Four Acoustic Covers You Need Right Now

Hold back your self-judgement if should you find yourself reminiscing about past heartbreaks, opportunities missed, or even just weeping uncontrollably.

 

Hey Ya by Obadiah Parker (Mat Weddle) originally performed by Outkast

Who’d have thought the banger that taught you to shake it like a Polaroid picture* and ask for some sugar in the sassiest way imaginable would make such a stunning acoustic song? An acoustic version of the 2004 anthem even found its way into an episode of Scrubs via Ted’s band, The Blanks. But it is Obadiah Parker (A.K.A. Mat Weddle’s) humble coffee shop performance that hits you where it hurts with nothing else but a six-string.

I Took A Pill In Ibiza by Tom Odell originally performed by Mike Posner

The 2015 single of the summer by top producer Mike Posner may have been your ultimate floor-filler for a while but you need to slow it down to properly hear the true story of its writer’s struggles with intense fame in light of Posner’s 2009 hit Cooler Than Me. Posner himself has performed the track acoustically many times before but it is in the form of an unlikely English gentleman, Tom Odell, where the song’s true meaning takes hold of the listener. In fact, Odell’s slowed-down version of the song that once may have found you wanting to be a DJ is all it takes to convince you exactly why you shouldn’t. It even includes a rarely performed, unreleased verse not present on the Radio Edit of the original track, one that effortlessly adds an additional layer of poignancy to Odell’s beautiful reinvention:

 I walked around downtown / I met some fans on Lafayette / they said Mike, tell us how to make it / we’re getting real impatient / I looked them in the eye and said / you don’t wanna be high like me…

Folding Stars by Simon Neil [2010] originally performed by Biffy Clyro

Biffy Clyro are the high school band we all wanted to make it that, well, actually did. The Scottish three-piece from Ayrshire (here we, here we, here we f**cking go) are known for their quirky riffs, unusual time signatures and incredibly random lyrics. That saying, a rare form of coherent structure can be found in Simon Neil’s solo rendition of ‘Folding Stars’, the track originally written as a direct tribute to the singer’s late mother and one which he once vowed to never play live. Although recorded for the band’s 4th studio album Puzzle with all of the grit and drums found on a typical Biffy track, Neil’s unexpected acoustic rendition made its way into the limelight on the 2010 tour DVD Biffy Clyro: Live in Wembley, instantly grabbing hearts with Neil’s humble, heartbreaking proclamation about struggling with life after losing a loved one. Hankies at the ready. He kills it.

Thunder Road performed by Bruce Springsteen, Hammersmith [1975]

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. ‘Thunder Road’ is often credited as one of rock music’s greatest hits of all time, a fantastic title for a man with as many records as Bruce. However, it goes far beyond just being a rock ballad with an incredibly iconic saxophone solo as you can see from Springsteen’s extremely early performance of the track — once called ‘Wings For Wheels’ — at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975. Here, Springsteen takes to the stage with his trusty harmonica alongside co-writer Roy Bitten on the keys to describe the story of Mary, her boyfriend and their “one last chance to make it real”. It’s an incredibly poignant rendition of a song rooted in optimism, young love and endless, warm summers and that bloody harmonica has a way of stirring up your most painful memories. What makes this performance even more special is that ‘Thunder Road’ was at large during the Born to Run phase of Springsteen’s career where performing along his E-Street Band, most notably the late Clarence Clemmings on the tenor saxophone, was very much the united image he was going for.

*Don’t shake Polaroids. They contain chemicals, real chemicals. And real chemicals like to run.

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Acoustic Covers: Why We Need Them

Despite once being a student in a subject centred primarily on books, poetry and… more books, I somehow find it far easier recite Eminem’s prolific lyrics than I do the work of our ever-prominent national laureate, William Shakespeare.

Given the time, I’m far more inclined to pick up a guitar than a book, and I often consider that not having access to a piano at home is probably good for my health given that it prevents me from developing a severe vitamin D deficiency. (Remind me of this on pay day.)

Thanks Dad.

Where one might consider folding the corners in a book worse than any other form of graffiti, I genuinely can’t think of anything more sickening than being on public transport without my earphones or with a dead phone battery, thus, being on the move without background noise. It’s been a problem since my first iPod circa 2006 and one that I blame entirely on my music-loving father.

My dad has subjected me to his music library for as long as I can remember. He has a varied set of music ideals upon which my musical education has been based and they range from the likes of Springsteen, Queen, Billy Joel, Meat Loaf, Mike Oldfield, Phil Collins (or Genesis), Train and Elton John to Les Mis, Dear Evan Hansen, Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof and virtually any Andrew Lloyd Webber production. Luckily for me, he still has many of these artists on vinyl from his youth which have now found their way into my room. Although widely appreciative of song, his taste isn’t as varied as a listener with access to a wealth of music via a streaming service quite just yet. That saying, there is a genre that will always unite us across all barriers…

Acoustic renditions.

 “I love that song – but the piano version!”

Take Britain’s Got Talent Finalist Calum Scott, a singer from Yorkshire, whose emotional acoustic rendition of Robyn’s virtually unknown ‘Dancing On My Own’ in his first audition went onto be released as a single that would reach number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. Robyn’s upbeat delivery of her song masks her underlying turmoil and detracts from the incredibly personal situation depicted in the lyrics whereas Scott’s instrumentally far more exposed rendition emphasises his vulnerability and, in turn, relates more to his audience. Listeners grow empathetic at the mercy of his voice against the soft piano backing track and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the tune everyone is screaming out into the abyss (i.e. their absent significant other) at the end of a night out. I’m giiiiving it my all but I’m not the guyyyy you’re taking home… Sing it louder, babe. I don’t think they can hear you from their new partner’s house.

Summer is the time of year when we are most likely to see the BBC Live Lounge gaining popularity once again as artists take on many of their most famous hits in a strictly acoustic environment for broadcasting. It’s no surprise that so many of these performances go viral and eventually go onto be released for purchase and streaming in their own right. Consider this a direct nod to Ben Howard whose rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ went onto become his defining track in 2012. No disrespect to the former Pop Idol contestant whose bubbly, synth-infused hit also smashed charts as a pop record but it does force listeners to question what it was about Howard’s delivery that had us begging for more and for Jepsen’s to be turned off.

Understated.

The acoustic genre means a lot of different things to different people. For example, to the people writing the English dictionary – a breed clearly lacking in emotion – acoustic music is defined merely as “not having electrical amplification” and nothing more. Literally swapping out the drum kit for the cajon and the Stratocaster for the Martin & Co. Done. Dusted.

However, to me, it’s music that is more focused on the poetics and underlying meanings of lyrics that are often missed amid loud musical ensembles, heavy instrumentals and grizzly effects. I believe that the delivery of acoustic music involves the musician putting themselves in a far more vulnerable position resulting in an often more melancholic delivery that is also heavily associated with a complex level of storytelling.

Proof in three, two, one…

So, without further ado, and before I open this can of worms any wider, I’ve quickly summarised some incredible acoustic renditions of some popular songs that you need to hear. You can read them here.

A rant on wheels

Everything changes when you return home to Scotland from a holiday. You are weighed down by a regenerated disdain for the damp, grey Scottish climate that neither enables you to flaunt your denim jacket in complete security nor flash your pins without fear of becoming that person everyone second-glances from beneath their raincoat hoods.

The dissatisfying weather is not the only thing you’ve had your eyes opened to whilst touring foreign lands: why is it all of these European cities use bikes, a free-to-use alternative to driving that would give the Scottish environment a much needed tea break? It would offer Scots a mode of transport that isn’t constrained to an unreliable public transport timetable that we might actually be able to afford, and hey: we’ve got hills! We’ve got scenery! Why shouldn’t cycling with a wee wicker basket be cool in Scotland? Why. Can’t. We. Have. Nice. Things…

Part of the appeal in visiting the likes of Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden is their unrivalled consideration for cyclists. While gimmicky and pleasant to most tourists, I’m quite irritated that the U.K. missed out on what must have been some top secret gathering with the rest of Europe where they collectively decided to construct cycling lanes and give bikers right-of-way on the roads.

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True, the majority of the Scottish population can barely walk to the train station on a Saturday, night never mind navigate a bicycle, but wouldn’t it be nice to have options people?

Reusing your old film crates

Many moons ago, whilst in a Pinterest rabbit hole, I came across an image of someone using their old film packaging as a way of storing their exposures whilst on the go. It makes sense, right? All of your exposures will fit because they had to fit inside of that little hollow, black crate in the first place. I have been meaning to try this out, literally, every time I’ve changed my film but I just kept forgetting.

Alas, the day arrived yesterday when I could bring this idea into formation within the comfort of my own house where there was no wind, no faffing and no need to fire every piece of packaging into the nearest bin. And hey: it works!

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It also makes for a pretty cool free standing frame! I’m going to try and paint them someday.

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To infinity… and beyond

Good morning.

It is spring. Spring is upon us. I have flowers on my window sill, like any sun-searching millenial should, and, with the clock changes at the end of March, it is noticeably starting to get lighter in the evenings. I no longer have scope to moan about leaving for work in the dark and returning from work… in the dark. As you can imagine, everyone in the United Kingdom’s moods just got a little bit more optimistic.

So, I mentioned having flowers on my window sill; they’re a wee bunch of Morrisons finest, from the reduced section no less. Once unloved but now rescued in the wake of the Easter Weekend passing. I don’t understand why they were reduced, they’re very pretty and brightly-coloured (although, I hate the green ones because they look like weeds).

A-n-y-w-a-y, flower preferences aside, I thought these would be a good way of trying out all three settings on the Lomo’Instant Wide and comparing them side-by-side as flowers, so I’m learning, offer lots of scope for detailed close ups, layered multi-exposures, and everything in between. Plus, they aren’t going to move very far in a vase, and so this helps with the fact that photography of the instant kind is a blind sport.

 

 

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There are three settings built into the Lomo’Instant Wide Camera and *drum roll please* they are:

  1. 0.6mm
  2. 1-2m
  3. Infinity

 

0.6mm

This setting is for close-ups and it’s the setting I have the most bother trying to get good results from, as you will see from this image alone. It’s so difficult to know what you’re focussing on this close up when the viewfinder of the camera doesn’t match the location of the lens.

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1-2m

This setting is a little more forgivable and is best for taking headshots and close-ups whilst still squeezing in as much as possible.

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Infinity

This setting is perfect for landscapes. Nothing goes amiss whilst shooting in this setting.

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Screech

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They advise us to write what we know, and I know of a fear now that I didn’t before.

In a bid to get back into writing fiction, I decided to write a (dramatic) account of my first driving lesson and, I’ll be damned. It worked! The words were flowing probably for the first time since this time last year actually.

Read Screech now.

It is now available to read via ISSUU, a great website for digitalising and sharing your writing. It’s called Screech in reference to the sound of breaks and, um, me trying to play it cool behind the wheel.