Minus the Bear revises sound in “Acoustics II”

Stripping the guitars’ distortion and effects enhances songs

Katy Witkowski, Arts & Entertainment Editor

In 2008, Minus the Bear entered the recording studio without much of their normal equipment. No distortion pedals, no loops, no synthesizers. “Acoustics” was the result, featuring an original song and innovative versions of fan favorites.

Featuring a vastly different side of the Seattle-indie rockers, the unplugged songs sold in a special edition white-and-blue vinyl record and received so much acclaim that the band continued the project. Throughout the summer and fall, the band worked with PledgeMusic to fund the follow-up album, “Acoustics II.”

“So many radio stations were asking us to perform unplugged in the studio,” bassist Cory Murchy said. “We were already working around stripping the songs.”

Much like its predecessor, “Acoustics II” begins with the previously unreleased song “Riddles.” Continuing through the band’s extensive discography, the unplugged versions breathe new life to songs from the band’s four most recent studio albums.

Although it lacks the pure, authentic vibe that oozes from the project’s beginning, songs like “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” sound so different from their originals that they could be considered original works themselves. The free-flowing, rhythm heavy guitar-work smoothly translated to a calming lullaby.

“The intricate, fun part of doing this is that we can come at these songs from a different angle,” Murchy said.

Other songs retain the electric version’s feelings. “The Game Needed Me,” although it replaces the refrain’s bass drum beat with methodic clapping, continues to serve the same dose of offbeat minor chords found on “Menos el Oso.”

The album, released on the band’s own label Tigre Blanco Records, has been praised by other reviewers and listeners alike. On tour now, Minus the Bear will return to Cleveland on Oct. 15 to the House of Blues. Although still playing with the same toys featured in their studio albums, the band will unplug for special performances of their acoustic renditions.

On stage, the band knows how to work with a crowd; by belting many of the sensual lyrics at the top of his lungs, lead singer Jake Snider carries audiences through melodies you can tell they scream out when listening in private. Their sets do not change often, or usually include many of the band’s hits leaving many gems untouched.

But that won’t stop me from seeing them again.