REVIEW: Our Staff Agrees ‘Splitting The Seams’ is Louden Swain’s Best Album Yet
It’s no secret that we here at Nerds and Beyond are huge fans of Louden Swain. We’ve been looking forward to their acoustic album, Splitting the Seams, ever since it was first announced. With 20 years of music, we were excited to hear that they were going to re-imagine some of their songs, making brand new versions like we’ve never heard before.
For this album, our staff was so excited to review it that we had everyone pick a song to review. One thing is clear – this is clearly Louden Swain’s best album yet.
Reviewed by: Finn
‘Overachiever’ kicks off the album with a fun, upbeat energy. The original track is one of my favorite songs of Swain’s, and this version just takes it over the top. Rob’s bouncy energy on the lyrics, the toe-tapping percussion, the sparkling background vocals that Borja does so well, and everything else about this song works well to grab your attention and keep it for the rest of the album.
All I Need
Reviewed by: Lindsey
I cried the first time I listened to the reimagined version of ‘All I Need’, which is a very simplified way of summing up my overall feelings on this song. In the original recording, Rob’s opening lines are delivered softly and tentatively (which is very fitting for the crescendo that follows as the rest of the band joins in). Now, almost 10 years later, the song has matured in a way that seems to embody Louden Swain’s overall growth as a band. The opening lines are now weaved with steadfast confidence, adding an entirely new layer of depth and emotion. Also, as a fan of classical music, I cannot begin to explain how much I love and appreciate the new instrumental aspects that were added in. Rob’s talented vocal range blends pleasantly with the melodies of the string section. I anticipate listening to this song on repeat for many days to come.
Reviewed by: Finn
‘CA Nation’ is a staple of Swain’s repertoire and has been performed at a number of their acoustic “vendor room jams” at Supernatural conventions. ‘CA Nation’ is also where the band gets the title of the album from, with the lyric being, “Dressing like a target splittin’ the seams.” Hearing the song reworked is refreshing, and the laid back vibe of the track works great. The speaking part by Rob and the whistling at the end show the fun side of Swain that we have all come to know and love. This track especially proves how much fun these guys have making music together.
Reviewed by: Natasha
When I first saw ‘Another Fool’ on the tracklist, I wondered how the band would take an already stripped down, acoustic song and make it more… acoustic. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this song held onto its original mellow vibe; but the guys still turned it into a new listening experience. Swain kept it simple with this one, but they certainly worked their magic together with additional instruments and backing vocals. The end result is something that has been completely reimagined as a Louden Swain song, and I am definitely here for it.
Reviewed by: Natasha
I am a country girl at heart, so you can imagine my joy when I heard what Louden Swain did with one of my favorite songs for this album. As soon as I heard the fun, “one, two, buckle my shoe,” intro, I knew I was in for a treat!
While all of the songs on the album have had the sound and the feel changed, I think this is definitely one of the top three that have been completely reimagined. The clever addition of the fiddle and the subtle twang in Rob’s voice, gives ‘Trigger Finger’ an unexpected bluegrass sound that feels even more energetic than the original version of the song. I can’t help but smile and dance along when listen.
Also, Rob’s enthusiastic “yeehaw!” near the end keeps me coming back to this song over and over again.
Reviewed by: Briar
‘Silverspoon’ has personally been my favorite song of Swain’s, so when I saw this on the tracklist I was excited to see what they’d do with it – and they didn’t disappoint. This is probably my favorite opening of any song on this album; they do a fun opening with the guitars and then transfer into just a lone piano as Rob sings out the lyrics. The song shows just how much Swain has grown musically that makes the song seem brand new – even adding in a trumpet which makes it really shine. Rob’s voice only seems to be getting stronger, and this is a song that I can’t wait to play on repeat.
Reviewed by: Kari
Honestly, ‘Big One’ was always a song that I never really thought about until Splitting the Seams. Reminiscent of Bob Dylan, this stripped down version hits many emotional points. The subdued singing style brings out the ever-present rawness in Rob’s voice, as well as imparting on the listener a feeling of resignation to the world around them.
Reviewed by: Em
‘Real Life’ is one of my favorite songs off of Louden Swain’s Suit and Tie album so I was pleasantly surprised to find it had made the cut for the acoustic album. While the changes to this song are more subtle than some of the others it is those subtle changes that create an entirely new feel. Listening to the original song I feel a youthful sense of annoyance and frustration, especially at the beginning. In the updated acoustic version I hear someone with experience, someone who has a better understanding of life and the ups and downs that go along with it. I hear growth, both in the tone of the song and in the expression of Rob Benedict’s voice as he sings. Musically, the beautiful addition of the cello is inspired and elevates the song to a new level. I could close my eyes and listen to just the instrumental portion of ‘Real Life’ on repeat for ages.
Reviewed by: Kari
‘Mrs. Vance’ has been one of my favorite songs for a long time and when I found out it was going to be on the acoustic album, I was so excited. This new version, while mellow, contains the same fire as the original. Norton’s drumming stands out from the rest of the music, bringing a new flavor of which I honestly can’t get enough. It is everything I hoped for.
Reviewed by: Hailee
The changes for ‘Ready Steady’ are very subtle between the original version and this one. Yet, this remake is softer and somehow shows more emotions in a song that was already an emotional ballad. The acoustic cover has me paying more attention to the lyrics and meaning behind the song instead of the feel of the music like the original does. For two very similar renditions of the same song, I have completely different reactions, and that is a testament to how incredible this album is.
Too Far Away
Reviewed by: Ali
If I’m honest, I’m not a huge rock music lover, it is just not my go-to genre. I had not spent a lot of time listening to their music before the “vendor room jam”. However, standing there in the convention center listening to the band meld together in such an organic way had me completely engrossed. I picked up a cd at the merch table and I’ve been listening ever since.
‘Too Far Away’ was written specifically for this acoustic album. According to Billy Moran’s interview with us, the song is a blend of Billy’s beautiful melody writing and Rob Benedict’s heart-felt story telling. The melody vacillates between a mournful regret and an impassioned hope while the lyrics take you through the full range of emotion attached to the loss of love.
What I found most interesting about this song is that it ends on a verse, not a chorus. Each verse seems to address a different part of the process of grieving the loss of a relationship. The first verse talks about feeling alone even when you’re together and brings to mind that gut feeling that something isn’t right. The second addresses the regret of something done wrong, the realization that things could have been better. Verse three resonates through the sadness and grief, in this case, buried in a glass of gin. The final verse brings home the realization that it’s really over, symbolized by the line, ‘Now I lay you down, buried in the ground’. The fact that the song ends with this verse and doesn’t go into a final repeat of the chorus gives the feeling of finality. We’re moving on and staying ‘strong’.
Reviewed by: Liz
A favorite and staple of the Saturday Night Special concerts, ‘Amazing’ was one of the very first Swain songs I’d ever heard and I fell in love with it immediately. The emotional lyrics and power behind them paints a picture of a man taking stock of his life during a hospital stay, which is fitting as lead singer Rob Benedict penned the song about recovering from his stroke in 2013. The newest version on Splitting the Seams slows it down a tad from the original, and the instrumentals take more of a backseat to Benedict’s voice, which has a more lyrical and sentimental tone here. The backing vocals on the track’s chorus and the violins soften the intensity of this version as well. I enjoy this version a bit more because of the heavier focus on the powerful lyrics (which is what I enjoyed so much about the original) and Benedict’s delivery. Louden Swain definitely elevated the musicianship on this track and made an already excellent and emotional song even more so.
Reviewed by: Melanie
I have always enjoyed ‘Mamma’s Jam’ and its upbeat tempo that makes you want to get up and dance. I did not know if I could love it more, but Splitting the Seams has absolutely proved I can! If possible, it is even groovier! The twangier instrumental parts bring so much joy, especially for someone like me who was raised on country music. The differences feel like they showcase Rob’s vocals more, and his little scat singing part towards the end sounds much more melodic and beautiful. The entire song feels like Louden Swain just peeled back the layers to show the true heart of the song. And what a fantastic thing that is!
Reviewed by: Kayla
One thing I love about Swain is that you really have to stop and listen to the lyrics of their songs. And while that seems sort of like an obvious statement, it’s so easy to get caught up in the melodies, the beats, and just their overall sound that sometimes it feels like you can miss some of the meaning of the song. ‘Rock Song’ was one of those songs for me. The original version from Suit and Tie was just catchy and fun, and one admittedly that I never really stopped and thought about the lyrics. At least beyond the fact that it sounded like someone who wanted to go out and have a good time. With the version of this song, you can’t stop listening to what Rob is singing. The whole feel of the song is changed. What was a catchy tune, is now a poignant, melancholy ballad. When Rob sings ‘they will hear us’ at the end, it feels true on a personal level. You can’t help but get caught up in the lyrics and the raw emotion poured into this song. It’s a powerful and moving song for me, that draws up a lot of emotions and just makes you feel. I think that’s what makes it my favorite song on this album.
Splitting the Seams is now available on Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Louden Swain’s website.