The Ten Best Covers by Local Bands in 2016

I'm not a fan of cover bands, but I've always enjoyed it when great local bands take a break from their original material and just have fun with a song they love. It feels good. It's also a tradition in the long history of rock and pop. There were a lot of cool covers this year, but these were the 10 I kept coming back to again and again.

10. Doomed To Bloom - "Welcome To New York" (Taylor Swift)
Doomed To Bloom made a fairly impressive three-song EP debut called 1995 this year, and it finishes with a cover of Taylor Swift's "Welcome To New York." This is clearly one of the covers where extreme liberties are taken and the song is transformed into a minimalist synth number that feels that it owes as much to krautrock and The Magnetic Fields or The Gothic Archies more than it does Taylor Swift. Swift's song is certainly still there, but this has an infectious weird hook all to its own. One thing is for sure, Stephin Merritt would be proud of this art pop take on the song, as well as its deconstruction. Looking forward to what this outfit does next year.

9. Merit - "My Favourite Chords" (The Weakerthans)
Hot Vodka Records put together a compilation album to help raise money for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit founded in 1998 focused on suicide prevention efforts among queer youth. Merit contributes a cover of The Weakerthans' "My Favourite Chords" that, for my money, is better than the original. It is an interesting turn and a pure delight to hear Merit slow things down, unplug a bit, discard the emo mantle for a moment, and make this song as disarming as it is charming. I had to listen to it back to back with the original a few times after this was released, because while I loved the entire Left and Leaving album, my first reaction was that this outshines the original, maybe for its soft simplicity and touching sentimentality. It may not have the slide guitar of the original, but it has a cozy warmth that more than makes up for it.

8. Jackson Dife - House of the Rising Sun (Traditional)

When Jackson Dife recently leaked their cover of "House of the Rising Sun" my first thought was, "Wow, that's been done to death." So I gave it a spin and I smiled wide. To be honest, if Eddie Vedder circa Vitalogy had done a cover of "House of the Rising Sun" it would probably sound a lot like this. It reaches in the roots of the blues song from which it was born. Chris DeGreen's voice is wild here, as powerful as it is vulnerable. It's difficult to tell if that's what's in the spotlight or if it's Adam Price's searing guitar throughout. Either way, this song may be done to death, but I'm damn glad Jackson Dife did it anyway. They really turn this song into a complete rager by the time they're done with it.

7. Nerdzerker - "Egg Raid on Mojo" (The Beastie Boys)
Last August, Related Records released a tribute album to the early punk and hardcore catalog of The Beastie Boys called Where's The White Shadow, and it's completely fun from beginning to end. Before I even looked at the track listing when it came out I was busting at the seams to hear whoever covered "Egg Raid on Mojo" and couldn't have been more thrilled that it was Nerdzerker. "Egg Raid On Mojo" was the final song on The Beastie Boys Pollwog Stew EP, and it's always been my favorite from their early career. I knew Nerdzerker would nail it in the traditional sense and they did, except of course this sounds like it's slightly better produced than the original. I would advise checking out the rest of the compilation. I wanted to keep this list down to one song per collection in cases like this.

6. MRCH - "Love Is Strange" (Mickey & Sylvia)

Going for complete reinvention we have possibly the only song that MRCH released this year that no one noticed. I'm not even sure MRCH said anything about it, actually. I found it randomly a couple months ago when I went to listen to their EP. This take on the Mickey & Sylvia classic "Love Is Strange" is as reimagined as possible, turning into a dreamy, synth pop number. In fact, the first time I heard it, I wasn't paying attention and I didn't even know what song it was until the end. They've completely deconstructed it and made it their own. As far as I'm concerned this song is just further proof that MRCH could do no wrong this year, and here they transform a pop classic into a gauzy dreamland of ephemeral sound. Someone should get this to David Lynch.

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Mitchell Hillman