Mike Deni of Geographer Shares His Favorite Cover Songs of All Time

San Francisco-based guitar and synth indie pop artist Geographer (a.k.a. Mike Deni) recently released an entire EP of covers called Endless Motion. The EP, which dropped in December, features remixed covers of tracks by artists such as Paul Simon, Felix Da Housecat, New Order and Kate Bush. Before hitting the stage tonight for their New Years Eve performance at “The Big One,” alongside The Flaming Lips, Ratat, and Tycho, Geographer took a moment to share with us his favorite cover songs (of other artists covering other artists' songs).

Florence and The Machine covers: “Where are U Now” by Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber

“I love this song. I'm a sucker for chopped up vocals in the hook. I think, if we do have a Jimi Hendrix of our day, it's Skrillex and the guitar is the computer. He uses it the same way: Lots of fills and riffs, taking it apart and putting it back together again. And if you put that song on enormous speakers, that Diplo hook sounds like cream on chrome. Florence and The Machine balance just enough of the original juicy elements of the song with what they do best, and the result is this moody, slow burning sizzler.”

Ryan Adams covers: “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
“If you like Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, this is its ghost. I think Ryan Adams has always been amazing, like so many artists are. But the one thing they lack is a million dollar song. And putting one of those in the hands of a performer as captivating and honest as this man is, of course, going to be musical starlight. There's no frivolity, no cheapness. It says something very fascinating about the image not just of an artist, but of a song itself. What does the roll of production or publicity play in the actual song itself?”

Disclosure and Sam Smith cover: “Hotline Bling” by Drake
“I think everyone is wondering why they love this new Drake offering quite so much, and I think Disclosure and Sam Smith answer that question for us: Because it's beautiful and gentle, but it also has the kind of lyrics that you can sing into your friend's face out of nowhere. It's just about an insecure guy in a moment of weakness, and when it's treated with the sensitivity that these guys bring to it, both in the production and the vocals, that vulnerability is at the forefront, not hidden behind bravado and sexual postering. It's not so much a “song” as it is one big, long catch phrase. It's a vibe. It's a thing. But it's a cultural artifact, it's an art installation.” 

James Blake covers “Limit To Your Love” by Feist
“I mean, my God. This song rivals its original, which is saying a lot. Probably the best cover since Joe Cocker did “With a Little Help From My Friends.” And the reasons are the same: Both artists took the raw power of the original and chucked out everything else. There's nothing cute about Blake's version, nothing gentle. All the fragility, honesty, and weight of Feist's lyrics are laid bare on the taught high-wire of Blake's oceanic warbling vocals.”

Nirvana covers: “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie
“Like Neil Young's” My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue),” it's as if this song were written for the Grunge era. But it wasn't! It was written in 1970 and was essentially a dud in its own time. It took this rag-tag bunch of regular-guy-rock-gods to show the world just how beautiful and eerie this David Bowie B-side really was.”

Nico covers: “These Days” by Jackson Browne
“A 17-year-old Jackson Browne not only wrote this song, but was dating a German model named Nico at the time. “I was still young,” Browne said of his romance with Nico in Mojo Magazine. “She had a kid and would not speak about herself. It was up to you to guess what she was thinking.” One of the results of this mercurial coupling, though, is this achingly gorgeous version of one of Browne's first songs, which he himself recorded the iconic fingerpicking on. He recalls watching The Royal Tennenbaums in the theater and thinking, “Why is this song so familiar to me?” before realizing that he had written it and recorded on it. Nico's plaintive non-singer vocals, Browne's preternaturally world-wise lyrics, John Cale's string arrangement, and apparently Andy Warhol's artistic direction, made this song an absolutely perfect recording.”

Hallelujah covers: “Jeff Buckley” by Leonard Cohen
“This was my introduction to this song, and I didn't learn it was a cover 'til many years later when I really got my musical education after leaving the bubble of my small-town life in New Jersey. But, I still listen to it just as much, if not more, than the original, which frankly has too much power to listen to idly. Buckley's version, though, recorded shortly before his tragic and untimely death, adds lush beauty and a dash of optimism to the deaf dumb and blind truth of this masterpiece. This is one of the songs that taught me how to sing, driving around in my car with my friends joining it at the top of our lungs.”

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