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.

Germantown Friends School A Cappella

Germantown Friends School

When Hairy Met Sushi (2007)

2.3

October 18, 2007

Tuning / Blend 2.3
Energy / Intensity 3.3
Innovation / Creativity 2.7
Soloists 3.0
Sound / Production 2.3
Repeat Listenability 2.0
Tracks
1 Takin' it to the Streets 2.7
2 Heya 2.7
3 Take Sarava 3.0
4 Annie Waits 2.7
5 I Was a Fool 3.3
6 Tribute 3.0
7 Say it Ain't So 2.3
8 Babylon 3.0
9 Kissing You 3.3
10 Man in the Mirror 2.0
11 Breathless 2.7
12 Hurt 3.0
13 Surrounded 2.7
14 Come to My Window 2.3
15 Techno Medley 2.7
16 Love Shack (hidden track) 2.0

Recorded 2005 – 2006
Total time: 67:32, 16 songs


Tuning / Blend 2
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Takin' it to the Streets 2
2 Heya 3
3 Take Sarava 3
4 Annie Waits 3
5 I Was a Fool 3
6 Tribute 3
7 Say it Ain't So 2
8 Babylon 3
9 Kissing You 4
10 Man in the Mirror 2
11 Breathless 2
12 Hurt 3
13 Surrounded 2
14 Come to My Window 2
15 Techno Medley 2
16 Love Shack (hidden track) 2

Germantown Friends School A Cappella's When Hairy Met Sushi is an enjoyable high school level, mixed voice release. It may also be one of the most subtly dirtiest named albums I've reviewed in recent memory. Hairy. Sushi. Heh.

Purists will enjoy the relatively unaffected sound dominating the CD. GFS actually sings their own crescendos. They have a blend not entirely produced by manipulations on a console. Admittedly, their intonation is still noticeably short of what autotune-o-philes have become accustomed to, and their rhythms don't fall right in the pocket, but that's still quite a bit better than what most groups — even at a college level — are capable of in "real life".

The result of this natural production approach is, predictably, an album that rates more highly in categories like energy and a little less in areas like production.

GFS A cappella is blessed with leads beyond their years and they occasionally thwart expectations in giving typically "male" songs to female leads (Heya, Man in the Mirror).

But even without those casting twists, some solos stand out as extraordinary particularly for high school level (Take Sarava Hurt Tribute). Hurt is also, by the way, an absolutely fantastic arrangement. Many listeners will also enjoy the passion in Kissing You's lead, but I have to admit I had some trouble with the singer's choice to use such a wide vibrato on certain sections. One thing that's obvious is that she is making a choice, as her straight tone sections are right in tune.

Every now and then I wish that RARB had named the category below average, simply, "below average". It has a different connotation than the current rating of "weak". Germantown Friends School A Cappella When Hairy Met Sushi hovers between average and just below, or just barely above average. What makes the difference between ratings is, at least in GFS' case, very slight. It may be a momentary passage of poor intonation or poor mix by the producer, or an exciting choice by a lead. In a non-RARB world I would be unlikely to call them "weak" but nonetheless, the tracks are sometimes of lesser quality than the average a cappella track.

I do recommend this recording to high school level directors and singers. These are well-sung and attainable arrangements — something high school a cappella groups are in desperate need of. Name aside, When Hairy Met Sushi is a surprisingly respectable recording and one with a genuine potential for appeal beyond mere friends and family — a rarity at the high school level. The singers of GFS should be very proud.


Tuning / Blend 2
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Takin' it to the Streets 3
2 Heya 3
3 Take Sarava 3
4 Annie Waits 3
5 I Was a Fool 4
6 Tribute 4
7 Say it Ain't So 2
8 Babylon 4
9 Kissing You 3
10 Man in the Mirror 2
11 Breathless 3
12 Hurt 3
13 Surrounded 3
14 Come to My Window 2
15 Techno Medley 3
16 Love Shack (hidden track) 2

When Hairy Met Sushi, by Germantown Friends A Cappella, sounds just like your average collegiate a cappella album. The thing is, these kids are just in high school. The arrangements are done by their director and donated by a few college groups. The group has a great energy and clearly enjoys the time they spend together (as evidenced by the interludes and hidden track).

A few voices caught my ear (college groups, take note because they will be headed your way in a few years): Jack Meigs on I Was a Fool and Vicky Everett on Kissing You. Jack has a smooth mellow baritone, and Vicky has a rich and full voice that belies her age. Vicky needs to control the vibrato a little more, but with some training, she will be a vocal force with which to be reckoned.

The group's most ambitious track is an 8-minute-plus techno medley, which includes songs ranging from Mr. Roboto to the Numa Numa Yay song (remember that famous video floating around the Internet a few years back?). Unfortunately, it drags a bit at parts and lacks the continual punchy percussion which is essential to techno.

When Hairy Met Sushi does suffer from some rookie mistakes, including pitch issues, a lack of precision, and a shaky blend. Perhaps this can be attributed to youth and inexperience, but maybe all they need is a little more studio time and some helpful production.

While I would not recommend this album to every purchaser, those with an interest in the future voices of college a cappella might want to give this a spin.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Takin' it to the Streets 3
2 Heya 2
3 Take Sarava 3
4 Annie Waits 2
5 I Was a Fool 3
6 Tribute 2
7 Say it Ain't So 3
8 Babylon 2
9 Kissing You 3
10 Man in the Mirror 2
11 Breathless 3
12 Hurt 3
13 Surrounded 3
14 Come to My Window 3
15 Techno Medley 3
16 Love Shack (hidden track) 2

Back when I got into this business, circa 2002, Germantown Friends School A Cappella was the team to beat. I remember picking up my first copy of BOHSA and being wowed by GFS' (then "The Bufftones") standout track, Land of Confusion. That, I told myself, is what I want to sound like when I make music in high school. Fast-forward five years. I open my mailbox to find the latest offering from GFS, When Hairy Met Sushi, and I wonder whether the trailblazers of my day have withstood the test of time. The answer to that question isn't as straightforward as you might expect. My reaction was mixed.

In recent years the bar for production on a high school a cappella album has gone way, way up. With the prevalence of remote mixing and the increased accessibility of professional a cappella producers, it's becoming more and more difficult to hear a difference in sound quality between a high school album and a collegiate product. Sadly herein lies this album's largest and most prevalent flaw.

To put it bluntly, this studio album sounds like it may as well have been recorded live. Inconsistent levels of reverb, poor EQ, and an inadequate balance reminiscent of a coffee house bootleg characterize GFS' production. Thankfully, soloists rise above the mire enough to be heard, but backgrounds sound muddy on practically every track. With respect to production at least, this group is still firmly rooted in 2002. Yet, in spite of its very old school sound, this album didn't turn me off. There's a charm to this recording that indicates that these kids are having fun, as well as a good handful of things to indicate that GFS may just be the once and future kings and queens of high school a cappella. First of all, the basics here are actually not bad. Tuning, as live as it is, is still all right especially for high school level singers. Blend isn't bad either (though basses, watch out. Sometimes you guys sound like you're pushing a little too hard to be heard, and your tone and vowels go out the window). Finally, soloists are pretty solid, if sometimes a little square.

So what does this all add up to? For me When Hairy Met Sushi has all the characteristics of a yearbook album, albeit a good one. Friends, family, and members of the group will have a really great memoir of what sounds like a fun time had together, and in the end that's really what it's all about.

However, to GFS I say, I think you still have the talent to raise the bar again should you choose to do so. Hook up with any one of the professional engineers in the field, turn up the creativity dial on your arrangements just a bit, and I think you might have the makings of another breakout high school album next time around.


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 order this album, contact Allen Drew or write to:

Germantown Friends School
31 W. Coulter St.
Philadelphia, PA 19144

×