Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

Jabberwocks

Brown University

JABBERTALK (2013)

4.0

December 10, 2013

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.7
Innovation / Creativity 3.7
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 4.3
Tracks
1 All of the Lights / Power 4.3
2 Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight 4.3
3 Retrograde 4.7
4 This Woman's Work 4.0
5 Use Somebody 5.0
6 Somebody That I Used to Know 3.7
7 Ragged Wood 3.3
8 Sweet Disposition 4.7
9 Someone Like You / Set Fire to the Rain 4.3
10 Mirrors 4.3
11 With a Little Help From My Friends 4.0
12 Farewell 3.3

Recorded 2013
Total time: 44:17, 12 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 All of the Lights / Power 5
2 Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight 5
3 Retrograde 4
4 This Woman's Work 5
5 Use Somebody 5
6 Somebody That I Used to Know 4
7 Ragged Wood 4
8 Sweet Disposition 5
9 Someone Like You / Set Fire to the Rain 4
10 Mirrors 5
11 With a Little Help From My Friends 4
12 Farewell 3

The Jabberwocks have worked really hard to put out an extremely polished new album, christened JABBERTALK and presented with some very beautiful high-test packaging. It's a testament to the talents of the small group of singers who put it together. They want you to know it is "the culmination of seven class-years worth of work", along with who sang every part on every song. They put in the effort, y'all! 

And there's one really fabulous song: Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight. Great arrangement, great groove, great singing. If you can buy it as a single, go right ahead, you won't be disappointed. Sweet Disposition is runner up and also worth a good listen.

The rest of the album? Meh. (Much as it pains me to write off somebody's technical masterpiece.) Part of this is repertoire — the album-opening All of the Lights/Power is quite good and bursting with energy; I just don't relate to the song very much. But another part of this is choices. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should, not if you're barrelling toward an attempt at great art. This album overdoses on medleys and on falsetto, and as a result it's going to molder a lot farther back on the shelf than its skill would seem to deserve.

The Jabberwocks are an all-male group, proudly so and with a long tradition of single-sex singing. They are a very nice set of men's voices. Yet a huge chunk of this album, solos and backgrounds alike, is in a woman's register. Guys, you have great falsetto and all but you don't sound as good as actual women and there are an awful lot of women singing very good a cappella. So why go head to head with that? Why not do something that plays more to your innate strengths? The falsetto bits — like This Woman's Work, which features an impressive high solo over a decent-but-less-than-impressive high background — would have been a lot more impressive if there were fewer of them. 
 
A less is more approach would have helped Somebody That I Used to Know, which flounders on an excess of melisma on the choruses, as well as With a Little Help From My Friends and Someone Like You. Overall, I wanted to like this album but I also wanted to bring it down and streamline it.

This album is a clear labor of love, and it's quite possible — even likely — that the guys made exactly the record that they wanted. Hats off for that, we should all have such clear artistic vision. That said, I get the feeling they also wanted to connect, and on that score, they come up a bit short. 


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 All of the Lights / Power 4
2 Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight 4
3 Retrograde 5
4 This Woman's Work 4
5 Use Somebody 5
6 Somebody That I Used to Know 3
7 Ragged Wood 3
8 Sweet Disposition 4
9 Someone Like You / Set Fire to the Rain 4
10 Mirrors 4
11 With a Little Help From My Friends 4
12 Farewell 3

And so we've returned to the fantasy land of the Jubjub bird. Strongly musical with extra attention placed on rhythm and drive to add punch, JABBERTALK should delight fans of this beloved Brown group.

There are several great song choices on JABBERTALK, perhaps most especially the sappy but bursting-with-charm With a Little Help From My Friends. One can easily picture the guys singing with their arms around one another's shoulders, the audience swaying along. To me, this is college. And Adele sounds very different — practically new — when covered by a bunch of high-energy guys. 

Yet it's really in the arrangements that the Jabberwocks shine their scales/unfold their wings/flip around their tails. Raise your hand if you've heard Use Somebody by the Kings of Leon covered in our circuits. Now raise your hand if you've heard a gorgeously lyrical lead (Will Peterson) for this song as opposed to a scratchy raw lead, placed atop an arrangement (by Erik Abi-Khattar) with new harmonies and an appropriate tie-in to Evanescence. It's certainly a welcome first for me. And I've probably never noted "what emotive and mood-setting humming" before, but it's what you'll experience in Ryan Glassman's sharp version of Retrograde

Finally, for being nerdy a cappella, I do wish that the group listed the requisite songwriters in their credits. We get a whole stapled booklet with totally readable font and striking art (and everyone's voice part for each track — even if they recorded multiple parts — which I don't think I've ever seen in print before), but no credited composers. Oddly, also no group or individual photos, which I thought was the law for collegiate groups.

Anyway, JABBERTALK will hold your attention. Enjoy this latest round from the boys from Brown with confidence.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 All of the Lights / Power 4
2 Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight 4
3 Retrograde 5
4 This Woman's Work 3
5 Use Somebody 5
6 Somebody That I Used to Know 4
7 Ragged Wood 3
8 Sweet Disposition 5
9 Someone Like You / Set Fire to the Rain 5
10 Mirrors 4
11 With a Little Help From My Friends 4
12 Farewell 4

Brown University's Jabberwocks have put together a solid cast of songs for their album JABBERTALK. In fact, one of the first things that caught my eye was the song selection: the Jabberwocks do a good job assembling a list of sure hits, old and current, from various genres. There's Kanye, there's Maxwell, there's Kings of Leon, Gotye, of course Adele, and even James Blake. While this sets the expectations high for the Jabberwocks, because of the natural tendency for comparison to the originals, they've done a great job of meeting and in some instances exceeding these expectations.    

All of the Lights was a great choice to begin JABBERTALKI appreciate the alternative delivery of the rap as opposed to mimicking Kanye's flow. While there aren't too many twists to this arrangement, the execution of the vocals is spot on. My only real complaint is that the bass and vocal percussion don't hit hard enough to create the correct dramatic impacts. This is especially true during the parts of the song where the beat cuts for the soloist's punchline delivery and re-enters again.

Maxwell's This Woman's Work is very much technically tight with regard to pitch and blend, but I find the arrangement to be a bit sterile and metronomic for my taste. The soloist has a very nice, clean voice, but his delivery doesn't properly convey the magnitude or emotion of the lyrics, which makes the song fall in quality from where it could have been.

I really enjoy Use Somebody. It works as a change of pace and injection of energy from the slower Maxwell cover before. The soloist and background do a great job of being on the same page for intensity and their understanding of this makes the song really become a standout on the album. Some of my other favorites from JABBERTALK are Somebody That I Used to Know, Someone Like You/Set Fire to the Rain, and Sweet Disposition. 

The Jabberwocks have assembled really great material on JABBERTALK and created an album of familiar, fun hits that play seamlessly from start to finish as a proper album should. While the album isn't necessarily innovative in the realm of collegiate a cappella, it's still more than worthy of a listen with high replay value.

 

 


How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

To purchase this album, visit the group's web site.

×