Archive for February, 2011

Filed Under (Reviews and Interviews)

Be forewarned: There is nothing acoustic about this feature. Why not, you ask? Well, we have other interests.. don’t you?

The King of Limbs: the album everyone is talking about. The album you’re obligated to have an opinion about, unless you’re a Christopher McCandless protégé, and your plan involves leaving it all behind for a short and lonely life in the Alaskan wild.

Much of what has been said about Radiohead’s new cut is highly critical, and not unfairly so – there is plenty to be critical about. This album almost completely lacks the technical virtuosity and compositional boldness of OK Computer (and even, one could argue, to a lesser but still significant extent Kid A and Hail to the Thief). There is no single track that breaks ground in quantifiable ways, no obvious standard the way there was Paranoid Android, no masterpiece hidden in plain sight like How to Disappear Completely.

And yet The King of Limbs is just what we’ve come to expect from Radiohead: brilliant, destined for decades of replay and analysis, a landmark, a statement of our times. One might even say that it is the flagship of a newly coined sub-genre we can call “post-pop” (or has that label, like every other, already been taken?) – a self-conscious critique of pop culture, a parody of its most ludicrous and indulgent components with a simultaneous embrace of its redeeming qualities.

This is best exemplified by the album’s first single, the first song most people heard and the only released with a video, Lotus Flower. On the surface, it’s pretty conventional Fourth Wave Radiohead (i.e. Pablo Honey->OK Computer->Kid A and Amnesiac with some transitional identity confusion around the time of Hail to the Thief->In Rainbows and The King of Limbs) – an ostinato bass line, modulating occasionally to fuel the melody which is original yet memorable, with dark, borderline indecipherable lyrics painting a vague picture of conflict, whether internal or interpersonal is impossible to tell.

To understand this song, one should begin with the video, which features a fedora-clad Thom Yorke spastically dancing alone in a back-lit warehouse. Ludicrous though it may seem, the intensity of Yorke’s performance is in large part genuine. At the very least, it reflects the unapologetically idiosyncratic intensity he brings to everything he does. It also matches the pulsating feel of the music playing which, as Radiohead (among precious few others) so often does, defies the neat mood-based categorizations we like to impose on music: sad, happy, pensive, ecstatic, angry, calm, lovesick, defiant.

Of course, it’s not meant to be taken entirely seriously (a fact which, admittedly, didn’t dawn on me until my second viewing – you can imagine my initial amusement). The objective, it seems clear, is Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed Under (AV of the Day, Uncategorized)

If you recognize this song, it’s probably in very different clothing: specifically, checkered or striped golf pants, solid color turtlenecks, and mop-tops. A 1968 hit for Kenny Rogers’ band, The First Edition, Mickey Newbury actually wrote it, and apparently with a very different presentation in mind.

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Just Dropped In by Dada Saint

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Filed Under (Acoustic Covers)

This is a guest post by the one and only Stevie Steve, radio-show host extraordinaire and first time contributor to The Acoustic Version.

One great thing about the rise of the internet and sites like YouTube is the ability for children to find an outlet for their creativity and talents that reaches the entire world. This video is brought to you by a young man from South Korea named Seongha Jung, who for the last 4 years has been astonishing subscribers with his guitar virtuosity. At the ripe age of 14, Seongha has already mastered the acoustic guitar and published over 300 Youtube videos proving his skills. Over 40 of these videos have 1 million views each, in genres ranging from modern pop to classical and everything in between. In 2010 he put out his first album titled Perfect Blue, which mostly contains choice covers, with a few originals too.

The video we bring you today is a cover of the Guns and Roses classic, Sweet Child o’ Mine. This song not only showcases Sungha’s mechanics, but also his ability as an arranger of music. The cover has a much lighter, happier feel than the hard hitting original. Of course this is partly due to the lack of metal instrumentation, but also because Sungha’s acoustic work fully utilizes the potential of the instrument to get a full and rich sound from just a solo guitar. He appears to use an open tuning with capo, and showcases his fingerstyle as well as tapping skills to put a fresh spin on this 80’s metal classic.

Check out his YouTube channel to see how Sungha has evolved over the years and to support his album.

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Filed Under (Acoustic Originals)

The White Stripes broke up last week. While this may have seemed like a foregone conclusion for a while now what with the number of Jack White side projects racking up faster than Rex Ryan foot jokes, the band’s demise was officially announced just recently. With their breakup the music world will lose one of the biggest and best rock bands of recent years, and a band whose deep appreciation of American blues and acoustic music was evident at all times. The White Stripes are well known for their numerous acoustic numbers (which include, but are not limited to, Hotel Yorba and We’re Going to Be Friends, two of the group’s best songs) but, seeing as this blog is dedicated to acoustic music, it’s an unplugged version of their breakthrough song, Fell in Love With a Girl, that I present to you now, dear reader:

This is a guest post courtesy of a White Stripe named Adam. Read his piece on David Byrne and the Talking Heads here. For his safety and our own, his true identity must, once again, remain a mystery.

For those that know the original song, it’s immediately apparent that this version is vastly different. Slowed down significantly, White turns his barnburning baby into a slow, bluesy stomp. White has long been appreciated by many fans for his ability to take an existing song and twist it in to something unrecognizable. The White Stripes frequently played Bob Dylan songs live and managed to put their own stamp on them (for a brief rundown of those songs, check out this link. This tune, while lacking the immediacy of the original, nonetheless presents a songwriter capable of taking his music to radically new places. A true talent, and one that will be missed by this writer.

The studio version, for comparison’s sake:
Fell In Love With A Girl by joshuamic

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Filed Under (Acoustic Originals)

After a long string of rock (in its various forms), this seems like a good time for a change of pace. The Higher Concept formed in upstate NY in 2003, and when I came across them back in December, it was immediately clear this group isn’t hip hop in the sense that has become conventional. To quote from their website, hip hop’s

audience is confused through no fault of its own. Marketing strategies and money-hungry record label executives have purposefully blurred the lines between Rap and Hip-Hop in the public mind – people don’t know the difference, and frankly, most don’t care. Not unlike the confusion surrounding Punk and Hardcore, the masses assume they’re one in the same. The reality is that Hip-Hop (a cultural movement) predates Rap (a vocal style) and has much farther reaching implications, fusing music, dance, visual art and fashion with positive messages about overcoming adversity and pursuing ambitions. Commercial Rap has an opposing agenda, having devolved into a bling’n’booty-centric frenzy that’s more low brow entertainment than it is music.

Hear hear. Being that I’m not immersed in the hip hop world, but in the worlds of rock specifically and guitar-playing generally, the notion of a musical style being one component of a wider cultural movement is unusual and intriguing.

Which makes me wonder: what does the rock world have to offer that can be considered part of a larger cultural movement? Jam-rock has more or less devolved into drum-and-bass-and-drugs (was it ever about more than that?); folk has failed to attract a new generation and at this point is scarcely more than an artifact; many contemporary punk rockers seem unable to tell the difference between minimalism and rule-rejection and, um, mindless crap. Indie might be the closest analogue on today’s scene, but I don’t know if anyone is completely sure what it is, let alone whether you can talk about it as a coherent category. All of which is to say: maybe rockers can learn something from hip-hoppers like these.

But I digress. The lyrics of What Makes You Different, a bonus track off the group’s newest release, Life’s Good, reflect the honesty, maturity, positivity, and genuine artistic impulse that characterize hip hop and are regrettably – and blatantly – absent from mainstream rap. Read the rest of this entry »

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