Release Date: May 22nd, 2020
Depending on the circumstances, the words “acoustic set” can either fill you with excitement or dread. As much as I love artists going unplugged there’s always a fear it’s going to be underwhelming. The songs won’t pack the same punch or even worse, they’ll be dull. At its worst, acoustic renditions are underwhelming or boring. At its best, it lets an artist express a different side of themselves and transforms their well-loved songs into something new. Luckily, this is what Yonaka does on their new EP, Yonaka Stripped Back.
Though it only features three songs – “Guilty,” “Bad Company,” and “Rockstar” – the EP shows us a different side of Yonaka. Typically, their songs are high-energy, boot-stomping rock anthems made to get you moving. Here, they take those songs and turn them into aching ballads about anxiety and depression. Without the pummeling drums, buzzing guitars, and high energy we’re left with the naked emotion that lies underneath. These issues are prevalent in the songs already but with only singer Theresa Jarvis and an acoustic guitar, these feelings are highlighted and can’t be ignored with a catchy guitar riff or slick bass groove.
“Guilty” and “Bad Company” sound more desperate and lonelier than before and “Rockstar” no longer sounds like a fun ode to the rockstar life. Rather, it sounds like a lament of the price of fame. They translate the songs in a way that makes them stronger yet strike you on a different emotional level. Jarvis’ need for support and a way to free herself from her demons sounds more urgent. This speaks to the quality of the songs. They’re not just good because the music is upbeat, catchy, and rocking. The songs stand on their own.
The EP also reaffirms what a powerhouse singer Jarvis is. Ever since hearing Yonaka’s debut album, I’ve hailed her as one of rock’s best singers. She proves that on this EP. The stripped-back setting lets her vocals shine becoming the main focus of the songs. Her ability to sing with so much conviction and passion left me with chills. Her voice carries every ounce of pain, doubt, and heartache the songs address. Though she sounds fantastic on Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, here you really get a chance to hear what a talented singer Jarvis is.
It’s a short and sweet EP that could’ve used two more songs, but it’s a nice treat for fans stuck in isolation. The songs don’t necessarily get you on your feet, but the way they transform them and Jarvis’ outstanding vocals ensure it’s not another unremarkable acoustic set. Even stripped back Yonaka are enthralling, exciting, and powerful. And that’s what makes them one of rock’s most promising and thrilling bands.
Stream Yonaka Stripped Back here.