April 22, 2007

Unplugged, literally

I love a cappella. There is something incredibly beautiful about the purity of the human voice filling a room, the inherent silliness of beat-boxing and making background noises, the lengths to which the art form makes the voices of a dedicated team stretch. One of the best ways to experience this is through college a capella, which brings to it the promise of a hopefully unpretentious gathering of college kids who just love to sing and perform. This weekend, I got to witness the yearly "JamFest," hosted by Drew University's 36 Madison Avenue, and such glories as Coldplay's "The Scientist" sung by an all-female group, a rambunctiously-done "Brown-Eyed Girl," and many instances in which the voices of my peers soared, dazzled, shocked, and delighted. A cappella under the right conditions is captivating, inspirational, and makes the audience feel like they can do anything. It's alternately bouncy and powerful, ridiculous and brooding, and this mix makes for ideal weekend entertainment.

Inspired, I did some searching online to see if a cappella had any life outside college, the place where most people are introduced to it to begin with. And lo and behold, I came across something appropriate for the indie editor to throw out there. Indie Blockedapella does covers of various independent rock acts, including The Arcade Fire, Ben Folds, The Decemberists, Belle and Sebastian, The White Stripes, The Magnetic Fields, Sufjan Stevens...

It's fun. Lots of emphasis on the quirky background noises, a bit too much for me at times and at the expense of tapping into the beautiful sweeping terrain the form can cover. I'm not so thrilled with all of their arrangements as much as glad that a group covering indie songs exists. And hey, it's essentially just two guys having fun, so there's lack of pretension for you.

What I'm most interested in, though, is groups doing a cappella covers of their own songs. I'm not sure if this happens, but if not, it should. It could be the new acoustic. Does anyone have any examples, or contributions of the ideal songs they'd like to see done up with only the voice?

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