“Roomful of Teeth” is either an album you really get or you’re doomed to think you hate it… but you really don’t, I promise. It is like nothing I’ve ever heard – a departure from the traditional sense of contemporary a cappella (there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one) for sure, but also an experiment in combining literally all sorts of vocal techniques and styles of music into one cohesive album.
The thought and attention put into every minute detail of the album is evident before you even open the packaging. Their phenomenal album artwork evokes many different gruesome yet fanciful images, much as the pieces of the album reflect the full spectrum of the human experience. There are so many groups who think of album artwork as a last-second marketing ploy, and it tends to fall apart. It is clear that the pieces of the album came together to inspire the overall look of the artwork.
The group features an octet of classically trained vocalists who have an amazing tonal blend and vocal range. The album features everything you could want out of vocalists – the sopranos switch effortlessly from lilting lines to a healthy belt and basses effortlessly drop to notes I can hardly fathom, plus the added bonus of vocal overtones. They have studied everything from throat singing and yodeling to belting and pop techniques, and it really shows in this album.
A few of my favorite moments in the album were the pieces that featured the juxtaposition between very technical conversation and hauntingly beautiful yet simple sustained chords. It vaguely reminds me of a crowded subway where a musician struggles to be heard above the cacophony of voices. There are so many different styles combined into individual pieces that it could have been overwhelming, but the pieces are so artfully composed that the transitions are seamless.
There is so much that contemporary a cappella in the pop world can learn from this album, from different ways to vocalize to the effect of a cohesive album that really tells a story from the moment you pick it up until the last note of the final song. “Roomful of Teeth” is innovative in so many ways and could provide a solid platform or starting point for the next level of a cappella music in the very near future.
About the writer:
Nina Beaulieu is a student at James Madison University, studying Media Arts & Design with a focus on Converged Media and a Music Industry minor. She is a proud member of The BluesTones and has arranged various songs for them as well as for other groups. Nina hopes to stay very involved in the a cappella community after graduating. She likes ice hockey, peacocks, and dissonance.