The Ataris - “The Boys of Summer (Don Henley)”
Okay: raise your hand if upon hearing The Ataris’ cover of “The Boys of Summer” back in 2003, you thought it was actually their own song. You can’t see me, but my hand is definitely up. In fact, I had no idea it was a cover for a whole two years, until one fine morning when I was in eighth grade and my mom made a comment about how much better it was than the original. Without question, it absolutely is.
Everything from the sped-up tempo, to the progressive, much-improved instrumentals, to Kris Roe’s smooth-to-rough vocals, sounds like this is an Ataris original. Even though So Long, Astoria also boasted “In This Diary,” another mega-hit, this cover certainly did the album and band an entire world of good, receiving oodles of radio air-time and even making it to the top of the ever-infamous MTV music video countdown TRL (R.I.P. childhood). This song is a pop-punk classic, and by far outdoes its original not-so-pop-punk predecessor’s classic status. It’s hard to even think that someone before this band uttered, “My love for you will still be strong/after the boys of summer have gone” into a microphone. No offense, Don Henley, but this cover is so good that it pretty much puts the original out of existence. - Brittany Oblak
All Time Low - “Umbrella (Rihanna)”
It can be a little hard to remember nowadays, but there was a time when All Time Low brought the pop and the punk in equal measure, and they never did it better than on this cover of Rihanna’s mega-hit “Umbrella”. Marrying snarling guitars with sticky-sweet vocal harmonies that only soar bigger and brighter as the song progresses, “Umbrella” is such a natural fit for All Time Low’s strengths that you’d be forgiven for thinking Terius Nash helped pen it with the clown princes of pop-punk in mind. It’s a prime example of what can happen when a great song finds its way to a band at the peak of their creative powers. - Jesse Richman
Bayside - “Be My Baby (The Ronettes)”
Bayside has always produced good covers – so good, in fact, that the songs are sometimes mistaken for originals by less knowledgeable fans (see: “Megan” by The Smoking Popes). With their first covers EP, the band stepped into new territory, choosing to cover songs they had grown up listening to, and perhaps introducing a whole new generation to the likes of The Ronettes, Elvis Costello, Del Shannon, Van Morrison, and Billy Joel.
Of the five tracks on the EP, “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, is the only one originally performed by a female band. However, between Anthony Raneri’s distinctive vocals and Jack O’Shea’s gripping guitar solo, the transition into a Bayside song is all but impeccable. Though Bayside has never been particularly known for love songs, the harmonies and vocal overlays that give this track its old school, swoon-worthy feel suggest that maybe the band should try it more often. - Becky Kovach
The Early November - “The Power Of Love (Huey Lewis & The News)”
I’m a sucker for cover versions that are truly transformative, and I’m not sure I can think of one that flips the script as radically as The Early November does on their cover of Huey Lewis & The News’ bombastic pop-cheese classic, “The Power Of Love.” By trading the skronking synths and pulsing drums of the original for laconic, hypnotically repetitive acoustic arpeggios and whisper-thin vocals, Ace Enders and company gingerly excavate the love that’s long been buried underneath all that power. I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again; it’s an obscure gem that deserves to be heard. - Jesse Richman
Kevin Devine – “Holland, 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel)”
“The only girl I’ve ever loved was born with roses in her eyes / But then they buried her alive.” If I didn’t know any better, the cinematic lyrics to “Holland, 1945” could have been written by Kevin Devine. It’s no surprise that Devine chose to cover this Neutral Milk Hotel song, but what is slightly surprising is how he could change so little about the arrangement and still offer a completely different spin on the tune. Devine has a knack for making woeful songs sound like a celebration, and this cover is far from being an exception. - Alyssa McKinley