When veteran rock band Soul Asylum released its new album Hurry Up and Wait in April, the record was the band’s first new album in four years. It was a record that proved worth the wait, too. Now ironically thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences are not having to wait nearly as long for its follow-up. The band released its new EP Born Free Friday, less than six months after Hurry Up and Wait’s release. The four-song record is an interesting presentation in large part because of its musical arrangements. This aspect will be discussed shortly. The record’s production is just as important to note as its arrangements and will be addressed a little later. The EP’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make the EP another positive offering from Soul Asylum that audiences will be glad they did not have to wait such a long time to receive.
Soul Asylum’s new EP Born Free is a pleasant follow-up to the band’s latest album, Hurry Up and Wait. It is a record for which audiences will be glad came sooner than the noted album. That is due in part to its musical arrangements. The arrangements in question are acoustic takes of four songs featured in Hurry Up and Wait – ‘If I Told You,’ ‘The Beginning,’ ‘Here We Go,’ and ‘Got It Pretty Good.’ The musical arrangement featured in the acoustic take of ‘Got It Pretty Good’ stays true to its source material. Obviously being acoustic, it doesn’t have all of the production that was used in the original song, such as the choral effect used in the choruses or the bombast of the drums and bass. The distortion isn’t there and the guitar solo in the bridge is more simplistic, yet still so infectious in its own right. The whole of the arrangement may not be as intense as its source material, but still is fully engaging and entertaining in its own right. It is just one of the EP’s most notable arrangements. The arrangement featured in the acoustic take of ‘If I Told You’ is notable in its own right.
The musical arrangement featured in the acoustic take of ‘If I Told You’ is so important to examine because in this case, it is so starkly different from its source material. Whereas the arrangement featured in the original composition is a moving, emotional work in its own right, with all of its clean production, the song’s acoustic arrangement deepens that emotional impact even more. That is because the acoustic take is so simplistic in its approach. Instead of the full compliment of electric guitars, drums, and bass, this song is just front man Dave Pirner (and possibly band mate guitarist Ryan Smith) and a pair of guitars. The harmonies in the vocals and the simplicity in the instrumentation reaches a new place in every listener’s heart and ears. It is proof that every now and then, a song’s acoustic take actually can and does improve over its source material because it is so simple in its approach and sound. It’s just one more way in which the EP’s musical content proves so important to its presentation. The arrangement featured in ‘The Beginning’ is another way in which the EP’s musical content proves its importance.
The acoustic take of ‘The Beginning’ is a lighter take on the original work, which is itself an instantly radio-ready work that lends itself to comparisons to some of Foo Fighters’ early works. To another extent, one could even argue comparisons to early works from Smashing Pumpkins, believe it or not. That is proven through its guitar-driven, mid-tempo presentation. By comparison, the noted acoustic take does have its own energy, even in its far more simplistic approach. What is interesting is the unique impact that it will have on listeners because of that noted instrumentation. The emotion that is exhibited in the acoustic take’s instrumentation is excited, given, but is also more tentative than that of the song’s full take. It is just one more way in which the EP’s musical arrangements prove their value. What’s more, it adds even more to the discussion on the impact of acoustic takes of songs versus their full counterparts. Taking into consideration that impact featured here, in the other noted songs and the EP’s one other work, ‘Here We Go,’ no doubt is left as to the importance of the record’s musical content. It collectively is just part of what makes Born Free stand out, too. The record’s production builds on the foundation formed by the arrangements and enriches the record’s presentation even more.
Born Free’s production is just as important to examine as its arrangements because it is that work that brought out all of the record’s nuances. Since ‘Here We Go’ was not addressed in the arrangements’ examination, it will serve as the starting point here. The vocal layering that was used alongside the dynamics in the instrumentation is an example of the positive result of the production. That layering balances the vocals of Priner (and apparently Smith) expertly. The dynamic changes that are used throughout the song are so subtle, and captured just as expertly behind the glass, and are just noticeable enough. Considering that the arrangement here is so much more reserved than its source material, that attention to detail here is key in its own way. This is just one way in which the EP’s production proves important. That of ‘If I Told You’ does its own share to show the importance of the record’s production.
The production of ‘If I Told You’ shines again through the balance in the vocals. At the same time, the balance of what sounds like that of the guitar and bass against the vocals adds even more emotional impact to the song. All things considered here, the dynamics are made so clear, and the emotional impact is just as strong as at any other point in the record. It’s yet another way in which the record’s production proves so pivotal to its whole. Simply put, everything is clear and balanced, and well arranged.
Much the same can be said of ‘Got It Pretty Good’ and ‘The Beginning’ as has already been noted of ‘Here We Go’ and ‘If I Told You.’ It would be redundant to repeat everything already noted. To that end, the production plays into the EP’s overall impact just as much as the arrangements. It succeeds just as much, too. Keeping that in mind, the production and arrangements go a long way to make the record an overall success, and are still not the last of the its most important items. Its sequencing rounds out its most important items.
The sequencing of Born Free is important to examine because it brings everything full circle. As has already been noted, the arrangements have their own unique impact on listeners. The production is to thank in its own right for helping to make the arrangements sound so impressive. For all that they do, the sequencing of any record plays its own part in any record’s general effect. The EP starts off subtly with ‘If I Told You.’ That subtle, reserved sense continues on through into ‘The Beginning.’ However, it does hint at a slight increase in the record’s energy. ‘Here We Go’ maintains the record’s reserved nature before the EP goes out on a high note in ‘Got It Pretty Good.’ Simply put, the EP spends most of its time keeping listeners in a controlled mindset and ultimately rewards listeners in its finale with the noted upbeat ‘Got It Pretty Good.’ Keeping that in mind, it leaves listeners feeling good as it subtly builds over the course of its 14-minute run time. To that end, the sequencing joins with the arrangements and their production to ultimately put the finishing touch to the presentation and prove one last time what makes the EP so enjoyable for audiences.
Soul Asylum’s new EP Born Free is a work that the band’s most devoted fans will appreciate. That is proven in part through its arrangements. They give new identities to the songs, whose source material was released in the band’s latest album back in April. The arrangements’ production adds its own impact to the record as it is that work that brings out the best in each arrangement. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements, as it plays into the record’s general effect by impacting listeners’ moods. All three noted elements are key in their own way to the EP. All things considered, they make the record a work that continues to prove Soul Asylum still very much has a place in the rock community today. The EP is available now.
More information on Soul Asylum’s new album, tour and more is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.