Spoon - "Don't You Eva"
A few songs on this list fit so neatly into their adoptive albums that you wouldn't know they were covers. Perhaps none embody that description more than "Don't You Evah", Spoon's remake of The Natural History's "Don't You Ever". It's faithful in most respects, but Britt tweaked the lyrics here and there and, as you've probably already noticed, phonetically altered the title. Spoon was so big on the song that they based an EP on it, and it was the set opener the one time I caught the band back in 2006.
Local Natives - "Warning Sign"
As far as bands that I've inexcusably failed to explore go, the Talking Heads are one of the biggies. I'll get to them sooner or later, thanks partly to the Local Natives covering a TH tune on their Best of '10 effort Gorilla Manor. Their version of "Warning Sign" retains the loopy snap of the original, but cleans it up a bit to keep with the Natives' aesthetic.
M. Ward - "To Go Home"
It's not uncommon for prominents artist to cover Daniel Johnston--it's something the likes of Beck, Flaming Lips, and Wilco have done--but M. Ward went so far as to slot a Johnston tune into his best record, Post-War. Ward takes a song of desperation--with its sweet, wounded lyric set and rise-and-fall major chord chorus--and turns into an inspirational affair. But Ward's version doesn't abandon the wide-eyed awe for existence that defines the original.
Uncle Tupelo - "Atomic Power"
Uncle Tupelo's March 16-20, 1992 doesn't shy away from non-original material. Seven out of the album's 15 tracks are covers, although only one of those seven isn't listed as "traditional". That one? "Atomic Power", an apocalyptic anthem by the Louvin Brothers. The Tupelo version is largely faithful to the Louvin's original, but is completely within the spirit of March 16, Tupelo's acoustic turn. Uncle Tupelo's songs are defined by modern-day anxiety, and the lingering potential of nuclear war is just as valid today as it was in the 1950s.