Though this may be the time of year when cloying pop covers of Christmas songs are picked up from far too many supermarket checkout lines, let it not sour you on all covers completely. Shearwater have a great album full of songs from its tourmates entitled Fellow Travelers, and the band’s Jonathan Meiburg lists all kinds of reasons for playing covers over at the Talkhouse. He lists plenty of reasons (it’s easy; it’s hard; it’s fun), but also touches on some phenomenally simple explanations for what makes great covers tick: “What makes a song a song? Is it the lyric? Is it the melody? How much can you distress a song without injuring its soul?” Shearwater approached many of these questions on Travelers, and the artists listed below used these selfsame queries to make the cover an artform all its own.