Some artists are afraid to revisit their previous work, as if any tweaks might suggest that they didn’t do everything exactly right the first time. But the meaning of a song changes as it grows older — why shouldn’t the arrangement adjust as well?
Today Billboard is premiering a new EP, Acoustic Break, from the young singer Daniel Caesar. The project features two alternate versions of songs from his excellent debut, Praise Break, and one new track, “Japanese Denim.”
Caesar recorded Acoustic Break in Toronto’s Dream House Studios with the help of a small, effective band — Ian Culley on guitar, Matthew Burnett on piano, and Brandon Horniachek on drums. In this setting, songs from his previous release — which contained lots of samples and thick, impressively-layered textures — take on different meanings. “Pseudo,” for example, originally appeared with huge drums and a screaming electric guitar, but here it’s reborn as lovely singer-songwriter pop, fragile and moving.
The spare accompaniment also adds amusing jolts of contrast to Caesar’s music. On Praise Break, the track “Porn Star” had a grand, echo-y opening, but now that’s stripped away, leaving behind a gently-strummed ballad. When Caesar sings, “porn stars, they love me in my dreams more than sexually,” it’s a funny statement — not what you would expect from a song that verges on folk — and also a remarkably intimate one. Returning to old songs gives Caesar a chance to show a new side of his artistry.