Acoustic Songs that Rock – Oasis, Joni Mitchell, and Cage the Elephant


By Rodin Batcheller

In an era of artificial beats and Soundcloud rappers, it seems to me that acoustic instruments have been thrown on the backburner of the instrumental landscape. Gibson even declared bankruptcy in May of 2018 with an estimated $500 million in debt according to NPR. I'm not saying that they are completely obsolete, quite the opposite actually, they just happen to be less popular than they have been in the past. Still, plenty of people are playing acoustic instruments, just check out YouTube.

It seems like acoustic guitars, basses, drums, and all other instruments that aren't plugged in haven't been given the love that they deserve as of late. That's why I've assembled a playlist of acoustic songs that rock. Songs that you can bang your head to. These songs are not covers or re-releases, these are songs that the band or artist intentionally released acoustically.

In the interest of full disclosure, some of these songs may not be 100% acoustic, but don't let that bother you. Let's just grab our guitar picks and strum our way through these acoustic beauties.

Jane Says - Jane's Addiction

Nothing says alternative rock like a hard-hitting guitar riff at the beginning of a song. Before you know it, you're bobbing your head along to the melody. That's what I love about this song and this band. Jane's Addiction may be incredibly underrated, but they sure can make write a catchy tune with confusing, memorable lyrics. A mix of Perry Farrell's scratchy voice, high backing vocals, and a hint of steel drums make this song a one-of-kind along with being one of my favorite alternative acoustic songs of all time.

Mr. Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan

You didn't think I would write about acoustic songs and not cover the best folk songwriter of all time, did you? Okay, this song may not make you bang your head, but you will be tapping your foot. I have a personal connection to this song and to Bob Dylan due to the fact that my father introduced me to this music at a very young age. It always seems like I'm brought to tears when listening to this song. I like to think that Mr. Dylan wants to talk to me and listen to my problems because sometimes we are all a tambourine man that has songs to sing.

Cigarette Daydreams - Cage the Elephant

Another song about young love. It might be a cliché, but this song isn't a ballad about a girl; it's about looking back on the past and wanting to change. That's what sets this song apart from the other acoustic love songs on this playlist. This song is one of the softest by Cage the Elephant, but don't let that fool you. Matt Schultz still brings the edge with his distinct voice over the acoustic guitar and piano. It's catchy and it's meaningful. Trust me, by the end of the song you'll be singing, do do do do do do too.

Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles

This is my favorite Beatles tune. Who doesn't like a light-hearted song about hope? But it's the deeper meaning that the song has and the way that George Harrison just plays the intro to the song so beautifully; it gets me every time. I know that this song doesn't exactly rock your socks off either, but it doesn't need to. This song's message is enough. I like to listen to this song when I'm in a dark place of my own and I need to be told that the sun will come. I think we all need that sometimes. No head-banging necessary with this song, just lean back and let George Harrison and his acoustic guitar sing to you.

Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell is one of the best vocalists to ever come out of the folk movement of the 1960s and 1970s. A voice unlike any other, she had a gift for writing songs about the unpleasant sides of life. With her catchy guitar playing, she's one of my father's favorite folk artists, which made her one of mine. Chances are that you've heard of "Big Yellow Taxi," arguably one of Joni Mitchell's most well-known songs as it has been covered by the likes of Bob Dylan and the Counting Crows. Despite the fact that this song only reached No. 67 in the US in 1970, a live version later released in 1974 peaked at No. 24. The simple lyrics of this short and sweet song holds a deeper meaning that can be heard if one pays close attention to what's being said. In my opinion, an instant classic that's sure to get stuck in your head.

Helplessly Hoping - Crosby, Stills, & Nash

I challenge you to think of a band that accomplishes a better harmony than these three folk artists. I will always thank my father for introducing me to this band and their first self-titled album. Don't even worry about banging your head, tapping your head, or singing along. Just put this beautiful song on and enjoy. You may have noticed a lot of classic rock and classic folk songs from the 60s and 70s on this playlist, that's because it was the type of music I was raised on and it's the music that does acoustic music better than any other genre. I also want to point out that there is only one instrument used in this song. One acoustic guitar. With the vocal of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, that's all this song needed.

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