In 2015 it seemed like every artist out there was up for slipping beneath the covers and tackling tunes originally released by other musicians. Whether it was live, in session or covering a whole album, NME was there, listening to see if it was any good. Thankfully, quite a few were. Here are the 10 best from the past 12 months.
10. Alessia Cara – Hotline Bling
An impressive, stripped-back version from the 19-year-old Canadian, she did away with the fanfare and bombastic production of Drake’s original, to re-imagine the track as a sweet acoustic number. Combining a soft guitar riff and her velvety vocals, she confidently turned the original on its head.
9. James Blake – Sound of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel’s winsome ballad actually found fame when it was remixed in 1965, a year after it’s original release and bulked out with a stronger, electronic sound. 50 years later, Blake has thrown his hat into the ring with an inventive remix.
8. FKA twigs – Elastic Heart
In standard twigs style, there’s brooding basslines and falsetto vocals, but her take on Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ brings as close to a more conventional pop sound as she’s ever dared stray. During a Radio 1 Live Lounge visit she tackled Sia’s dynamite song writing with ease while still managing to stamp her unique, pioneering vibes all over the track.
7. Bob Dylan – Stay With Me
Releasing a whole album of Frank Sinatra covers, as ‘Shadows In The Night’, Dylan ignored the bombastic orchestral favoured by the King of Swing, replacing it with a far more barebones and intimate sound. Think Leonard Cohen doing Rat Pack karaoke and you’re almost there. ‘Stay With Me’, is the pick of the bunch.
6. Haim – Cause I’m A Man
Haim were irritatingly quiet in 2015. The year passed by with no sign of new music from the trio, and all we got was a few Insta snaps of them with new best pal, Taylor Swift. They did however take on the shimmering ‘Cause I’m A Man’ by Tame Impala, reminding us just what we were missing in typically gorgeous fashion. The original is a sensual slow-burner, but Haim drop the pace even lower and somehow made power ballads cool for four minutes.
5. Wolf Alice – Steal My Girl
One Direction and Shoegaze were united unexpectedly when Wolf Alice occupied the Live Lounge in November. Complementing groaning guitars with Ellie Rowsell’s hushed vocals, the polished pop ballad was given a grungy and noisy rework.
4. Hot Chip – Dancing In The Dark
The electro wizards returned in 2015 with a typically solid album ‘Why Make Sense?’, chock-a-block with intricate floor fillers. However, their finest moment of the year arrived when the group tried their hand at Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit, ‘Dancing In The Dark’, the song acting as a euphoric closer for several festival sets including Glastonbury and T In The Park. Guitarist Al Doyle (formerly of LCD Soundsystem), even manages to sneak a few lyrics of ‘All My Friends’ by the now-defunct dance-punks into the final few minutes
3. Ryan Adams – Blank Space
When Adams announced he was going to be covering Taylor Swifts’ ‘1989’ in full, he was met with a trace of scepticism. But Adams successfully managed to make Swift’s chart-busting album sound even more effortless. ‘Blank Space’ was the highlight on both Swift’s and Adams’ versions, with Adams stripping back the pop anthem into a sublime heart-wrencher.
2. Slaves – Shutdown
Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ was justly crowned NME’s Best Track Of The Year and the punk rework from this Kent duo only elevates it. The pair opted not to stray from their usual formula in this Live Lounge cover, boiling the track down to a thumping beat, adding some meaty guitar work by Laurie and vicious vocals from Isaac. Skepta even joined the boys onstage when they covered the song at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend.
1. Florence + the Machine – Times Like These
Although this may not have been the way Flo envisioned conquering Glastonbury, her set on the Pyramid certainly saw her command a stage like never before. Her headlining slot was confirmed after Dave Grohl broke his leg and was forced to cancel the Foo Fighters’ appearance, but she paid a fitting tribute with this stunning cover. Flo replaced the hammering guitar from Grohl on the original with a gentle acoustic strum and soaring vocals. As a result, Flo duly kicked into touch one of those fabled Glastonbury ‘moments’.