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The Loreleis

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Burn (2014)

3.0

January 30, 2015

Tuning / Blend 3.0
Energy / Intensity 3.0
Innovation / Creativity 2.7
Soloists 3.3
Sound / Production 3.0
Repeat Listenability 2.7
Tracks
1 DNA 3.7
2 Royals 4.0
3 Give Me Love 3.7
4 No Place Like Home 4.3
5 Figure 8 3.3
6 Done 3.0
7 Too Close 2.3
8 Harder to Breathe 2.3
9 I'll Be Waiting 2.7
10 Up to the Mountain 3.7

Recorded 2012 – 2014
Total time: 38:58, 10 songs


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 DNA 4
2 Royals 4
3 Give Me Love 5
4 No Place Like Home 5
5 Figure 8 3
6 Done 4
7 Too Close 4
8 Harder to Breathe 3
9 I'll Be Waiting 3
10 Up to the Mountain 4

The UNC Loreleis have changed a bit since their last album, A Kick & A Wallop. On that album, these ladies sounded super-sweet, with a breezy pop vibe that didn't translate well on some of the group's angstier song choices.

But on Burn, the Loreleis have a (slightly) darker tone and have worked to pick songs that match. There's a sassy vibe on Done, fiery emotion on DNA, and some real power behind Harder to Breathe that all show much more depth to these ladies' sound.

There is still some sweetness here — No Place Like Home in particular sounds absolutely lovely, and it's refreshing to hear an ensemble piece with such a pretty arrangement. Give Me Love is another standout track here, thanks to Corinne Tabor's beautiful solo and the intricate arrangement co-written by Mindy Roth and Sarah Edwards. Album-closing Up to the Mountain is perfectly-suited to soloist Nina Gandhi's voice, and although some of the backing "ooh-hoo"s are a little overpowering, this emotive delivery is a perfect way to end the album.

The rest of Burn is solid if not remarkable. The Loreleis deliver a strong version of Royals and give their own spin to the end of Too Close. Figure 8 and I'll Be Waiting are a little more forgettable, but overall, the Loreleis have made a noticeable change since their last album. A little more emphasis on dynamics could make some of these songs really sparkle (Harder to Breathe in particular feels a little same-y after a while), but Burn finds the Loreleis branching out with some depth while still staying true to their wheelhouse.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 DNA 3
2 Royals 5
3 Give Me Love 3
4 No Place Like Home 5
5 Figure 8 4
6 Done 2
7 Too Close 1
8 Harder to Breathe 2
9 I'll Be Waiting 2
10 Up to the Mountain 3

Passions are ablaze in the Loreleis' Burn. The ladies of UNC have put together a fierce collection of songs telling you to "get it together or get the #@$! out of the way." While this album thrives on a steady stream of energy and attitude, it lacks the artistic touch to make the message stick.

The mixes are dialed for maximum edge and not-so-modest blend. The rhythm section is loud and mid-rangy and the powerful soloists pop right out in front. With the exception of a few weak notes, the leads sell their anguish, their anger, their cynicism, and their sass. Then there's no room for anybody else. The upper background parts are thinned out and slapped with distortion and phasers and still barely cut through. Parts that harmonize with the solo are EQed and panned so drastically that you have to strain to even discern that a harmony is going on. The whole package is squished with compression, leaving Burn with a lot of boom and not a lot of dynamics.

What could almost pass for dynamics is the use of syllables. There are a lot of them. The Loreleis have a habit of arranging every instrument they hear into a "ghen", a "ha", or a half-formed echo of the solo lyrics. It works out alright in the more streamlined verses, but each chorus is a hurly-burly of parts pushing and pulling at every conceivable subdivision. It sounds louder and more in-your-face that way, I guess. But it doesn't sound very flattering.

The trouble is that voices do not have the same sonic qualities as instruments. Even heavily filtered, the Loreleis sound clumsy and soft on the driving attacks and intricate riffs in Done, Harder to Breathe, I'll Be Waiting, and Too Close. Give Me Love, Figure 8, and Up to the Mountain are a notch better because the original songs are less busy and have more inherent choral elements. With stronger solos and more conservative use of syllable accents, these could be great tracks.

The great tracks, it follows, are those transposed from songs with hardly any instruments. With Royals, the Loreleis flesh out a sparse rhythm and melody into a full, dynamic composition. As overdone as this song is, it sounds fresh because Kat Linker and Annie Poole are so inventive with the space. No Place Like Home is a mesmerizing composition. Much of the song is simple, pure, monophonic beauty. It's that bridge! Kat Linker, Corinne Tabor, and Sarah Edwards put their heads together for a round that effortlessly crescendos from a lone lyrical line to a resplendent choir, nearly incomprehensible in its depth, and then magically back down to a single cathartic chord.

When the Loreleis scrap the instruments and channel the raw power of their voices, it's a fiery force that truly makes you want to get it together, or get the #@$! out of the way.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 DNA 4
2 Royals 3
3 Give Me Love 3
4 No Place Like Home 3
5 Figure 8 3
6 Done 3
7 Too Close 2
8 Harder to Breathe 2
9 I'll Be Waiting 3
10 Up to the Mountain 4

Burn, the latest album from the Loreleis at UNC, is a nice collection of fairly straight-forward covers that ultimately falls short in nuance and dynamics. It's surprising in a way, because I think there's a lot of talent in this group of women. The album is bookended by two of the most successful tracks, DNA and Up to the Mountain, which are great examples of what the Loreleis can sound like when everything is going right on a track.

DNA is a perfect song to open with; there's a lot of emotion both from the soloists and the backs, the percussion fits in great to the groove of the song, and the mixing (by diovoce) is fantastic. Everything works together to sell the song. Many of the other numbers seem to run into issues in one (or more) of those same areas, however, and can't seem to make everything click again. Figure 8, for example, has a lot of promise, but lacks any sort of intensity from the group. Some issues also show up in Harder to Breathe, where the solo gets overwhelmed by a lot of the backing vocals (the "whoa"s and "yeah yeah yeah"s), or Too Close, where the lead suddenly gets over-processed coming out of the bridge in a way that I find a little jarring.

Tracks that work in the group's favor tend to feature strong solo performances (Give Me Love and Up to the Mountain), backgrounds that match the emotional message of the track and drive the song forward (the breathy parts in I'll Be Waiting fit the tone while maintaining the groove of the number), and arrangements with more dynamic range.

A lot of the areas where I think the Loreleis can improve on future albums have to do with approaching things from a different angle. Burn features a lot of popular hits from the 2011-2013 timeframe, but the soloists aren't always a good fit. I think it would benefit the group greatly to focus on choosing songs that suit individual voices and strengths, rather than just current chart-toppers. Similarly, songs where the backs focus too much on mimicking the original recordings tend to lose emotion and momentum from the group. The "din-din"s in the opening of Give Me Love, for example, might emulate Ed Sheeran's guitar strums, but the rest of the arrangement does a better job on conveying the tone and feel of the song.

I think this album gives the Loreleis a great place to grow from, and to really approach future recordings with a new focus. If they come at the project from a slightly different direction, it could have a huge effect.


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Ordering Information

This album is available on Louder and iTunes, or by email at loreleis@unc.edu.

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