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Academical Village People

University of Virginia

Sorry for the Noise (2013)

4.0

November 5, 2013

Tuning / Blend 4.3
Energy / Intensity 4.7
Innovation / Creativity 3.0
Soloists 3.0
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 3.0
Tracks
1 Dance With Me Tonight 4.0
2 Beautiful Day 3.7
3 Save Room 3.3
4 Sweet Disposition 4.3
5 Domino 4.7
6 When I Get You Alone 3.7
7 Sweet Annie 3.3
8 Left & Right In the Dark 3.3
9 Outside 4.3
10 Too Close 4.0
11 I Will Follow You Into the Dark 3.0
12 Knights of Cydonia 4.3
13 Hidden Track - Sorry for the Noise 3.0

Recorded 2012 – 2013
Total time: 48:54, 13 songs


5
Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Dance With Me Tonight 4
2 Beautiful Day 5
3 Save Room 4
4 Sweet Disposition 5
5 Domino 5
6 When I Get You Alone 4
7 Sweet Annie 4
8 Left & Right In the Dark 4
9 Outside 5
10 Too Close 5
11 I Will Follow You Into the Dark 4
12 Knights of Cydonia 5
13 Hidden Track - Sorry for the Noise 4

I have not had this much fun listening to an album in ages. Academical Village People is known for being a great party band, sometimes to the detriment of all sense of musicality. But this time around, Sorry for the Noise captures the enthusiastic vitality of the group as well as the strong musicianship present. The boys are doing it right, and you should revel in their excellence.

Though the name is a bit of a misnomer. The album is not nearly as raucous as the title warrants. And neither is it anywhere near as bad as the negative connotation suggests. It seems like they were going for an Animal House vibe when they gave us more of a Revenge of the Nerds without the electric violin solo.

There is something about Virginia groups that meshes with U2 so effortlessly. While I prefer the Sil'hooettes' version of the song, Beautiful Day is pretty bodacious here. I could have done without the dub-step breakdown, but ya know it kinda works. U2 would just be that odd to add something like this to a future rendition of the song.

GEORGE MICHAEL! While the backing lyrical commentary the group included on Father Figure serveral years ago irks me to this day, Outside has placed a perma-grin on my heart. It's funny and cheeky in all the right places, while still giving off an incredibly sexy aura.

So while this isn't a perfect "5", AVP has put together a recording that is completely fascinating and an incredible joy to experience. Even though the soloists sound a little young, they perform each track as if their lives depended on it. That's called conviction and commitment — which each one of them has with aplomb. The mixing and production are impeccable. Songs like Too Close and Knights of Cydonia are as epic as you could imagine them to be. The sexy flourishes with all the braggadocio that bro-cappella can muster are there in Save Room. And you can't out-emo I Will Follow You Into the Dark.

So even though they include the titular track at the end, there is nothing to be sorry about. I even giggled at the end command and did just what they asked me. I'm pretty sure you will too.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Dance With Me Tonight 4
2 Beautiful Day 3
3 Save Room 4
4 Sweet Disposition 5
5 Domino 5
6 When I Get You Alone 3
7 Sweet Annie 3
8 Left & Right In the Dark 4
9 Outside 4
10 Too Close 4
11 I Will Follow You Into the Dark 3
12 Knights of Cydonia 4
13 Hidden Track - Sorry for the Noise 2

This is the album you want spinning at your next soirée. No, not because it makes good blend-in-with-the-curtains background music that you can talk over, but because it's super fun and will put everyone in a good mood. What it's not is the next creative masterpiece of a cappella — the cutting-edge release that everyone will be yapping about — but I'm certain this was not Academical Village People's goal. Sorry for the Noise delivers what you want from an all-male group with a rep for bringing the party: high energy, humor, and danceable tracks.  

I suspect it's awfully hard to strike the balance between making the music here sound laid-back and easy-peasy while still singing the crap out of these songs, like holding the proverbial beer at the microphone. The surprise delight here is Sweet Disposition. This version is probably the best RARB has in its collection, and here's why: the high tenors and the low bass are giving two hundred percent, and that's really made all the difference in bookending the gooey middle goodness of this a cappella standard. (Hear the awesome bass again in Outside). Then we're treated to the fiery powerhouse production-piece Domino, making this part of Sorry for the Noise, for better or worse considering the arc of the album and the resulting unevenness, a very high summit. 

And the unevenness is a bit of an issue. The vocal quality, energy, and arrangements remain at a consistent level (whew!), but boy, placing the la la la/blah blah blah feel of I Will Follow You Into the Dark against the excellent big boldness of Muse's Knights of Cydonia before deciding to end it all with a little cop spoof? Man, I don't know. Looking at the way the track scores jump around, some cutting and rearranging could have helped.

If you like AVP, you'll continue to like AVP after listening to Sorry for the Noise. For heck's sake, the middle of their group photo features someone's butt. It's all good.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Dance With Me Tonight 4
2 Beautiful Day 3
3 Save Room 2
4 Sweet Disposition 3
5 Domino 4
6 When I Get You Alone 4
7 Sweet Annie 3
8 Left & Right In the Dark 2
9 Outside 4
10 Too Close 3
11 I Will Follow You Into the Dark 2
12 Knights of Cydonia 4
13 Hidden Track - Sorry for the Noise 3

Full immersion: that's what artists strive for. A painter doesn't want you to see the brush strokes. A director doesn't want you to notice the film edits. In writing, they call it transparent prose. The goal is to be taken in so completely that the techniques are invisible and all you notice is the beauty, the story, and the emotions evoked from the art. Sorry for the Noise, the latest release by University of Virginia Academical Village People, achieves a certain level of this concept.

In a cappella, this can be both a blessing and a curse. In terms of musicality and technique, this album shines. In terms of personality, it falls short. Sorry for the Noise has quite a bit to be proud of. Every track is carefully arranged to connect with the feel of the original. The music and the soloists are top priority. The engineering is just as careful and sensitive. The mix is fantastically balanced and every track is crisp and clean. All the performances are cohesive, from the bass to the perc to the backgrounds and leads. They all work together toward the same goal with the same energy. It's like listening to the radio!

The bad news is ... it's like listening to the radio. The track list is so eclectic. The fun party songs include Dance With Me Tonight, Domino, When I Get You Alone, Outside, and Knights of Cydonia. These five tracks fit the concept of Sorry for the Noise perfectly. The rest are a random mix of radio hits, some of which (Save Room, Sweet Annie and I Will Follow You Into the Dark) are full-on ballads that don't trigger any kind of party response. Three of the tracks tell a story of a rowdy party causing a disturbance and the cops showing up to restore peace and quiet. With this theme not only in the title, but intentionally being seeded through the album's contents, I feel lied to by the tracks that don't fulfill this promise.

The a cappella version of transparent prose is also a problem. Every track is extremely well done and utterly forgettable. The songs come first, even at the expense of the group's personality. With the exception of that little story arc, I can't think of a single moment in the album that points to this being an AVP album. There is not a single place that makes me sit up and say "Hell yeah! Now THAT was cool!" That said, there are some brilliant arranging choices that allow AVP to connect so completely with the originals being covered. The intro to Sweet Disposition is an example of a rhythmic choice being used to great effect.

Sorry for the Noise gave me writer's block for weeks because I was so torn. Technical excellence and passionate performances that still leave a void in me are hard to convey accurately. It comes down to this: transparent prose allows the author to become invisible so the imagery and story are experienced completely. But in a cappella, the performer is both the artist and the art. I like it when voices prove they are just as good as instruments. I love it when they prove they can be better.


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