Sleeping With Sirens release a new album via Epitaph Records on April 8. Live and Unplugged was recorded on the band’s summer 2015 intimate 12 date We Like It Loud Quiet tour, where they performed some of their biggest hits, Madness album tracks and even some covers all acoustically for very lucky fans. But now, everyone can listen to a selection of the tracks on this 11 song release. Frontman Kellin Quinn says of the release; “Our live dynamic is very different (in a good way) compared to our studio sound. We wanted to give our fans a live experience that they could relive at home over and over! Very proud of this album.” So let’s see if it is an album to be proud of;
Opening track With Ears To See and Eyes To Hear begins with the customary fan screaming, which is always a problem with live recordings, however, thankfully once Kellin’s vocals begin, the screaming completely stops and instead a beautiful sing-a-long ensues. Up next is fan-favourite If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn which is introduced as a love-song and one of the first songs written by the band, as great a track as it is, the placing of it in this album shows the improvement in song-writing as the band have progressed. The Strays is not too different from the original version but provides goose bumps. The Goo Goo Dolls Iris has been previously covered by the band in a YouTube video, the current live version is completely stripped back and shows the vocal development from the original cover posted in 2012. A beautiful rendition including a crowd-only moment towards the end of the track. Closing track If You Can’t Hang brings out some huskier vocals, while it is quite hard to hear the backing vocals at times, when you can, it brings a great contrast. Throughout the album, Kellin uses his vocals perfectly to convey the emotions in the tracks.
Overall an acoustic album is always going to be a bit of a risk for artists in the alternative world and a live one is an even bigger risk that not many bands have taken. However the sound quality is great and thankfully any crowd screaming is kept to the odd instrumental and in between tracks. The between track chatter from Kellin is quite random at times, asking about whisky and drinking in a parking lot and getting people to dance brings a bit of humour to the release, as well as some of the stories behind the tracks. Musically, it is different to hear the tracks acoustically but it shows off Kellin’s beautiful and unique vocal prowess. The only downside is that there isn’t an accompanying DVD. If this was a CD/DVD release, it would be 1000x better as it’s another way to experience it. Not knocking the album at all however, as I feel that the atmosphere created in the recording is brilliant and it really gives the feel of being at the concert.