HomeRecording Review: SoCal VoCals – Unanimous

Matt King's picture

The SoCal VoCals changed my perspective on a cappella.  I spent years being very anti-choreography.  Then I saw the, now famous, near-perfect set at ICCA on YouTube and I was blown away.

Their vocals were amazing, the movements complemented the songs well; it was no wonder that they won the ICCA Championship.  When I saw that they put out a new album I had to check it out.  Would it hold up the standard I had already set for them in my head?

As I was listening to this album, I had an epiphany.  I judge albums basically on two different kinds of tracks: 1) a track so awesome that I either skip straight to it, highly anticipate it coming up on the album, or immediately listen to again after it gets done playing or 2) a track that I skip almost every time I come across it.

My overall perception of an album is based on the combination of these two kinds of tracks.  Everything else falls in between.  I’ll listen to and enjoy those tracks, but they don’t hit either end of the spectrum.

“Unanimous” opens with a track that I like a lot, Misery Business.  I’ve heard a couple other groups do this either live or on an album, and this is by far the best version I’ve heard.  The soloist rocks and the background has energy to it.  I really like the beneath-the-surface feel to the background.  After a few listens, I really took the time to listen to the background and really caught the nuances of the song and realized that’s probably why I liked it so much.  While it didn’t quite make a 1 in my book, I am making the prediction that it will land on BOCA.

Movin’ On is appropriately titled because, frankly, it falls into category 2 and I skip it most of the time I listen to the album.  There’s nothing technically wrong with the song, I just find it a little boring.

I don’t think I can express how much I love the next track.  Crazy Ever After is definitely a 1.  The soloists’ voices mesh so well together… it’s beautiful.  The song is mixed impeccably, especially after the bridge, when the coolest guitar effect I’ve heard on an a cappella album comes in.  It takes me at least two listens every time to move on to the next song.  I Googled the lyrics to find out who did the song and the search revealed that this song had been on Grey’s Anatomy.  I also found out my other new favorite song, Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That, had been featured on the show.  For a split second I thought, “Hey, maybe I should watch Grey’s Anatomy,” before I realized that I was banging my head against my desk repeatedly.  This song made me want to watch Grey’s Anatomy - that is how much I love it.  Put this on BOCA.  Okay, let’s move on.

The VoCals, sadly, started at a disadvantage when I listened to Feelin’ Good.  The Clefhanger’s version is one of my favorite a cappella songs ever, so they had a lot to live up to.  This version is really good, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t grab me in the same way.  The soloist has an excellent voice, obviously, but there were times when I felt it needed just a little more passion.  The end of the song didn’t build to where I wanted it and I was just left wanting a little more.

A Natural Woman is the ladies’ shining achievement on this album.  The soloist successfully pulls off the Aretha Franklin solo.  That’s not an easy feat.  Not only that, but the women in the background give a strong, clean, and impressive showing in the call-and-response background.  They really come through to make this a great song.  My non-a cappella loving roommates really enjoyed this song, just thought I’d note that.

Another White Dash is another 2 for me.  The solo and the background just don’t really seem to match up in their intensity.  The backing sounds like a rock song and the soloist sounds like she’s singing a different song entirely.  The song actually picks up at the bridge two minutes into the song, but by then they have lost me most of the time. 

I’m a big fan of Falling Slowly.  The soloist does a great job with it and, again, the harmonies are blended beautifully.  The song rises and falls like it should… it’s just a really solid song all around.

Darn you, a cappella groups and your tendency to sing Marc Broussard songs.  Save Me is the third song of his that I have heard done a cappella and each time I thought, “I would love to sing this at karaoke,” then found out it was a Broussard song and realized they wouldn’t have it at all.  Either he needs to get more famous or groups need to stop getting my hopes up.  Tangent aside, this is a 1 for me.  I’d say it has the best energy on the whole album.  The solo is outstanding.  I like the mixing a lot.  Plenty of re-listens on this track.

Kudos to the VoCals for doing a Katy Perry song (Thinking Of You) that I’m sure was not on the radio when they started singing it.  This is a really catchy song.  The soloist does a really great job, even if it’s not quite on par with the original, it still shines through as a strong point in this song. Seriously, these females have some pipes. This is a really enjoyable song.

Somebody To Love is the hardest track on the album for me to put my finger on.  I loved watching their performance of it.  I never thought I’d say it, but I think I miss the choreography.  It added such an extra layer to the song.  I come away from this track with the distinct feeling that they’re all much more comfortable moving around when they sing it instead of in front of a mic.  But then there are times where I find myself really enjoying it.  This song hits me about half the time and misses me the other half.  I can’t really understand it.

All the Things You Are is the perfect way for this group to end the album.  The biggest thing I notice about them throughout the album is how well their voices blend together.  This last song has great, tight harmonies, with a very barbershop-y feel.  You couldn’t do this song without great blend.  It’s very pretty.

I would give Unanimous an 8 out of 10.  The excellent tracks and the tracks I skip ended up canceling each other out and we were left with a very solid album outside of those.  The VoCals showed that they are among the elite in a cappella, not only in performance, but also in recording. 


Editor's Note: Hear Mouth Off's review of this CD


Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin - Unconditional Prima world-soul scene, but in the history of American music it has played a very important creative role. In 2002, the magazine "Rolling Stone" in a special issue on women in rock music "put the top most important - for you - women's 20-century album. Headed the list of album of 1967 Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You & Aretha Arrives http://saransk-offline.com/Aretha_Franklin/I_Never_Loved_a_Man_the_Way_I... .

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