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  • Jack Loftus

NOTEWRTHY: Acoustic Recordings

Welcome back to NOTEWRTHY, please put your tray tables into the upright and locked position.

Today, let’s talk about acoustic recordings of songs. More specifically, let’s talk about why I like them so much, as well as some specific examples.

These days, acoustic recordings, live versions, or whatever they’re categorized as, usually come from an artist doing a special recording session with a company like Spotify or another recording company. But why do them? Why re-record a song you’ve already made with just a few stylistic changes? If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that I’m not a fan of lazy remixes. So what makes these different? It’s the amount of effort and the exact changes that are made.

It’s common practice these days for many singers to simply load up a music production software like Ableton, FL Studio, etc., and use the pre-installed instruments to record their background. While it makes the recording and music-making process much faster, it doesn’t carry the same effect as songs with individually recorded instruments. Due to this, when an artist releases one of the acoustic covers or live recordings, it usually means they put more effort into the new version.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware some of the “live” or “acoustic” versions that are out there are just the vocals from the original that have been removed and put over a new version of the original beat. But there are ways to tell when an artist took the time to re-record the original in a new style. For example, let’s look at a song called “Jackson, You Are Dying” by Picture Us Tiny.

I may have found the original through TikTok, but I immediately fell in love with the song. It had the punk sound I was looking for at the time and, understandably, the lyrics hit a bit close to home as I had found it during a not-so-great period of my mental health. Despite that, this song helped start to get me out of that funk a little bit, so I’ve listened to it quite a bit since its release. Recently, the band decided to release an acoustic version of the song, and for all the reasons above, I was pretty sure that it was just going to be a “vocal transplant” as I’ll call it. However, I realized very quickly it wasn’t.

As soon as I heard the vocals of the new version, I could tell that it was different from the first release. The vocals were more gritty and unpolished, while also sounding airier than the original. This actually made it easier to hear what the singer was saying as well. Also, the guitar fits very well. Since it’s an acoustic version, obviously, the acoustic guitar is the main instrument we hear, but we also hear some light percussion in the background. All of these factors come together to create a version of the song that is much more relaxing than the original, but doesn’t infringe on what the initial release was doing.

Let’s look at another song that’s a live recording, specifically released as a Spotify Single: “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI. A little while ago, LAROI released a set of singles for Spotify. One of them was a cover of his late mentor Juice WRLD’s song “Lean Wit Me,” and the other was a live/acoustic version of his own song “WITHOUT YOU.” And while the cover itself is good, it sounds extremely edited. What I mean by that is that the song sounds as if LAROI’s vocals were simply copied and pasted from the original track and put over an acoustic guitar backtrack. Now, obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it doesn’t exactly feel the same as if he re-recorded his vocals as other artists often do. I will say that there is a chance his voice just sounds exactly the same as when he recorded it for real, and that he uses very little editing on his voice, but I respectfully doubt that. Regardless of my nitpicking, the song is good, and the guitar fits the vocals.

Lastly, let’s talk about one of my favorite bands of all time, Green Day. For a band known for their obsessive use of power chords and intense drums, they have some amazing songs that use just a guitar and vocals. From songs like “Macy’s Day Parade” and “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life),” the band is no stranger to taking things slower than normal. But let’s make the last song we talk about one from their 2016 album Revolution Radio, “Ordinary World.” For a song about hypothetical questions left unanswered, the song is strangely optimistic sounding. The song asks “How can we obtain our lofty and borderline unreal dreams in a world that is quite simply ordinary?” The song is also a call back to “Extraordinary Girl” from American Idiot (2004), in which they sing “She’s an Extraordinary Girl, from an ordinary world…” The stark contrast between the two makes this song even more special because it gives the song another level of complexity. Despite the simple pattern the guitar follows in the song, the song is really great and worth a listen for sure.

Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for this week. I will see you all next time.

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