by Eddie Vedder
A Bruce Springsteen cover performed last December at a televised tribute to the songwriter, inducted into the D.C.-sanctioned arts awards alongside Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, and Robert De Niro. Never a big fan of either Pearl Jam or The Rising, from which this song comes, I downloaded it upon a friend's blog recommendation (www.theilliterate.com) and was seized by the way Vedder shakes the song's gospel heart for everything he can, which is a lot. The choir never overbears. And hey—the money goes to Haiti.
by Vampire Weekend
(BBC Radio 1/MP3)
Their real single, "Cousins," made me think of Skavoovie or someone, so it's nice to hear them go third-wave for real on principle alone. But there's more to it than that. Ezra Koenig's wide-eyed vocal gives the song a touch of awe it didn't have before: When Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen holler, "Destination unknown!" they sound like they're about to charge; when Koenig croons it, he spins the line to signify fragility and uncertainty. And Rostam Batmanglij's chiming lead guitar, particularly the solo near the end, finds the song's abundant sweetness and savors it.
by the Flaming Lips, Stardeath and White Dwarfs
It's weird—as often as not, an otherwise useless covers album of another artist's entire LP will yield a real surprise. In the case of the Flaming Lips and their many friends—Stardeath and White Dwarfs are the band of frontman Wayne Coyne's nephew Dennis, while Henry Rollins and Peaches appear elsewhere—Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon doesn't inspire them much. But this splashy, funky guitar-led instrumental take on the side-two synthstrumental original is exactly the kind of curio they invented the single-track download for.
by Jay Reatard
It took a while to get around to this: Reatard's death was upsetting, and I didn't trust my own response to this widely posted Nirvana cover, from an upcoming In Utero tribute disc. I needn't have worried. "Frances Farmer" has the nervous, clicking quality of all his music; his bratty wail is canny and professional, however loose he aimed for, and his guitar playing storms. RIP.