Over the years, we’ve written about Matt Pond PA’s fantastic covers of Lindsey Buckingham, The Human League, and Nico. For years, the NYC-based band fronted by the titular Matt Pond has bought a tender beauty to every song they’ve touched. But with their newest album, the just-released Still Summer, Matt Pond PA is calling it a day. Before they do, though, they’re releasing one more cover, which we’re pleased to premiere below.
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.”
“Unique” is an overused word, so when a press blurb landed plugging an “incredibly unique cover album,” we were skeptical. But if ever something deserved to be called “unique,” a collection of avant-garde jazz covers of Blink-182’s massive 1999 album Enema of the State is it.
Bassist Benjamin Ryan Williams records as B.E.N. so his version is called, naturally, Benema of the State. It’s a concept as dumb and goofy as Blink-182 themselves, but Williams takes the project seriously. Despite appearances, Benema of the State is no novelty album. “The main reason I wanted to [make this record] is because I thought the composition and the melodies are really good,” he said. “It’s to try to recreate the feeling of listening to Blink-182 as a kid, but doing it as an adult playing their music.”
Mark Bryan wears many hats. Best known as the guitarist co-founder of Hootie and the Blowfish, he also runs an after-school music program for kids and just won an Emmy for producing the PBS music series Live at the Charleston Music Hall. He’s lived in South Carolina for decades, and a concert there when he was in college inspired a track on his new album. It’s a good story, so we’ll let him tell it:
Covering one of the greatest and most distinctive vocalists of all time is a risky proposition. Many Roy Orbison covers deconstruct the songs so the new singer can tweak the melody, under-sing, or otherwise dodge away from head-to-head comparison with Roy. But on his beautiful new cover of “Blue Bayou,” Michigan’s Shawn Butzin faces the challenge directly. And, against all offs, he nails it.
Butzin brings a country twang to “Blue Bayou,” sounding closer to Roy’s Sun Records roots than the original did. He’s got the expressive voice to sell the melody, crooning over harmonica and subtle backing vocals. It’s a tribute, he says, to another Butzin with a golden voice.
Any band from Asbury Park has an obvious choice to make. You can run like hell from any Boss comparisons or embrace your city’s favorite son. Levy & the Oaks has chosen the latter, healthier option on a new cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” premiering below.
“I’m on Fire” is one of Springsteen’s most-covered songs, and the first few guitar strums might make you expect another paint-by-numbers Americana version. But the moment Lou Panico starts singing, it becomes something special. He may hail from Springsteen’s stomping grounds, but he is not too beholden to tradition, changing the song’s melody and rhythm to make it his own.