Odd Man In is the thirteenth studio album from The Tufts Amalgamates. This latest offering from the co-ed group is nothing if not ambitious, tackling a range of artists, genres and time periods. What may be most impressive about the end result is just how often the results live up to those loft ambitions, embracing the core of individual songs and pairing these excellent creative decisions with pristine production, courtesy of Plaid Productions (recording and production) and Vocal Mastering (mastering) for a stellar compilation.
“Paris (Ooh La La)” opens the album and does with a grunt that told me everything I needed to know. The piece was all raw power and energy, dripping with sexuality. The soloist turned in a near perfect performance on this one, positively squeaking in excitement at all the right points. Excellent use of dynamics all around on this song as the group sound receded and even fell out altogether, only to key back in and punch the drama of the song.
Fitz and the Tantrums’ “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” was another strong track, highlighted by the slick smooth sound from end to end. Rarely do I appreciate the instrumental breaks most on a track, but this the points at which the basses drove the melody and the sopranos added complex rhythmic texture were positively sublime.
The layout of the album was pretty shrewd working its way from the staccato, industrial style of Muse’s “Undisclosed Desires” to the down home vibe of Elbow’s “Grounds for Divorce,” only to give way to the gorgeous harmonies and tremendous fullness of sound on display in “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.” The follow up, “Follow Me Back Into the Sun” was perfectly understated with subtle male backing vocal behind the female lead and sublime percussion.
One of my favorite tracks from Odd Man In was “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits. As I mentioned earlier, the production was extremely clean throughout this album, but may have been most impressive on this simple, earnest track, trusting the vocals themselves to tell a story without added effects or much evidence of touching up the sound.
After “Brother in Arms,” it was off to the races for this album with a series of three songs, each of the epic, each of them quite different from the other, starting with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” a perfect transition piece the somber preceding track. The group got more contemporary with its next selection, a power treatment of Janelle Monae’s “Cold War,” then ventured into no less big, more experimental territory with Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love.” This rendering was really lovely, spurred by an elegant arrangement that not only reproduced but enhanced the music of the original track, bolstered by killer percussion and low end when they keyed in on the first chorus. I loved the choice to the end the album with such a bold, statement song, ensuring listeners will the remember the track and revisit it in the days to follow.
While I thought that Odd Man In would have benefited from another track or two, that’s a minor complaint for an excellent album. This one’s definitely worth a listen.