Cool covers of rock’s guiltiest pleasures

How is a cynical hipster supposed to feel when indie rock’s brightest stars apply their laid-back approach to some of pop’s most lovably bombastic ballads? On Guilt by Association (out 8/21), an offbeat compilation of fashionable artists covering songs that are anything but, the results are comforting proof that mainstream doesn’t have to be a dirty word.

In Devendra Banhart’s low-key take on Oasis’s Brit-rock anthem “Don’t Look Back in Anger” or Petra Hayden’s a cappella rendition of Journey’s schlock-tastic “Don’t Stop Believing,” you can hear the artists celebrate the possibilities of pop music instead of reflexively mocking it. And oddities like Luna’s cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” or Will Oldham’s reinterpretation of Mariah Carey’s “Can’t Take That Away” are arguably more listenable than the original versions. If these two ends of the musical spectrum can learn to get along, what’s next? An Arcade Fire/Celine Dion tour?

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