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Mutual Appreciation: 10 Indie Rock Covers of Indie Rock Songs

The concept behind Peter Gabriel’s forthcoming album Scratch My Back is simple: The artist records his favorite tracks by everyone from David Bowie to Radiohead to The Magnetic Fields, and the musicians he has selected complete the song swap by covering a selection from Gabriel’s extensive songbook.

The list we’ve assembled here was inspired by a different kind of reciprocity — that is, of indie rockers showing appreciation for their own kind. So far, only one of these tributes has been mutual but that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t keep our fingers crossed for more. After the jump, check out ten indie acts covering 10 other indie acts’ singles. We think you’ll agree that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

1. Jose Gonzalez – “Heartbeats” (The Knife)

Some people know this cover better than they do the original, but the blame rests with Sony, not the Swedish electro duo.

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2. The Arcade Fire – “Maps” (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Shouldn’t it be the other way around, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs covering the Fire? But no, the Arcade Fire devours a slice of humble pie to take on this ubiquitous single, which might make you never want to play Rock Band again out of utter respect.

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3. of Montreal – “Know Your Onion!” (The Shins)
of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes faces off against James Mercer’s vocal chops on this song, taken from the Satanic Panic Covers EP. It still maintains the original’s playfulness but introduces an upped tempo, Barnesian falsetto, and psychedelic keys.

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4. Kate Nash – “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You” (Black Kids)

Beautifully raw and live on the French alternative-rock radio station OUI FM, Kate Nash’s version finds the emotional layer of the Black Kids’ original after stripping away the bells and whistles.

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5. The Kooks – “Kids” (MGMT)

Arguably better than most of their catalogue, this acoustic cover of the MGMT breakout single goes to show that the Kooks can produce more than just the occasional one-off hit. The real question is, how does it compare to the iPhone interpretation?

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6. CSS – “Knife” (Grizzly Bear)

Taken from Grizzly Bear’s Friend, a similar idea to Scratch My Back, CSS’s cover shuttles “Knife” to some other distant planet with heavy reverb, dueling synth lines, and a similar vibe to LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great.”

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7. Her Space Holiday – “I’ll Believe in Anything” (Wolf Parade)

Marc Bianchi, mastermind of the dreamweaving outfit Her Space Holiday, takes the childlike whimsy of the original and reckless abandon of Spencer Krug’s vox and puts a folktronic spin on it. We’re holding out for Wolf Parade taking on Bianchi’s “Something To Do With My Hands.”

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8. Friendly Fires – “I’m Good, I’m Gone” (Lykke Li)

Not straying too far from the dance-pop realm, the British electric trio Friendly Fires effs with the timing, genre, and production of Lykke Li’s original. Now picture lead Ed Macfarlane breaking it down to this rendition.

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9. Taken By Trees - “My Boys” (Animal Collective)

Victoria Bergman, the ex-Concrete and voice of “Young Folks“, blurs gender roles and offers up a counter to Animal Collective’s incredible “My Girls,” abandoning the trippy for the tropical.

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10. The Postal Service – “Suddenly Everything Has Changed” (The Flaming Lips)

Ben Gibbard replaces the insane bass line and strings section with rain droplets of keys and himself on both the upper and lower registers. It makes us pine even more for that follow-up that wasn’t supposed to be touched before 2010 came. The time has come.

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Now that we’ve scratched your back, what awesome indie-on-indie covers did we miss? Scratch away.

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