Rating: 5 stars
Over the past week, I have learned the pain of putting together a bar length set firsthand. Finding songs you love and want to cover is easy, but making them your own is difficult to do. ‘Under Cover,’ a new Spotify original podcast, explores how some of your favorite bands choose, transform and perform cover songs.
Each episode is about ten minutes long and highlights a different band’s experience covering one of their favorite or most challenging songs. Many songs are picked by artists in an effort to pay homage to a musician they admire, experiment with sound elements, or to work with a genre they wouldn’t normally create.
“I feel there are three categories of cover songs,” Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie said during the podcast’s first episode. “There is the fairly universal song that a lot of people know. When they hear an artist they admire perform it, it sheds a new light on the song, or adds a kind of sense of humor, or weight to it … Then there are the obscure, record collector cover songs that people like myself like to bust out from time to time, to teach people about songs they might not otherwise know about. And then there tend to be the songs that are really moving me or us in a particular moment that have special significance.”
This podcast offered insight into music composition and aesthetics from two of my vocal idols, Courtney Barnett and Rachael Price. While having extremely different styles, these two women are equally passionate about their craft, and hearing the two women I admire fangirl over their favorite artists was a unique experience.
On the podcast’s 21st episode, Lake Street Dive dissected their cover of Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass,” and discussed the choices made in their transformation of the EDM sounding track to match their southern folk rock sound.
“You have to get in the head of musicians that you admire and really get inside the song and figure out why it works the way it does, why it does to you what it does,” Price said during Lake Street Dive’s interview. “And then you can take little bits and pieces of that and bring it into your own songwriting, too.”
The personal narratives that accompany each band’s cover contribute a lot to the podcast’s appeal. Hearing about Lake Street Dive’s struggle to fill their sets before they wrote original content inspired me as an artist and inspired me to hear their songs in a new way. It’s also compelling to hear what elements of each song inspires and excites the musician.
“I think I embellish the guitar solo a bit, just for my own ego,” Courtney Barnett said on covering “Houses” by Elyse Weinberg.
Other episodes feature artists who range widely in genre, like Troye Sivan, Panic! At the Disco and Vampire Weekend. All of the covers discussed on the podcast can be found on the Spotify Singles: Cover playlist, and ‘Under Cover’ can be streamed directly on Spotify.