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Now Hear This: Ranking A.V. Undercover 2015

Now Hear This: Ranking A.V. Undercover 2015

The 2015 season of A.V. Undercover came to a close last week. It’s a sad occasion, because it means that we’ll have to wait until the next season for bands to pick songs from a list to cover (aside from the occasional holiday venture). However, the end of the season does mark a time of great joy: Spending a ton of time on a list that people can disagree with.

That’s why I ranked all 30 songs from A.V. Undercover 2015 for your reading pleasure (Note: This list doesn’t include a pair of preview videos, which includes an awesome mashup track featuring Jeff Rosenstock and Andrew Jackson Jihad). Why you ask? Because I apparently like spending a lot of time creating a subjective list of covers. Enjoy.

30) Ceremony – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (Oasis)

After watching this video, you will have no desire to become a rock ‘n’ roll star. That or you’ll just avoid this cover. Or perhaps both.

29) J Fernandez – “Orinoco Flow” (Enya)

J Fernandez turned “Orinoco Flow” into cheesy dungeon music from an old 16-bit game, except without all of the fun of a video game soundtrack. This is just a snoozefest.

28) Leighton Meester – “Lovefool” (The Cardigans)

Leighton Meester has a noise voice, but this cover feels like a well-done karaoke version of “Lovefool.” It’s not bad, but there’s nothing special about it.

27) Wild Throne – “Say Say Say” (Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson)

I’ll give Wild Throne credit for going big, but this cover came off as busy and sloppy. Still, I respect them for trying to take a son in a whole new direction.

26) La Dispute – “Possum Kingdom” (Toadies)

It’s a straightforward cover that lacks the extra flourishes of the original thanks to some flat vocals and unremarkable guitar work. Meh.

25) Josh Rouse – “No Rain” (Blind Melon)

Yeah it’s a nice cover, but it’s hard to deliver a knockout performance on such a faithful cover when I can just listen to the original.

24) Natalie Prass – “Raining Blood” (Slayer)

This might be the most divisive cover of the season. Props for doing something different, but it’s just not working for me.

23) Philly Boy Roy w/ Fake Limbs – “Renegade” (Styx)

This cover comes off gimmicky given that it’s performed by Jon Wurster’s obnoxious Philadelphian character from The Best Show, but it still can’t help but be fun. Also, Fake Limbs can shred.

22) Palma Violets – “Laid” (James)

There is something fun watching a band cover a song they don’t seem to give a shit about. Doesn’t make it an exceptional cover, but it’s still enjoyable.

21) Mikal Cronin – “The Impression That I Get” (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones)

I love the energy of this cover, but the sloppiness of it certainly knocks this one down a few pegs.

20) Benjamin Booker – “Walkin’ After Midnight” (Patsy Cline)

I wan’t sure about this cover at first, but I really ended up digging the simple arrangement. Also, somebody get Benjamin Booker a cough drop.

19) San Fermin – “Stuck in the Middle With You” (Stealers Wheel)

Pretty solid job here. Jazzed it up enough to take it out of the range of straightforward covers and into the mid-range of the season.

18) Here We Go Magic – “One Thing Leads to Another” (The Fixx)

See above entry.

17) Steve ‘N’ Seagulls – “Sabotage” (Beastie Boys)

Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed by this cover, although that’s because I know that this band has done some killer covers in the past. Still, I love the new twist, even if the “WHYYYYYY” was weak. Beastie Boys fans will know what I mean.

16) The Minus 5 – “Cherry Bomb” (The Runaways)

This is a fun performance from a veteran crew. It’s doesn’t quite stick out among the latest crop, but I like their energy, ergo middle of the pack.

15) Chumped – “He’s a Rebel” (The Crystals)

They certainly have a great energy to them. I’m downgrading the cover slightly since some of the vocal transitions didn’t work so well, but it’s still a good job overall.

14) Hippo Campus – “Don’t Bring Me Down” (ELO)

I’ve gone on record as an ELO enthusiast, so it was really nice to see a band of young’ins do such a nice job on this track.

13) Sylvan Esso – “Everything is Free” (Gillian Welch)

This cover is a rather lovely, very faithful rendition of the Welch track. It sure helps when Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner is helping with the harmonies.

12) Barenaked Ladies – “In the Air Tonight” (Phil Collins)

A.V. Undercover always seems to have that one band that surprises people. No matter your feelings on the “One Week” wonders, they do a damn good bluegrass cover of this Phil Collins track.

11) The Weather Station – “Transmission” (Joy Division)

This is a really cool take on this track. In fact, it’s a testament to the rest of A.V. Undercover 2015 that this is only No. 11 on my list.

10) Iron & Wine – “Sick of You” (GWAR)

We all know Sam Beam has a gorgeous voice, but there’s something magical about him covering GWAR.

9) Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn – “The Final Countdown” (Europe)

Two expert banjo players doing an excellent instrumental cover of a ’80s hit while donning wigs? I approve.

8) Screaming Females – “Shake it Off” (Taylor Swift)

Them vocals. This is a fun, rockin’ take of the TSwift track. In fact, I wish Marissa Paternoster used her guitar earlier on in the song, because that girl can shred.

7) Punch Brothers – “Reptilia” (The Strokes)

It’s feels like Punch Brothers cheated a bit here since the band has had this cover in their rotation for years, so this got dropped a few spots because subjective judging is fun. Still, it’s a damn good cover.

6) Flock of Dimes – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (Crowded House)

The aforementioned Wasner of Wye Oak fame (performing here as Flock of Dimes) does a great job on this ’80s cut, which is a surprise to no one who has ever seen her on A.V. Undercover before.

5) Colin Hay – “She’s My Best Friend” (The Velvet Underground)

Man, Colin Hay has a terrific voice. He’s also tremendous at stripping down songs and turning them into little gems, all while making the process look easy.

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4) Troubled Hubble – “Things Can Only Get Better” (Howard Jones)

Just a great take on the ’80s hit. Also, it’s pretty much a rule that if you have backup singers on A.V. Undercover that your performance will do well.

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3) GWAR – “She Bop” (Cyndi Lauper)

Death, taxes, and great GWAR covers at the A.V. Club. Once again, they rock. Also, it never hurts to transition from Cyndi Lauper to “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

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2) They Might Be Giants – “Bills, Bills, Bills” (Destiny’s Child)

I love me some TMBG. The Johns really commit to this cover and it’s an absolute blast. It also doesn’t hurt to hear the guys behind “Birdhouse in Your Soul” sing verses peppered with words like “triflin'” and the like.

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1) Local H – “Shock the Monkey” (Peter Gabriel)

I really wrestled between this cover and the TMBG effort for No. 1, but I have to give it to Local H on this one. They really transformed this already awesome track and it flat out rocked. Plus they’re sharing a monkey suit. That’s commitment.

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Now Hear This is a regular column in which Alex Bieler writes about music – both new and old – that he thinks you should introduce to your ears. If you’ve got a musical suggestion that you think he should highlight, shoot him an email at or tweet at him at @Catch20Q.

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