It was just over two years ago that Glasgow trio Chvrches first tapped their synth keys into our hearts with their dark, romantic pop. Aside from their Recover EP and full-length debut The Bones Of What You Believe, the band has given us a lot of listening material, covering songs by many other artists at their shows and on radio appearances, among other places. As any Cat Power or Mark Kozelek fan can tell you, when an act with a very distinct sound takes on something not of its own creation, the results can shed new light on a piece of music you already adore. Since singer Lauren Mayberry has just added Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” to her repertoire, here we count down the 10 cover songs we know Chvrches to have done. And yes, that does include the Game Of Thrones theme.
10. “Tightrope” (Originally by Janelle Monáe feat. Big Boi)
What attracts a lot of people to Janelle Monáe is her nimbleness, which she executes with utmost precision on her breakout single “Tightrope.” Chvrches obscure the song’s pluckiness, mutating it from a song about turning a blind eye to your naysayers into something that seems a little bit less secure in walking across that dangerous wire. There’s also the awkward matter of Lauren Mayberry singing phrases like, “You dance up on them haters” and “Keep getting funky on the scene” so somberly. They succeed here by taking one of the most buoyant pop songs of the last five years and turning it into something grim.
09. “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” (Originally by Whitney Houston)
First things first, Whitney Houston is hard to cover because her church-raised voice triumphs over almost anyone trying to compete. Still, there’s weight to how forgiving Mayberry sounds as she delivers lyrics about a trifling, consistently lying guy — and it helps that Chvrches change the lyrics, so said philanderer is coming home at 10PM instead of 3AM. But what Chvrches should have done is commit to changing the song elsewhere. The handclap-heavy verses are an excellent companion to the original’s sprawling Darkchild productions, but Chvrches should have employed it throughout instead of opening with such a blown-out rendition of the nursery-rhythmic synths that make Whitney’s version so cold.
08. “Go Your Own Way” (With Bleachers) (Originally by Fleetwood Mac)
Let’s put this one on Bleachers. Chvrches are usually super savvy when it comes to adapting covers for their brand of pop, but something about Mayberry as ethereal queen isn’t quite right here. Still, where she doesn’t stack up in the soul/R&B sphere, this is a little bit more her speed. Hopefully, this is just an Anton-One-Off and the next time we hear her reinvent something so beloved, it’s as good as what’s below.
07. “Do I Wanna Know?” (Originally by Arctic Monkeys)
Having to follow London wailer Sam Smith — who had covered this AM track on Zane Lowe’s show back in October 2013 — is tough. But where Smith employed the same stoner-rock sounds as Arctic Monkeys, Chvrches made their version wholly their own. They strip away the song’s yearning hopelessness, their dark pop approach making the sentiment sweeter than the flailing (albeit excellent) original. The only thing that’s missing is the punch on the hook. Had they given it the same power, this might have been one of their best remakes.
06. “I Would Die 4 U” (Originally by Prince And The Revolution)
One of the best parts of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” is the shooting-star-sounding synths that ribbon through the song. Here, Chvrches cover the song to a T. While their other remakes find the band imbuing tracks with their twee-tinged synth-pop, this stays totally in line with the original — but it works. (And, really, are you even allowed to skew too far from Prince?) One of the best things about this cover is that this could actually be one of their own songs. It’s cryptic in places, devotional in others — the kind of thing we’ve grown to expect from Chvrches.
05. “Falling” (Originally by HAIM)
Who could imagine there would be something to make HAIM’s “Falling” sound subdued? But here, Chvrches have taken the song and made it spritely by making the sisters’ restrained verses a lot more emphatic. The transition into the ebullient hook is what makes the HAIM song so special, but Chvrches pay them a fitting tribute, piquing my own curiosity for what HAIM covers will sound like in the future.
04. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (Originally by Bauhaus)
Unvarnished post-punk and Chvrches do not go hand-in-hand, but with their cover of Bauhaus’ classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the Glasgow trio sharpened their synth-pop fangs. For some, this compact and near-cutesy cover of something so legendary might be nothing short of sacrilege. But by maintaining the sinister, angular guitar riffs and Mayberry’s ability to be haunting while practicing restraint, this winds up a loving, modern tribute. And, hey, anything that can get a tween who watches Vampire Academy (on whose soundtrack this song appears) to look up Bauhaus is OK in my book.
03.”Stay Another Day” (Originally by East 17)
“Stay Another Day” by ’90s British boy band East 17 is heartbreak pop with training wheels. Its sparkly keys are ham-fisted and the whole song is shrouded in so many layered vocal tracks, it makes you feel like you’re drowning in a pool of sugar water. Even if you identify as a poptimist, the shmaltz overload is still too much to take, especially for a song that deals with desperation. But these kinds of songs are written for 12-year-old girls who haven’t experienced that realm of emotions yet, and are meant to coax them into a place that helps them understand “one day someone is going to hurt me,” without having to rip that reality bandage off too quickly. Chvrches, who debuted their version in BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, make the song something that can actually comfort someone going through that pain. Mayberry’s voice is tough but trembling, and the sparse synths bolster the song’s fear of loneliness. When Mayberry sings, “Good times we’ve had return to haunt me,” you really feel like she’s walking with that ghost.
02. Game Of Thrones Theme Song
Cook and Doherty’s approach to the Game Of Thrones theme song kept it medieval, but turned it into something you’d actually want to blast in your car. It lives somewhere between a Drive soundtrack extra and the missing part of the score to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. As someone who’s never had any impulse to watch the show, this cover, especially its bright conclusion, is more of a co-sign to submit myself to its gore than anything off of the show’s rap mixtape Catch The Throne.
01. “Team” (Originally by Lorde)
Lorde has a penchant for starkness in her singles. There’s a hypnosis that comes from listening to her impenetrably thick vocal delivery, particularly in the verses on “Team.” Mayberry’s higher-pitched sweetness makes this song about coming from a place no one cares about more triumphant than the original. Maintaining more layered synths throughout the cut adds to its sentimentality. The song may have lyrics about being “over getting told to throw my hands up in the air” but this kind of rep-your-set song requires just that. Here, Chvrches give it a quality that allows you to do so.
UPDATE: And here’s a bonus, recorded on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge 2/19/15…