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The Sirens

PreMusical Syndrome (2007)

2.0

March 21, 2009

Tuning / Blend 2.0
Energy / Intensity 2.3
Innovation / Creativity 2.0
Soloists 2.7
Sound / Production 1.7
Repeat Listenability 1.7
Tracks
1 Freedom 90 2.7
2 Fly Away 2.3
3 High and Dry 3.3
4 Love Will Keep Us Together 2.0
5 Sunday Morning After 2.7
6 Hooked On A Feeling 2.0
7 Pride (In The Name Of Love) 2.0
8 TV Medley 2.0

Recorded 2006 – 2007
Total time: 33:13, 8 songs


Tuning / Blend 1
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 2
Sound / Production 1
Repeat Listenability 1
Tracks
1 Freedom 90 3
2 Fly Away 2
3 High and Dry 3
4 Love Will Keep Us Together 1
5 Sunday Morning After 2
6 Hooked On A Feeling 1
7 Pride (In The Name Of Love) 1
8 TV Medley 1

The Sirens get off to a good start, seeming to belie their album's goofy name and telling cover art, with its pink feather boa conveying both optimism and dread depending on who's looking. Freedom 90 is simple and charming, lightly sung by pleasant voices and promising good things to come.

The bait-and-switch comes later.

Fly Away is a little out of tune, and has a few too many medley bits dropped in. But Love Will Keep Us Together is the first sign that PMS has gone off the rails, with its badly executed key changes and a goofy voice–over. The disastrously out-of-tune Pride (In The Name Of Love) seals the deal. Then there's the TV Medley, which goes on forever and ever and includes way too many songs for anyone, let alone a group like this.

The Sirens need to sing, and lay off the cutesy factor. They have light voices, which are their strength when harnessed and rehearsed appropriately (High And Dry comes close, by the way, and Sunday Morning After has a nice solo and definite potential). That vocal timbre is inherently charming, putting this group a step ahead of some of the more grating, more vibrato-ed post-college women's groups that have surfaced over the years.

On this album, however, there doesn't seem to have been nearly enough rehearsal to go round. That leaves us with bad tuning and too many medleys, and that's too many strikes for anybody.


Tuning / Blend 2
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 1
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Freedom 90 2
2 Fly Away 2
3 High and Dry 4
4 Love Will Keep Us Together 2
5 Sunday Morning After 3
6 Hooked On A Feeling 2
7 Pride (In The Name Of Love) 2
8 TV Medley 2

PreMusical Syndrome, the newest album from the NYC-based, all-female Sirens, consists of mostly forgettable pop covers, recorded and mixed with an awkward fusion of half-hearted effects and vocal music "hands off" purism.

The mixing never really gets comfortable. The Sirens clearly aim for a more natural sound, but the rhythm section comes out sounding lifeless. The percussion uses the vocalized kick drum, instead of popping across the microphone, which is much easier and sounds much better. The bass lines are equalized to be more "bassy", but they are much too high to function that way, and would sound much better if they were instead just left with the backing block and not low-passed. The more apparent effects they do utilize (like the phone filter) end up sounding out of place and weak.

Tuning is a problem throughout. It sounds as if the group is not totally comfortable with most of its arrangements, and as a result, the middle voices tend to go flat, leaving the soprano parts out to dry, especially on Fly Away and Pride (In The Name Of Love). The singers fail to differentiate between contrasting parts within their respective lines. Hooked On A Feeling provides the most blatant example, as the backing block drones the chorus "hooked on a feeling bap ba dap bah" with no stylistic dynamics whatsoever.

The energy picks up noticeably on High and Dry, which treats us to an artistic, feminine intimacy in both the execution of the lead and in the backs, a unique take on the song. The album also ends strongly with the final chapter of the TV Medley, Movin' On Up.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Freedom 90 3
2 Fly Away 3
3 High and Dry 3
4 Love Will Keep Us Together 3
5 Sunday Morning After 3
6 Hooked On A Feeling 3
7 Pride (In The Name Of Love) 3
8 TV Medley 3

The Sirens, who reside in New York City, promote themselves as:

" ... NYC's premiere all female a cappella group. Six sultry, stellar singers with a diverse repertoire and fabulous sound!"

NYC's premiere all female a cappella group: I can't contend their premiere-ness in NYC as I'm not familiar with other female a cappella groups in that area. Actually I don't think I've ever heard of any, but that's beside the point. I can say with confidence they are, indeed, a female a cappella group. To my ears, they are average-to-good for a collegiate group, and very average for a group who might think of themselves as professional. Their website doesn't really commit to any professional-level status, so I will err on the side of caution and contend that they are really a semi-professional group: they like to get together and work songs as best they can, take on gigs as they come, and go about their lives while also working day jobs. Sounds like a outstanding candidate for the CASA league, but I digress. Sometimes understanding a group's goals is important to determine from what perspective its sound comes. In the end, we as reviewers have to compare their sound to the whole of a cappella. In this comparison, The Sirens come out as average at best.

Six sultry, stellar singers:

The Sirens vocalists don't offend, but neither do they inspire. They sing in tune most of the time, and you can tell they have a collective choral training that allows them to do this quite easily. The soloists are altogether too careful in their presentation, and PreMusical Syndrome comes across as boring. They produce much too polite a sound for their training.

A diverse repertoire:

George Michael, Lenny Kravitz, Radiohead, a cappella standby and BJ Thomas hit Hooked On A Feeling, U2, and a TV Medley to re-live your youth (well, for some of us). The Sirens fill their diverse repertoire claim with ease, as I'm sure most everyone would find something to like on this album.

A fabulous sound:

Arrangements are tightly knit and The Sirens avoid the major pitfall of female groups arranging in keys too high to be successful singing in. Yet, the arrangements don't really go anywhere from there. They are straightforward and stagnant. There are few surprises for the listener to discover. This fact, coupled with the observation that many songs go on far too long makes for a long listen and an itchiness to hit "next" on the iPod. The group's sound is refreshingly natural for an a cappella recording. They don't use any fancy effects; there are no octavized alto lines. I think they can certainly build upon this natural sound if they can craft their arrangements into compelling sonic journeys that will keep their audience coming back for more.

The Sirens have an okay sound and the listener will find moments of them finding their groove on PreMusical Syndrome. In the end, not enough groove for this listener.

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