Photo via YouTube
Triple J’s Like a Version, now entering its 13th year, consistently brings forth some of the best covers of the year—2016 being no exception. From Beck to The Beach Boys to David Bowie, this year’s spread has provided a wildly diverse mix of tracks for us to enjoy. Here are our top ten to prove that 2016 wasn’t all that terrible. Right?
10. Hey Geronimo – Happiness at Best (Courtney Barnett & Regurgitator cover)
Combining Courtney Barnett’s ‘Pedestrian at Best’ and Regurgitator’s ‘Happiness’ is a pretty bold move, but Brisbane’s Hey Geronimo make it work. The vocals on Barnett’s verses effortlessly blend into the Regurgitator chorus, with the help of Tony Garrett’s drumming and vocals from Pluto Jones.
To be fair though, you could mix Courtney Barnett with anything and it would instantly be improved.
9. Temper Trap – Multi-Love (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
The Temper Trap stayed on course for their Like a Version in May, covering Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘Multi-Love’. Despite being a touch predictable, the Melbourne four piece pull it off. Lead singer Dougy Mandagi puts an emotional spin on the usually straightforward track, with the instrumental being much more percussion and guitar heavy than the original.
8. Modern Baseball – Dope Calypso (Violent Soho)
When we heard that one of the biggest American acts of the year were covering a modern Australian classic we had our doubts, but Modern Baseball managed to deliver a pretty damn good cover of Violent Soho’s ‘Dope Calypso’. Co-lead vocalist Jake Ewald’s voice is eerily similar to Luke Boerdam’s, complete with what I would consider to be a fairly decent Australian accent sneaking in here and there.
7. Olympia – Dreams (Beck)
Back in June, Melbourne’s Olympia delivered a stunning rendition of Beck’s 2015 single, ‘Dreams’. An already incredibly complex 5-minute track to start with, the four piece manage to nail every single component. Vocals and guitar steal the spotlight, and lead Olivia Bartley manages to pull both off simultaneously.
6. City Calm Down – Spanish Sahara (Foals)
Eyes closed, City Calm Down’s baritone lead, Jack Bourke, could easily be mistaken as Yannis Philippakis himself. That’s why their cover of Foals’ ‘Spanish Sahara’ is one of this year’s best covers. Complete with a saxophone and trumpet instrumental, City Calm Down manage to recreate the emotionally charged song without breaking a sweat.
5. Sarah Blasko – Life on Mars (David Bowie)
There are only a handful of ‘Life on Mars’ covers that don’t induce wincing, because, well, it’s a bloody hard song to cover. Sarah Blasko’s version, however, is not one of these covers. Pulling it out of the bag only 4 days after the unexpected death of David Bowie, Blasko manages to hit all the right notes in her beautiful tribute.
4. BADBADNOTGOOD ft. Jonti – God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
Toronto’s BADBADNOTGOOD together with Sydney’s Jonti (armed with the wildly underrated clarinet) covered The Beach Boy’s classic, ‘God Only Knows’, earlier this month. To steal a term from the comments section of YouTube, this track takes a ‘coffee house jazz’ spin on the original, with stunningly smooth drumming from Alexander Sowinski and keys by Matthew Tavares. It’s hard to improve on perfection, but BADBADNOTGOOD and Jonti manage to give the track the soulful revamp we never knew we needed.
3. Emma Louise – Into My Arms (Nick Cave)
Nick Cave’s harrowing love ballad/breakup song/emotionally devastating track ‘Into My Arms’ swept everyone off their feet, and Emma Louise managed to do the same in her cover of the single in early October. The track relies heavily on vocals, and Louise manages to pull through almost solely on her voice. Softly backed by drums and cello, ‘Into My Arms’ is the most emotionally charged cover we heard in 2016.
2. Violent Soho – Lazy Eye (Silversun Pickups)
Brisbane favourites Violent Soho’s cover of Silversun Pickups’ ‘Lazy Eye’ (with a sneaky intro from Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’) is an obvious standout from 2016. It’s a rougher version of the original, but it stays true to the trademark Violent Soho sound that keeps everyone drooling for more. While Luke Boerdam’s vocals are top notch, Luke Henery’s bass playing is the real unsung hero of this one.
1. DMA’s – Believe (Cher)
I usually hesitate to nominate a single song as ‘the absolute best’, because there are hundreds of songs and thousands of opinions that will disagree. However, it’s with no fear that I say that this year’s best Like a Version comes from DMAs and their cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’. In what is now one of their most popular songs, DMA’s breathed new life into the 1998 pop classic, by transforming it into an acoustic slow jam. Lead singer Tommy O’Dell’s striking vocals, softly accompanied by Johnny Took and Matt Mason on guitar, takes the cake as the most simple yet stunning cover of 2016.
Look out for this bad boy in the pointy end of The Hottest 100.
Absolutely has to be given to Matt and Alex’s remix of Seal’s Kiss from a Rose.