Leave it to the kids at Hush Records to get an album of cover songs right. Doing such a feat requires that not only do the artists take things too seriously, but also that they don't completely disregard everything that made the original great in the first place. Cover albums tread delicate territory. On one site, they can be too reverent, and while songs are close to their original, nothing new is actually brought to the table to make things interesting. On the other side of things, the covers are so drastically different that the original might as well not even exist.
Johnny Cash proved over the years that he was capable of finding the soul of the songs he covered, and in large part the groups (mostly comprise of upper-northwest groups) have done so with the songs of the Icelandic charmer. Noise For Pretend opens the release with an absolutely stunning rendition of "It's Oh So Quiet" (a difficult task given how well the song is known), and again show why they charmed me so much with their debut of Happy You Near. Blanket Music follow it up with a hazy, lazy electronic lounge cover of "Hyperballad," and label head Chad Crouch sings through things like he just woke up from a long nap (falling in line perfectly with the line, 'I go through this / before you wake up').
Indie-rock trainspotters will be happy to know that Death Cab For Cutie singer Ben Gibbard makes an appearence on the release with his stripped-down and nice cover of "Joga," while The Decemberists (coming off a two-year hot streak) add what is probably one of the best renditions on the release, turning "Human Behaviour" into a growling sea-shanty. Bobby Birdman croons out "Unravel" over a wheezy accordian and lush instrumentation while Kind Of Like Spitting turns in a jangly performance of "In The Musicals" that works quite well.
As mentioned above, it's the covers that don't stray much from the originals that are the least effective, but even tracks like the well-performed "The Hunter" by Katlyn Ni Donovan are still pretty good. Interestingly enough, these songs were originally released internet-only just about a year ago, with interest spreading so much that the whole batch is being re-released with fancy new artwork in Japan on the small P-Vine imprint Folkcore (in cooperation with Hush). If you're a fan of Björk or quiet, well-constructed indie rock, you'll find something to enjoy here