By naming their latest EP The Acoustic Things, State Champs never give it a chance to be considered separately from their debut album The Finer Things. Made up of five acoustic renditions of songs from Finer and only two originals, it’s unlikely that the EP would have ever stood very far from Finer. The name, however, pushes it one step further into the realm of re-imagining instead of breaking new ground. As a complete package, both musically and aesthetically, Acoustic is an offshoot of Finer, adding a bit more meat to the experience of the full length album while avoiding the risk of releasing new music by adhering to existing content.
Calling these versions “acoustic” is a bit misleading, as they are all fully produced and include a number of auxiliary instruments. Finer Things’ opening track “Elevated” is reproduced on Acoustic with a piano melody for a chorus, and finger snaps in the bridge. “Deadly Conversation” eschews the intro of its original and instead launches into a layered rendition of the song’s verse, that highlights Derek Discanio’s vocals. His vocals are a touch over-performed, but the fundamental basis of the original songs make the early part of Acoustic Things feel natural. The real shame, however, is that the production level robs the songs of some of the more appealing tropes of acoustic renditions. There is no campfire, porch-step vibe here. No cracking strings, count-ins or hints at a live performance. In a genre that occasionally suffers from the stylized de-humanization of the music, an authentically stripped down EP would be a breath of fresh air. Acoustic Things plays much like its predecessor – and its peers in the pop-punk genre – as it is thick with the sheen of production.
For the remainder of the songs drawn from Finer Things State Champs continue to draw heavily from the arrangements of the originals. The adherence to the original framework that Finer Things built is likely a conscious choice. It seems designed to provide an introduction to new audiences that may be originally deterred by the full sound of the band. In considering the functionality of an EP like this, though, it is worthwhile to note that the new context is unlikely to attract and sustain a wider audience. While State Champs are clearly capable of putting together an acoustic track, their strength is the amped up versions that Finer Things provided, and becoming a fan of the band likely means eventually getting on board with that mission.
Acoustic Things instead functions as a treat for existing fans, and a tide over for those looking for something new from the group. The two brand new stripped down tracks flow nicely with the other five, giving the EP a coherent feel while providing a taste of new material. All in all it’s a solid release for those familiar with State Champs’ existing material, but without a real upheaval of the songs’ structures, or a truly stripped down aura, it feels a bit too indulgent for the casual listener.