Mister Tim is often billed as a one-man vocal band, and it is pretty remarkable to consider that all the sounds in The Funky Introvert were performed, recorded, and produced by just one person. While he’s been involved in quite a few projects, including a cappella comedy outfit Moose Butter and with-instruments band Delilah’s Revenge, Mister Tim may have found his most unique voice in this one-man form, combining a diverse oral toolkit with real skill in looping to produce a pretty remarkable act. While much of Mister Tim’s previous work has been comedic or rooted in covers, The Funky Introvert marks a departure into all-original music, without playing for laughs. I’m pleased to say the experiment is by and large a success.
Last spring No Comment, a co-ed group out of The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, ended champions of the Midwest Region of ICCA, and thus advanced to their very first International Finals.
No Comment stood out at Finals—not so dissimilarly to how they had stood out at the semifinal levels. Their set wasn’t laden with dubstep, stomp routines, or rap interludes. No one did a back flip and there didn’t go for any particularly wacky gender bending solos. Instead, they were an earnest group that focused on fundamentals and, as such, arrived as one of the best college a cappella groups in the world.
Ellipsis is, in many ways an ode to that very style of performance, and, indeed, identity for the group.
Everyone that knows me knows that the Nor’easters from Northeastern University hold a special place in my heart and everyone who knows or has seen the Nor’easters perform probably knows why. As the reigning ICCA champions, their talent and drive cannot be contested and, on a personal level, you’d be lucky to ever meet a kinder, more humble group of people especially in the face of all their accomplishments of the past year.
This past year was the big one for the Nor’easters. They began with a big win at SoJam and went on to make their first ever appearance at ICCA Finals where they took home the crown and awards for Beejul Khatri’s outstanding beat boxing at Finals, as well as Shams Ahmed’s groundbreaking arranging and Ty Myers’ emotive choreography in prior rounds. In my opinion, the Nor’easters have some of the best arrangements of any a cappella group performing today and they execute them with a unique combination professionalism and powerful, raw emotion that leaves everyone in the audience in awe.
Naturally, after seeing them perform time after time and always being so impressed, I was left wondering how well the music would translate when recorded. I was worried that some of the signature rawness would be lost in the studio and therefore I was very excited but somewhat nervous for my favorite group when I received my copy of their latest album, Equilibrium.
Let’s get one thing clear from the very beginning: in my opinion, GQ is one of, if not the single most outstanding a cappella group singing today in terms of vocal quality, tuning, and blend. I first heard the group less than year after its inception, at SingStrong 2012 where they positively shocked and awed the audience en route to winning the Aca-Idol live competition. Indeed, the audience in DC learned the very same lesson that night the Mid-Atlantic Harmony Sweepstakes region had learned a short while before—that GQ comes to play, offering up a unique combination of barbershop conventions and aesthetics, with contemporary sensibilities to assemble one of the most compelling live acts in the world.
But what would a GQ album sound like?
Vol. 1 errs toward the side of traditional barbershop. I appreciate that’s the tradition this group is coming from, and though I wish that the group had pushed the envelope a little further, the fact remains that this is a stunningly clean compilation of the group’s early efforts.
Vol. 1 is at its best when the group allows its barbershop background to inform less traditional song selections and arrangements—when the group innovates, and particularly when strong soloists have the opportunity to shine. Examples of the group at its finest include “Timshel” and “Fly Away (Reprise).” A song like “Hot Knife” also allows the group to thrive through the clever and playful addition of body percussion.
On “Be Mine,” the second track of Bioluminescence, the lyrics intone “we’re just two charged circuits making electricity.” This singular moment encapsulates an album, if not the entire story of a vocal band.
Let’s take a step back. Prior to this past summer, the a cappella group at hand was known as Sonos. After two albums, losing one member, a run on The Sing-Off, and building a name as one of the most celebrated ensembles in the a cappella community (a group Pentatonix has gone on record to say inspired them), the crew dropped a new album of all-original music and took a new name. Thus began the new legacy of Arora.
Arora’s most oft-used tagline is “vocals + electronics.” While two words and a symbol may oversimplify a five-member group with a strikingly complex sound, that simple bit of addition is truly representative of what Arora is all about. When it comes to this album, the group amounts to five charged parties synergizing to make (and make the most of) some very real electricity. Five bodies, no instruments, lighting up a stage—could the end result be called anything but Bioluminescence?
When I think of Florida State University Reverb, I see powder blue bow ties.
In addition to being accomplished, ambitious musicians and high energy, charismatic stage performers, the gentlemen of Reverb has chosen powder blue bowties (and other accents of the same color) as complements to their otherwise jet black attire. Much more than a simple sartorial choice, this aesthetic decision is very much representative of the group’s identity.
Yes, they’re professional. Yes, they perform as a unit.
In 2013, The Cornell Chordial bowled over the ICCA Mid-Atlantic en route to a berth in the ICCA Finals where they not only represented the region proudly, but took home third place honors. The most memorable quality of their celebrated set?
When it comes to scholastic a cappella groups that have made a splash internationally, there emerges a very short list of ensembles. Out of the Blue. The Gargoyles. The Sons of Pitches.
All the King’s Men.