Jun 212021
 

Dylan LeBlanc PastimesLike many a performer, Dylan LeBlanc spent the pandemic lockdown to good intent, producing Pastimes. This six-song EP consists entirely of covers, songs that have “inspired him musically and spiritually,” drawing back, as they do, on his childhood and the music he was exposed to by his father, a jobbing Nashville songwriter. Father and son spent Dylan’s teenaged years in the Nashville clubs, where LeBlanc senior was plying his trade as a writer and session man. And one, I might say, with a mighty fine taste in music.

Self-produced in Muscle Shoals, the performances on Pastimes are all live in the studio, with sympathetic backing from a mix of musicians, guitars, keyboards, steel and, gloriously, a string quartet. Strings can often over egg the work of sensitive singer-songwriters, the label most often attached to LeBlanc, but here they complement and complete the arrangements delightfully. These are not dramatic reframings of largely well-known songs; rather, these fall more into loving recreations, the respect for the songs–and, by default, the authors–hugely evident.
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Jun 212021
 
NNAMDÏ Lonely Weekend

Chicago-based indie musician and producer NNAMDÏ has released an alluring cover of Kacey Musgraves’s “Lonely Weekend.” Drawn from the 2018 genre-expanding blockbuster Golden Hour, which earned Musgraves the Grammy for Album of the Year, “Lonely Weekend” is both a charged album opener and, relatively speaking, a deep-cut in her catalog.

On his cover, NNAMDÏ maintains Musgraves’s immediate, electric energy while burrowing deep into the arrangement’s esoteric surprises and insularities. The cover feels like a trip inside the many dreamy and refracted moods of NNAMDÏ’s titular indoor weekend. One minute, an propulsive banjo reel winds up and around in the mix; the next, jarring clusters of drippy, bassy vocal harmonies lazily loll around down below. By the time the song emerges into a deserved, expansive coda at the 2:26 mark, NNAMDÏ’s delicate arrangements and roving musical curiosities have coalesced into something truly progressive, refreshing, and limitless. Continue reading »

Jun 182021
 
skatune redbone

Skanking holds a small place in my heart as one of the only styles of dance I can not only do, but don’t feel self conscious doing.  Thank goodness then that Skatune’s version of Childish Gambino’s hit track “Redbone” gives me an excuse to skank again!

While Gambino’s version is a slow, deep funk track, Skatune’s version is…well, that typical upbeat ska sound. The track is given a sense of urgency, moving the song away its slow dance roots towards a belter for skanking to in a mosh pit. The original melody isn’t really even there – you’d only know the track is “Redbone” after a few lines of the lyrics. There’s even a horn section solo in place of the original synth portion of the track to fully complete the Ska takeover. Continue reading »

Jun 162021
 
sunset rollercoaster

Sometimes reinventing a track means finding a new sound from the elements of old ones. This is certainly the approach that Taiwanese rock group Sunset Rollercoaster took with their cover of  ‘小薇’ (translated to ‘Xiao Wei’), which was originally popularized by Taiwanese singer Huang Pin Yuan. The original track was written and performed by Adi ‘N’ the Brothers in 2000 before Huang’s cover in 2002 brought it to mainstream attention. It remains one of his most well-known songs in Taiwan. Continue reading »

Jun 152021
 

The Shins’ debut album Oh, Inverted World turns 20 this month. To celebrate the release of the remastered edition, the band commissioned several covers to be released as part of the celebration. First, the band Skullcrusher covered “New Slang”; then Buzzy Lee aka Sasha Spielberg covered “Caring is Creepy.” Most recently Frankie Cosmos covered “Girl Inform Me.” Frankie Cosmos began simply as the stage name of Greta Kline, but now the project has expanded into a full band, including Luke Pyenson on drums and vocals, Alex Bailey on bass guitar and keyboards, and Lauren Martin on keyboards, synthesizers, and harmonies. Continue reading »

Jun 142021
 
black midi nothing compares 2 u cover

Buzzy UK math/prog rockers Black Midi just released their second studio album, Cavalcade on May 26, 2021. As part of the release the band polled their fans about which covers they should include on a bonus flexi disc available from record stores. The results are in are the covers are

At first, Black Midi feel sound like they might be taking the piss on their”Nothing Compares 2 U”. Lead singer Geordie Greep’s falsetto is flawed and goofy, almost as if he’s doing a bad Roland Gift impression, and there’s just his voice and a synth. But, whether or not he’s goofing off, once the rest of the band chimes in and the tempo picks up, it really feels like they are trying to put their spin on it. Yes, the vocals are extremely silly, but the musicianship is great – of course it is – and the sense of fun is palpable.

After the guitar solo, things get really weird, with manic interpolations of Frank Zappa’s “Keep It Greasy” from Joe’s Garage and “Let’s Go Crazy” from Prince’s own Purple Rain. (Listen for the reference to Tim Burton’s Batman, which Prince soundtracked, during the “Let’s Go Crazy” segment.)

Yes, it’s goofy, it’s bizarre and it’s possible that the band don’t actually like the song. But it’s a lot of fun, perhaps because of the irreverence. This is pretty hallowed ground after all, and it’s enjoyable to see a band just tearing into such a famous song and not worrying about whether you like it or not. It’s not streaming anywhere, but a Reddit user preserved it on Dropbox.