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Feist's 15 best covers
By
Melody Lau

Published

July 4, 2016

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While Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist has built a fantastic catalogue of original music over the past 25 years, her portfolio does carve out some room for an impressive list of cover songs throughout the years. From her 2004 album, Let It Die, which is half comprised of cover songs, to her occasional one-off covers either live or on record, Feist uses her versatility to tackle a number of different genres and artists.

French jazz numbers, metal songs, and even an R&B hit – Feist has covered it all. Here are her 15 best covers ever.


15. Peaches, 'Lovertits'

Even though this version sounds squeaky clean compared to the Peaches original, there’s something charming about friends Feist and Gonzales coming together to cover a song by one of their closest friends. (Feist even appears in Peaches’ music video for “Lovertits.") It’ll be tough for any fan of these artists to not crack a smile while listening to this fun take.

14. The Kinks, 'Strangers'

This simple, acoustic cover doesn’t particularly stray far from the original, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Performed with just an acoustic guitar, Feist’s version is less boisterous than the Kinks’ stomping classic but there’s still something incredibly warm and compelling about the way she delivers the main refrain: “Strangers on this road we are on/ we are not two we are one.”

13. Blossom Dearie, 'Tout Doucement'

It would’ve been easy for Feist to recreate the 1957 jazz number’s blissful and romantic sound, but Feist is rarely interested in a straightforward cover of a track. Instead, her version adds a touch of whimsy with a dancing piano part that feels more flirtatious than lovesick.

12. Guns N' Roses, 'November Rain'

This one is great just based on pure theatrics. Yes, the cover itself is good, but there's a Slash impersonator and Feist even takes a moment to obliterate a piñata! These are the types of onstage antics that Axl Rose would totally be proud of. 

11. Led Zeppelin, 'Whole Lotta Love'

Feist teamed up with Argentinian singer-songwriter Juana Molina back in 2012 to perform a live cover of Led Zeppelin's famous hit "Whole Lotta Love." While it takes a few moments for Feist and Molina to really get into the track, the two truly commit to the song, and when the rest of the band joins in at the halfway point, it takes off into full-on rock territory complete with a phenomenal guitar solo. 

10. Tweet, 'Oops (Oh My)'

It’s always fun to see Feist team up with Peaches and Gonzales. Their collaborative history has yielded so many amazing projects, from Let It Die to Feist’s even earlier days as Peaches’ hype person under the nickname “Bitch Lap Lap.” This 2011 performance in Los Angeles was pure fun and theatrics. With Gonzales on the piano, Feist and Peaches were given a stage (and a pool!) to perform this cover of Tweet’s big hit “Oops (Oh My)” to its fullest, including a brilliant baptism scene.

9. Mastodon's 'Black Tongue'

While this cover may come as a surprise to some – Mastodon and Feist joined forces in 2012 on a split 7” where they covered each other’s songs – Feist is no stranger to heavy rock. (In fact, she began her music career in a Calgary punk band called Placebo.) Her take on “Black Tongue” definitely doesn’t sound like any music she makes now but it still utilizes her best skills, including killer guitar parts, an ability to anchor a song around a strong beat and, while her voice is more buried in the mix, it still finds a way to shine through. All in all, it’s pretty badass.

8. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, 'Islands in the Stream'

Feist and the Constantines strip this Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet of all its glitz and glamour and dive straight into the maudlin center of this classic love song. The gorgeous results are stretched out into a slow-burning gem, a collaboration that deserves to be remembered just as much as the song’s original pair.

7. Leonard Cohen, 'Closing Time'

Recorded for the soundtrack of Sarah Polley’s 2011 film Take This Waltz, Feist’s take on Leonard Cohen’s 1992 song is more upbeat and festive, to fit the party scene it accompanies. The stripped-down, bass-driven cover is more akin to the simple folk sounds of Jason Collett, but she punches things up a notch on the chorus with an enthusiastic declaration that it’s “closing time!”

Editor's note: language warning.

6. The Tragically Hip, 'Flamenco'

Feist’s latest cover, an homage to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, is an off-the-cuff acoustic version of the Hip’s 1996 Trouble at the Henhouse cut, “Flamenco.” It’s not mixed or mastered, just a barebones performance that shows immense respect for one of Canada’s greatest bands. It’s simply beautiful and almost as perfect as the original.

5. Blossom Dearie, 'Now At Last'

“Now At Last” feels like a song that Feist has lived with for years, a song that she might randomly play at the end of a long night if she happens to find herself standing near a piano. The grandiosity of the piano here, versus Blossom Dearie’s more muted instrumentation led by a guitar, sweeps you right off your feet and makes the crushing reality of heartbreak hurt tenfold.

4. The Bee Gees, 'Love You Inside Out' (cover version is called 'Inside and Out')

Feist swaps out the falsettos and feathered hair on her version of the Bee Gees hit “Love You Inside Out.” While the track still hits a groove that makes you want to dance, this cover is a glowing spotlight on Feist’s signature raspy voice.

3. Nina Simone, 'When I Was a Young Girl'

When covering an inimitable artist such as Nina Simone, it’s important to assert your own style and sound as opposed to trying to copy Simone’s emotions and intonations. Thankfully, Feist’s take on Simone’s 1976 track “When I Was a Young Girl” is a complete transformation. A simple rhythm lays out a foundation for Feist to soar both vocally and with a melodic guitar riff that ties it all together.

2. Nina Simone, 'See-Line Woman' (cover version is called 'Sea Lion Woman') 

While “Sea Lion Woman” maintains the original Nina Simone track’s infectious rhythm section, Feist’s version infuses her guitar prowess with a standout riff that builds into an explosive solo breakdown. While Feist is often lauded for her incredible vocals, here we get to see her prove herself as one of the best guitarists out there. "Sea Lion Woman" still remains a live highlight for those who have seen her perform in recent years.

1. Ron Sexsmith, 'Secret Heart'

On rare occasions, we will find a cover version of a song that surpasses the original. This is one of them. “Secret Heart,” a highlight off of Feist’s 2004 album, Let It Die, is actually a song written by Ron Sexsmith in 1995. This version, though, breathes life into Sexsmith’s acoustic take, animating it with a sturdier beat, a whirling synth floating in the background and beautiful strings, not to mention a voice that truly sells lines like, “Secret heart, come out and share it/ this loneliness, few can bear it."

More to explore: 

25 best Canadian songwriters ever

Listen to Feist covering the Tragically Hip's 'Flamenco' in tribute to Gord Downie

From the Weeknd to Magic!: Canadian musicians before they were famous

Verses: Chilly Gonzales and Feist have a one-on-one conversation about Canada, cowboys and their craft