HomeRecording Review: Five O'Clock Shadow, "Six"

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Five O’Clock Shadow (FOCS) is a six-man Boston-based vocal band who have been a force to be reckoned with in the a cappella world for more than twenty years. Their latest album, “Six,” had a variety of well-known names working on it, including mixing by James Cannon for The Panic Room and Alex Green for Plaid Productions, as well as mixing and mastering by none other than Bill Hare.

The opening song, “Like You Do,” sets the tone for the rest of the album with a heavily distorted background that overpowers the soloist. There are a few wonderful moments in the arrangement, including the lock in the chord at the end of the first chorus, but overall it is fairly repetitive. I imagine this song translates better in a live setting, but it falls flat when recorded.

“Not the Rightest” is probably my least favorite song lyrically. The lyrics in the chorus start “that’s not the point of this song,” and to be honest I don’t think I ever really found out what the point of the song WAS. I listened to the album through headphones, via built-in speakers, and even in my car, and every time I struggled to make out what the soloist was saying because he was so far back in the mix. The shining moment in this song for me was the guitar riff in the bridge that was reminiscent of FORK.

My favorite song on the album is “Nobody’s Waiting,” especially the last minute of it where the background really enhances the tender and almost ethereal feel of the song. The arrangement has great movement in the bass line, which really helps propel the song forward. This song has the most dynamic contrast of the album and really gives you all the feels, hitting hard with the haunting chord at the end. A more subdued, darker syllable throughout the arrangement would have enhanced the emotional pull of the song even further, a problem I had with Street Corner Symphony’s “Holding On” as well, but overall this is a really solid track.

I was on board with “Grocery Store,” opening with a gentle solo that reminded me of Guster and distortion that turned the background into a church organ, up until the lyrics “it may seem I’m between the frozen foods and a hard place / it’s green beans and lost dreams.” I honestly cannot tell if this song is capturing a serious coming-to-God moment or just playing on the Christian series Veggie Tales. Regardless, I think this is one of the stronger arrangements on the album; I would happily listen to it without the solo.

For a live show, it is obvious that “Hip to be Square” would be a crowd favorite. The bass line boogies and the background has some fun doo-wop moments. Experimenting with utilizing other syllables could really enhance this arrangement, particularly in the chorus. Again, the song is a bit cheesy, but this is by far the most fun song on the album.

It is my personal belief that a cappella as a genre will never have real commercial success until groups follow in the footsteps of big names like The House Jacks, Pentatonix, and The Boxettes, who have mastered the art of original songwriting for a cappella voices. Five O’Clock Shadow’s album, while consisting of all original pieces, just misses the mark. The melodies seem contrived and forced, teetering between entertaining and cheesy but usually falling to the latter.

About the writer:
Nina Beaulieu is a recent graduate of James Madison University where she studied in the School of Media Arts and Design and minored in Music Industry. She was formerly a member of The BluesTones, an award-winning all-female group at JMU. Her spirit animal is a lion, and like Taio Cruz, she’s not easy to please.

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This review does not necessarily represent the opinion of CASA and/or its staff.