Talk about holiday spirit! ortoPilot, on the heels of his third album of original music, just completed a December run of 25 songs in 25 days. Each tune is an acoustic version of either a Christmas song or a Yule-time chart-topper. Savvy as he is with video editing (you’ll notice lots of cool little tricks sprinkled throughout his vids), OP embedded a calendar to let you see his array of holiday tunes and pick whichever suits your festive fancy. The list includes Gary Jules’ Mad World, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. The run climaxed with an epic YouTube collaboration of eight people, complete with a ventriloquist. Sweet.
For a laugh, give his costumed rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town a try:
And check out this inventive acoustic version of Bohemian Rhapsody:
oP’s music is good stuff, and he makes a lot of it. Two things I’ve noticed watching him play that the rest of us can learn from: 1) he uses a capo to great effect, giving him more vocal flexibility and allowing him to get real funky with open-string pull-offs and the like; and 2) his right hand is quick and accurate, giving the chordy parts of his tunes enough drive to keep his audience engaged. And as you know, we at The AV will crusade for better right-handed playing till Rodrigo y Gabriela come home.
I love Neil Young. He’s one of the greatest songwriters to pick up a guitar, and has authored some of my personal favorites – Old Man, for example. But his voice is definitely an acquired taste, and there’s no sense in denying that he can be kind of goofy. Anyhow, here Neil teams up with The Boss to perform a new tune, Whip My Hair, for a late night television audience. Funny: as he ages he looks more and more like Jimmy Fallon, wouldn’t you say?
For a band with just two members, The Black Keys sure have a big sound. Hailing from Akron, Ohio, the duo is quite prolific – in just 9 years on the circuit, they’ve released 6 critically (and popularly) acclaimed albums. Often a small group is able to streamline the creative process in such a way as would allow them to make music at that kind of clip, and that might well be the case here.
Their most recent album, Brothers (2010), debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, and its first single, Tighten Up, reached #1 on the Alternative Songs and Rock Songs charts before receiving Grammy nominations for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. It’s a beautifully simple tune with an almost jarringly straightforward lyrical introduction – “I wanted love/I needed love/Most of all.” The song was written in collaboration with the one and only Danger Mouse (featured previously on The Acoustic Version with Broken Bells), which makes perfect sense. His influence is apparent in both the composition and the production.
Here’s one Kendra Villiger providing us with a much needed acoustic version of Tighten Up. One thing we try to do here at The Acoustic Version is to find talent in the obscure corners of YouTube and show it to the world. Though Kendra is kind of sloppy with the tempo during the first verse or two, she eventually finds a groove and lets her voice seize the moment. And what a voice it is – strong, accurate, and soulful.
It’s also worth mentioning that she’s playing an Ovation – recognizable from a mile away – which definitely contributes to her sound. Something about the deep, rounded body made of composite material (carbon-graphite, I think) increases the volume and amplifies the low end without sacrificing anything in the way of tone. I’d encourage any acoustic player looking for a sound augmentation to check out one of these babies.
For some reason, Kendra has uploaded very few videos, which is a real shame. There are a lot of songs out there that need to be performed acoustic by someone like her. I’m tempted to nominate some tunes for her to cover, but I imagine she has ideas of her own. Perhaps Kendra just needs a little encouragement to make the effort to post some more acoustic performances. If you dig her style, sound off in the comments section and hopefully we’ll hear more soon!
Jet is a good band, not a great band. They’re clever more than they are creative. They imitate more than they experiment.
Their debut album Get Born (2001), which sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide, provided the 21st century with its first taste of rock n’ roll anachronism by unabashedly blending the sounds of The Beatles and AC/DC. This was cause for both celebration and condemnation of their music, for both reward – three singles off the album (Are You Gonna Be My Girl, Cold Hard Bitch, and Look What You’ve Done) are sing-along songs in the U.S. to this day – and ridicule – such as the suggestion (printed on Allmusic) that their music is “creatively bankrupt.”
Reasonable people can disagree, and whether they’re worthy of adulation or condescension is entirely a matter of opinion. To me, even the more blatant rip-offs are excusable if they provide some desperately needed respite from the usual pop-radio fare. And that they do: the three I mentioned still get play. After nine years.
Make no mistake, though, some of the rip-offs are indeed blatant. Take Look What You’ve Done, for example. Obviously reminiscent of a Beatles piano ballad, Jet openly borrowed not only clips of melody from Sexy Sadie, but even the line “Look what you’ve done/You made a fool of everyone” (almost). But to say that this reflects creative bankruptcy is too harsh. Jet has clearly shown an aptitude for melody – Look What You’ve Done is one of five quality ballads on that album alone.
Here is singer Nic Cester and lead guitarist Cameron Muncey performing an acoustic version of Look What You’ve Done. As it turns out, songwriter though Nic is, singer he is not. Instead of the McCartney-esque feel we’re used to, Nic’s vocals take a detour through his nasal passage, causing strained and occasionally missed notes. Oh well. I still like the song.