There have been plenty of groundbreaking indie covers released by some of the biggest artists in indie music over the last few years.
With indie artists covering everything from famous pop songs to hit classics, it’s easy to miss some stunning, groundbreaking covers. So, we’ve put together a list of 10 groundbreaking covers you’ve got to listen to below.
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Iron & Wine – “Such Great Heights (The Postal Service cover)”
This is an interesting case, in that many folks still believe Iron & Wine’s version is the original. Made famous by the indie film Garden State, Sam Beam’s whispery vocals and plaintive finger picking sound so perfect it’s hard to believe the song was borrowed from The Postal Service’s decidedly unacoustic 2003 blockbuster LP Give Up.
Arctic Monkeys – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (Tame Impala cover)”
Recorded on Triple J’s Like A Version (a show on Australian public radio that is responsible for many of the best cover songs you’ll hear in 2014), this solo-version of Tame Impala’s psych hit “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” may not transcend like the original, but it’s surprisingly effective as a campfire strummer. Alex Turner has certainly come a long way as a vocalist since he was mumbling about Montagues and Capulets on 2006’s breakout full-length Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Miley Cyrus – “my future (Billie Eilish cover)”
After performing at the 2020 MTV VMAs, Miley Cyrus helped launch BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge Month with a four-song set that featured covers of Billie Eilish and Eagles. Cyrus’ full-throated rendition of “my future” is stunning. It sees the Bangerz artist maintaining the piano ballad feel of the original, which explodes into a groovy break, but Cyrus brings some powerhouse vocals. “I love when a current artist is inspired by the past and that song has a bit of jazz standard inspiration in there which I love,” Cyrus explains of her choice.
Hozier – “Say My Name (Destiny’s Child cover)”
Lase year, Hozier released a cover of Destiny Child’s hit song “Say My Name” as part of the Spotify Singles Series. Hozier’s version of the iconic 1999 tune is stripped back and slower than the original, as Hozier’s deep vocals add a little more blues to the R&B original. “During rehearsals for the recent tour, the band and I would throw around a few progressions and grooves while on break,” Hozier said in a statement. “We fell into this bass line and just started singing the Destiny’s Child classic over it.”
Karen O – “Bullet With Butterfly Wings (Smashing Pumpkins cover)”
What a crossover! The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O dropped a spine chilling cover of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by the Smashing Pumpkins. The eerie track comes off the soundtrack for Amazon Prime’s series, Hanna, which also features her previous release “Anti-Lullaby.” The hollow, yet echoing track varies pretty substantially from the original, as Karen O’s meloday is purposefully disquieting, with her wailing vocals atop a waning electronic instrumental.
Bon Iver – “Come Talk To Me (Peter Gabriel cover)”
We had some reason to expect this one — Bon Iver was one of the original artists Peter Gabriel covered on the first of his two-part Scratch My Back covers project. But it was still a minor miracle Justin Vernon returned the gesture, as a number of coverees on the first record opted out of recording a Gabriel original for inclusion in the reciprocating sequel, And I’ll Scratch Yours.
Tegan and Sara – “Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)”
Bruce Springsteen’s brand of working class Americana certainly doesn’t rush to mind when thinking about Tegan and Sara, but in 2009, the duo tapped into the fundamental sadness at the core of “Dancing in the Dark” for an online series charting the Boss’s influence called Hangin’ Out On E Street.
Billie Joe Armstrong – “Gimme Some Truth (John Lennon cover)”
Green Day frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, has released a new cover of John Lennon’s 1971 protest song “Gimme Some Truth.” Armstrong describes his version of the song as somewhere between Generation X, Billy Idol and Lennon’s original. “This song was written by John Lennon. The first time I heard it was from one of my all-time faves Generation X!”
Phoebe Bridgers, Arlo Parks – “Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead cover)”
Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks have teamed up for a cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” as part of BBC Radio 1’s Chillest Show with Phil Taggart. The beautiful clip sees the two artists performing the The Bends track from inside of a church, as Parks delivers a powerfully sparse piano line and delivers some soft harmonies as Bridgers takes the lead on vocals.
Hayley Williams – “Don’t Start Now (Dua Lipa cover)”
While gearing up for the release of her debut solo album, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams stopped by BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, where she delivered a cover of Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” and her own solo track “Simmer.” Williams’ cover of “Don’t Start Now” is stripped-back, with ambient instrumental lines as Williams’ throaty vocals take the lead, delivering the track’s popular lines like, “Don’t show up, don’t come out/ Don’t start caring about me now.” Her rendition of “Simmer” was far more gritty, as Williams’ added a rougher tone to her voice.