Set It Off has only been around for about seven years. That is not very long in terms of a band’s life span. Yet in that short time, the band has been quite busy to say the least, releasing three EPs and two full-length albums since its formation back in 2008. Now only a year after the release of its sophomore album Duality, Set It Off is back again with its fourth EP and sixth overall release. The EP, Duality: Stories Unplugged is a selection of songs lifted from the band’s second album (released just last year) and stripped down. Bands recording stripped down, acoustic takes on their own songs (and those of other acts) is nothing new in the music industry. Considering this it is sometimes difficult to find an acoustic album that really stands out among the crowd in question. It is safe to say that Duality: Stories Unplugged definitely stands out in this year’s crop of acoustic albums and EPs. That is because the six tracks that make up the body of the disc actually achieve the goal explained by front man Cody Carson in a recent interview regarding the EP. It actually presents five tracks that hold their own identity separate from the band’s original compositions. The sixth track is a never-before-released acoustic composition that boasts an identity all its own. Because of that it proves to be one of the best examples of what makes Duality: Stories Unplugged stand out both from its “sister” album and from other acoustic albums and EPs released so far this year and in turn proves to be one of the best new EPs of the year.
Duality: Stories Unplugged is one of this year’s best new EPs, hands down. It is also one of the best new works that Set It Off has released so far into its life. The six-track disc is such an impressive release in that each of the re-worked tunes featured on this record establishes its own identity apart from the original songs from which they were lifted. That is most clear in the stripped down, full-on acoustic take of ‘Bleak December.’ In comparison to the original song included in the band’s 2014 album Duality, this song is the polar opposite of that piece. The guitar line in the song’s original take presents an almost pop punk-oriented sound. For lack of better wording, that sound gives the original take an almost sarcastic feel. That is especially the case when that line is set against Carson’s own vocal delivery. The new, acoustic take, on the other hand, presents a much darker, moodier vibe. The gentle tones of the piano set against Cody’s own reserved vocal style and drummer Maxx Danziger’s use of a cajon adds even more of a different vibe to the song. All things considered here, ‘Bleak December’ really becomes a whole new song apart from its original take. Truth be told it actually sounds better and more fitting with the song’s lyrics in which Carson sings, “Gimme, gimme, gimme the truth now/I promise I can handle it, if you can/Cause you’ve been running from yourself for way too long/So gimme any reason not to cut you out/You’re far too gone/Watch you pretend you know it all/Shift any blame aside/Vending the victim when it sells/How do you even sleep at night as I drive and drive/In that bleak December/You’re just too cold/But I need the answer/Before you’d fold/You would hold your cards inside your chest/I think I drove too far/For that bleak December/And how full of s*** you are.” The combination of the noted elements makes this take of ‘Bleak December’ a whole new work and makes it just one example of why Duality: Stories Unplugged is one of Set It Off’s best works to date as well as one of this year’s best new EPs. Audiences can hear the new take on the song for themselves online now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCdqjeFT3P8.
Set It Off’s re-working of ‘Bleak December’ anchors the band’s new EP. Thanks to the thought and work put into the song, it stands out as a song almost entirely separate from the song’s original take. It is just one piece that makes the record stand out. The band’s re-working of ‘Why Worry’ stands out in its own right, too. While it maintains the same sound as the original take, this full-on acoustic take driven largely by guitarist Dan Clermont’s piano work and drummer Maxx Danziger’s time keeping. Carson’s own delivery style even boasts its own power as he sings, “Have you noticed that you’re breathing/Look around and count your blessings/So when you’re sick of all this stressin’and guessin’ I’m suggestin’ you turn this up and let them hear you sing it/Chin up/Quit acting like you’re half dead/Tears can only half fill how you’re feelin’/Don’t worry be happy baby/Stand up life is too damn short/That clock is ticking/Man up/If ya feel me everybody sing it/.” When the rest of the band joins in on the song’s chorus, there’s still a certain power there, even with the band members’ vocals being pulled back in comparison to what is there in the song’s original take. The end result of the song’s stylistic re-work is a song that is in this case just as good as the original. The musical re-working coupled with the song’s lyrical content makes the song just as powerful and impressive. Both the musical and lyrical content taken into consideration, they make this take of ‘Why Worry’ even more reason that Duality: Stories Unplugged stands out as one of Set It Off’s best recordings to date and one of this year’s best new EPs.
The newly re-worked versions of ‘Bleak December’ and ‘Why Worry’ are two clear examples of why Duality: Stories Unplugged is one of Set It Off’s best recordings and one of this year’s best new EPs. The re-working of ‘Tomorrow’ is one more example of what makes this record such a standout collection of songs. Much like the re-working of ‘Bleak December,’ this composition gives the song an identity almost entirely separate from that of the band’s original composition. Both takes offer a wonderfully positive vibe in their own right both musically and lyrically. But the stylistic approach of the acoustic take makes the song even harder-hitting than the full version presented in Duality. Clermont shines again here on piano. The combination of his talents set against the song’s string arrangements and Danziger’s timekeeping on the cajon give this take of the song an even more emotional punch than the one presented in the song’s original take. That is saying something, too considering that the song’s original take offered its own emotional punch. This take makes the song a full-on tearjerker that will still put a smile on audiences faces because of that punch coupled with its lyrical content. The lyrical content in question goes almost hand-in-hand with that of ‘Why Worry.’ That is because it says to listeners that no matter how bad things might seem in the moment, things will be better tomorrow, thus the song’s title. That is pointed out as Carson sings, “They’re gonna try to clip your wings/Lock you up and make you sing/But they’ll never cage your dreams/So fly away/Cause we’ve got tomorrow/We’re the pages in the wind/We’ve got tomorrow/We’re the tale that lies within/There’s always another day/Another night/A bittersweet blessing in disguise.” He goes on to sing in the song’s closing verse, “Sometimes you’re the spider/Sometimes you’re the fly/Flying towards the sky/Our starting line.” It’s a message of positivity and optimism. That message of hope set alongside the song’s new take makes it one of the record’s best moments. Together with the likes of ‘Bleak December’ and ‘Why Worry’ it makes that much stronger the argument in favor of this record. That is not to discount the other trio of songs included on this record, either. All three of those songs each offer their own share of enjoyment, too. All six songs together make Duality: Stories Unplugged a record that is again, one of Set It Off’s best to date and one that is one of this year’s best new EPs overall.
Duality: Stories Unplugged only runs six songs deep. But that does not take away in the least from the record at all. That is because the re-worked arrangements of the band’s previously released songs give each of the songs in question their own identities separate from the originals. Some of the songs are as good as the originals. Some are better than the originals. Regardless of whether they are as good as or better than the originals, the whole thing together proves to be some of the best material that Set It Off has crafted so far and in comparison to the other EPs out there, one of this year’s best new EPs. Duality: Stories Unplugged is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded online via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/duality-stories-unplugged-ep/id988237301?mt=1&app=itunes&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 and ordered via Amazon at http://radial.custom.geni.us/StoriesUnpluggedAmazon. More information on Duality: Stories Unplugged is available online along with Set It Off’s latest tour schedule and news at:
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