As the entire country prepares for a seriously dramatic celestial event, you might be thinking about the ideal playlist for the moment. You could always turn to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, “Black Hole Sun”, or “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Certainly worthy contenders, but for a rare occurrence, consider a few brand-new covers to add to your mood music.
Los Angeles quartet Ramonda Hammer gets compared to vintage 120 Minutes-era grunge a lot. Rolling Stone even said they sound “like an alternate Nineties where L7 was the biggest band in the world.” So it’s appropriate that their new David Bowie tribute comes by way of Kurt Cobain.
“We’re all Bowie fans, and when he passed we wanted to cover one of his songs as a tribute to him,” frontwoman Devin Davis says. “I think ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ was the obvious choice because 1) the lyrics are super powerful, and that has to resonate with me when singing a song, and 2) we’re also huge Nirvana fans, and their cover of that song for MTV Unplugged was mind-blowing. Since we’re a grunge band, we thought we’d try a heavy, fast-ish version of the song and make it our own, while paying homage to both David Bowie and Kurt Cobain.”
Covering an entire Rolling Stones album in one go are no new phenomenon. Phish once covered the entire Exile on Main Street live. Mojo Magazine put out a great compilation of soul Sticky Fingers covers. We ourselves have posted full-album tributes to both Sticky Fingers and Beggars Banquet. But these are all classic albums, unquestioned masterpieces. Brooklyn musician Chris M. (who records as Sick to the Back Teeth) did something different. He covered an album few would deem a classic: 1966’s Aftermath.
True, Aftermath has some unquestionable hits: “Paint It Black,” “Under My Thumb, “Mother’s Little Helper.” But it predates the Stones really evolving into an album band. Just as with early Beatles LPs, the UK and US releases don’t even have the same songs on them. So we had to ask Chris, why Aftermath?
The world lost a quintessentially American artist with the passing of Glen Campbell last week. Dolly Parton called Campbell “one of the greatest voices of all time”, and his incredible career certainly supports her praise. Hits that toed the line between country and pop included “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Gentle on My Mind”, and “Southern Nights.”
Many of those hits were covers, including his most well-known, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Originally recorded by Larry Weiss, the song made little impact initially, but became an instant hit in the States once Campbell took it up a year later. Campbell’s charming, heartfelt vocals combined with soaring instrumentals perfectly encapsulated the theme:
For years, Phish superphans and the band’s many detractors – so far apart on so much else – have been able to agree on one thing: the band does some killer live covers. Phish long ago made a Halloween tradition out of covering another band’s album in full, tackling ambitious choices like the Beatles’ White Album and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. And “ambitious” was also the keyword for the band’s just-completed thirteen night run at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Dubbed the “Baker’s Dozen,” each night featured a different donut theme and, more significantly, no song repeated the entire two weeks.
But back to the donuts. The band took the silly premise seriously, theming their sets each night around a donut flavor. This led to a number of surprise covers that they’ve never played before (or probably ever will again). Strawberry-donut night got “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Strawberry Letter 23.” Chocolate-donut night got “Chocolate Rain” and “You Sexy Thing” – originally by Hot Chocolate. They even dug deep into lyrics, playing the one Radiohead song that talks about lemons.
Such first-time-ever covers tend to appeal even to non-fans because they tend to be short and –
let’s keep the donut theme going here – sweet. Unlike a jelly donut, on a song they’ve never play before they rarely jam. Instead, the fun and sheer rock chops to come forward in a way they may not on the heady stuff.
So I’ve ranked all the first-time covers from the past two weeks of Phish’s concerts, below. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan myself – I once wrote an article defending their home of Burlington, Vermont from its jam-band stereotype – but some of these are among the best performances I’ve heard by them. Others…are not.
Director Edgar Wright’s seat-of-your-pants heist film Baby Driver features a carefully chosen group of songs that are set in perfect time to the action on the screen. City sounds and the movements of the actors and actresses work in time with the music with ease. It’s not often that a soundtrack precedes a movie, but in Baby Driver, it even inspired it.
One of the soundtrack’s standouts is Sky Ferreira’s cover of The Commodore’s “Easy”. Ferreira’s blend of drums, guitar, organ, and vibraphone feels just right reinterpreting the cool, seemingly untouchable vibe of the original.