Earlier, I was thinking about how several of my most-anticipated new releases of 2013 have disappointed me. While a few bands have released really solid albums in the past five months, some of the tracks I haven’t been able to get out of my head have come in the form of stripped-down versions of previously released songs. So, instead of writing about three of my favorite new songs from the year so far, I decided to focus on three of my favorite new versions of songs. While the source material might be a little older, the efforts made to record these renditions shouldn’t go overlooked; these songs benefit from the updates in a way that places them among the best things released in 2013 thus far. Don’t believe me? Just listen.
1. “Dear Life” – William Beckett
Though I was only a casual The Academy Is… fan, I was pretty excited to hear William Beckett’s solo work. When the first EP dropped, I was a bit disappointed. Similar feelings accompanied the next two. While there certainly were a few great songs to be found, it seemed that there wasn’t quite the right accompanying aesthetic. The Pioneer Sessions righted that wrong. “Dear Life” was one of my favorites from What Will Be, but this acoustic version blows all other William Beckett solo songs way out of the water. From the soaring chorus to the the irresistible rhythm in the verses to the way that the words fit the melodies perfectly, everything is spot-on. Don’t get me wrong, get me wrong, never meant to say the original wasn’t good, but the production here far outstrips the version from What Will Be. The tone of the guitar is tremendously better than the tone on the EP, and the unnecessary drums and other superfluous elements are long gone, which simply cleans everything up to let the song shine through. This is what I was excited to hear.
2. “Save It For Someone Else” – Stages & Stereos
I’ve loved everything that Stages & Stereos has ever released, and this acoustic version of “Save It For Someone Else” is no exception. Toning the energy from the original way down, this rendition allows Daniel Lancaster’s voice to shine amidst twinkling ivories, minimalist guitars, and soaring strings. The lyrics are more powerful in this setting, and the acoustic guitar parts make for a great reimagining of the leads from the original. On the whole, it’s almost like this version could be some sort of reprise in a movie, with the main character thinking the same things, but expressing them with entirely different emotions, with more knowledge and more maturity. Between this song and last year’s acoustic version of “Dear You, Love Me,” the band has me anticipating its upcoming acoustic EP more than almost anything else for the rest of the year.
3. “And Counting…” – Lights
Lights is high on my list of artists I want to release exclusively acoustic-based music. Similar to what I said about “Dear Life” above, this song plainly works better when it’s stripped down to its barest elements; getting rid of excess synths and drums leaves something that is majestic in its beauty. “And Counting…” is a simple song in almost all aspects. The lyrics are largely repetitive, the chord progression doesn’t really change much, and the instrumentation isn’t overly complex. However, Lights has a beautiful voice, and the way that she emotes when singing these words makes for something truly special – particularly when paired with the tone of this piano part and accompanying strings. There are plenty of gems to be found on Siberia Acoustic, but this is the crown jewel.