10 great Vashti Bunyan covers by indie artists
Vashti Bunyan, grandmother of whispery folk, has had a wonderful resurgence into the indie music world throughout the past twenty years. The British singer got her start in the 1960s and early '70s with her album Just Another Diamond Day and non-album singles like "Train Song" and the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards-penned "Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind." But, believing she had no promise of success, she took a decades-long leave from music. Vashti returned to public consciousness when she was cited as an influence on the early 2000s "freak folk" movement by artists like Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. In 2004, she released Prospect Hummer, a collaborative EP with Animal Collective, which led to her signing to Fat Cat Records. She then released Lookaftering, her first album in 35 years, in 2005 and Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, a compilation of early singles and demos, in 2007.
This was not the end of Bunyan's late-career rise -- the documentary Vashti Bunyan: From Here To Before came out in 2008, and another new album, Heartleap, which she said would be her last, followed in 2014. She has also continued to collaborate with indie artists over the years, appearing on albums by Devendra Banhart, Vetiver, The Avalanches, and Mercury Rev.
Other artists also continue to sing her praises, often in the form of covers, as recently as one this year from Cassandra Jenkins, who released one of last year's best albums. That's just one of the many great ones that's come out over the years, and to celebrate Vashti's impact, we've put together a list of 10 Vashti Bunyan covers from artists we love. Here they are...
Lush - "I'd Like to Walk Around in Your Mind"
British dream-pop meets folk in Lush's cover of a VB classic. Lead singer Miki Berenyi and the band as a whole lend a saccharine tone through vocals, ringing guitars, and a crystal-clear harmonica solo at the end.
Mutual Benefit - "Jog Along Bess"
Mutual Benefit, the project of multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lee, released an album covering the whole of Just Another Diamond Day via Turntable Kitchen in 2019. His take on deep cut "Jog Along Bess" is a beautiful, buzzy fusion of Vashti's folk spirit (particularly in lyrics and guitar) and Jordan's own ambient psychedelia rounding out the background.
Feist & Ben Gibbard - "Train Song"
Feist and Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard traded verses for "Train Song" in 2009 for the beloved indie compilation Dark Was The Night. The two vocalists sing in rich harmony over an acoustic guitar for a sound that is surprisingly bluesy.
King Dude - "Train Song"
"Train Song" has scarcely sounded darker than when King Dude covered it in 2021 for his album Beware of Darkness, a collection of B-sides, demos, and rarities. King Dude's voice is so full, even with intense reverb over the chorus, you almost forget that there's guitar in the song too. It's a stark departure from Vashti Bunyan's mousy falsetto, but a success nonetheless.
Mates of State - "17 Pink Sugar Elephants"
Minimalist pop duo Mates of State released a cover of "17 Pink Sugar Elephants" on Crushes (The Covers Mixtape) in 2010. The sound is more orchestral, featuring the pair's characteristic blend of piano and percussion along with light strings and a little kid singing over the last chorus. The imaginative world the song creates through lyrics alone is really well suited to Mates of State's playful sound.
Saint Etienne - "The Same But Different"
Vocally, Saint Etienne's cover of "The Same But Different" stays very true to Vashti Bunyan's whispery style. The marimba in the British three-piece adds intrigue to the simple song, taken from Vashti's 2005 LP Lookaftering.
Fever Ray - "Here Before"
"Here Before" appears as one of two bonus songs on Fever Ray's 2009 self-titled debut album. Fever Ray, aka The Knife's Karin Dreijer, presents a highly artistic, densely layered electronic take on "Here Before," one that begs to be listened to again and again. This take on the Lookaftering track is a perfect example of Vashti Bunyan as an enduring influence on indie and alternative artists, with a sound as multivalent as it is iconic.
Cassandra Jenkins - "It's You"
For this year's compilation Cover of Covers, Cassandra Jenkins lends her take on the Animal Collective/Vashti Bunyan piece "It's You." The tenderness and clarity in her voice makes for a lovely foil to the lush harp accompaniment. The result is a deeply listenable song.
Beck - "Winter Is Blue"
The only live-recorded cover on this list, Beck performed a simple guitar and mandolin arrangement of Bunyan's "Winter Is Blue" from her debut album at least twice live, including in 2011 in Napa, CA. His voice brings a particular sense of yearning to the seasonal song.
Headless Heroes - "Here Before"
In 2008, the Alela Diane-led supergroup Headless Heroes released The Silence of Love, an all-covers album with renditions of songs by Linda Perhacs, Daniel Johnston, Nick Cave, Jackson C. Frank, and more, as well as Vashti Bunyan's "Here Before." It's a cinematic take, with Dirty Pretty Strings' atmospheric orchestration accenting Alela's echoing vocals.