blessed by. Runner-up: Grant-Lee Phillips
6. Glen Hansard – “Hairshirt”
Hansard played this mandolin-only version on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon back in 2009.
5. Rosie Thomas w/Sufjan Stevens – “The One I Love”
Runner-up: Sufjan Stevens’ own version is equally lovely.
3. Cry Cry Cry – “Fall On Me”
Leave it to folkies Dar Williams, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky to rock out an R.E.M. cover.
2. Old 97’s – “Driver 8”
From the Mimeograph EP
1. The Decemberists – “Cuyahoga”
After inviting Peter Buck to play guitar on The King Is Dead, the Portland band covered R.E.M. for KEXP.