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The Accidentals

University of Georgia

Imprint (2009)

3.7

January 21, 2010

Tuning / Blend 4.3
Energy / Intensity 3.7
Innovation / Creativity 3.0
Soloists 3.7
Sound / Production 3.3
Repeat Listenability 2.7
Tracks
1 Life is a Highway 3.0
2 Barrel of a Gun 3.3
3 Violet Hill 4.0
4 Rains in Asia 3.3
5 Warning 3.3
6 Nothing in My Way 3.7
7 Everything 3.7
8 Cupid's Chokehold 3.7
9 On a Night Like This 4.0
10 Lovestoned/ I Think She Knows 4.3
11 Acoustic #3 4.0
12 Through With You 3.7
13 Lullaby 4.7

Recorded 2007 – 2008
Total time: 40:33, 13 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Life is a Highway 3
2 Barrel of a Gun 4
3 Violet Hill 4
4 Rains in Asia 3
5 Warning 4
6 Nothing in My Way 4
7 Everything 5
8 Cupid's Chokehold 4
9 On a Night Like This 4
10 Lovestoned/ I Think She Knows 5
11 Acoustic #3 5
12 Through With You 4
13 Lullaby 4

The Accidentals sing well and make odd choices. Numerics defy me. Technically, I think this album is pretty nice, with good singing and great tuning and musical cohesion. But as a collection of songs? There are two I like, a bunch that slide by without making any impression, and a few that are just dreadful. I mean, as songs, before the Accidentals get anywhere near them.

Rains in Asia has the worst lyrics of any song I have ever heard. I mean, Tornado Ashes Club-level badness. Faux profound and dumb and banal all at the same time. Why, Accidentals? Why take this on?

Life is a Highway, meanwhile — in this case, it's Life is a Highway-a. Every single time. As performed here, "Highway" and "My way" are the only two words in the entire English language with an audible final consonant, and it's a sound that's not even written down. Aaaah, Accidentals! So seduced by all those sexy "jums" and "jays", you decided to start your album with way, way too many of them (the "jums" and "jays", that is), and then let your soloist lop the final sounds off of every single word except the ones that end in "-ay". Again, I ask why?

Luckily, there's Kirby Duncan singing Everything and Yannick Morgan on Acoustic #3. Yummy baritone soloists singing pretty songs that were okay to begin with. Yay nice music, yay nice voices, yay songs that aren't annoying. (Kirby's other song is annoying — Lovestoned/I Think She Knows by Justin Timberlake — but he does turn in another decent performance. And to be fair, I think the Accidentals did about as well with that song as anyone could.) I even like the arrangement on Acoustic #3, which has lots of interesting a cappella-ish touches without strangling itself.

Anyway, the Accidentals worked hard and did good and earned some good scores, but I will probably never listen to this album ever again. I'd hate to see all this talent go to waste — here's hoping other people like it better.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Life is a Highway 3
2 Barrel of a Gun 3
3 Violet Hill 5
4 Rains in Asia 4
5 Warning 3
6 Nothing in My Way 4
7 Everything 3
8 Cupid's Chokehold 4
9 On a Night Like This 4
10 Lovestoned/ I Think She Knows 4
11 Acoustic #3 4
12 Through With You 4
13 Lullaby 5

Imprint takes its time warming up, but once the Accidentals hit their stride they serve up some pretty exceptional and enjoyable musical moments. It's almost as if the Accidentals are two groups. The first group sings arrangements that sound thin and, while well-sung, often fail to leave much of an impression. The second group features powerhouse soloists over massive, beautiful backgrounds. The latter face of the Accidentals caught my attention and carried me through the moments where the first group was in force.

Life is a Highway and Barrel of a Gun are two prime examples of the first group. Both feature so-so, collegiate-sounding soloists and both are backed by thin, largely homophonic arrangements that do little to catch the ear. Then comes Violet Hill. Where was this group hiding? The track kicks off with a neat ambient vocal effect, and rushes into a churning power groove by the thirty-second mark. The arrangement is beautifully layered, well voiced, and supports a soloist who kicks the song into high gear with some genuine emotion up his sleeve.

So goes the rest of the album. High points include the intro of Rains in Asia, which effectively carries over the vibe established by Violet Hill, the giant drums of Cupid's Chokehold, and the breathtakingly beautiful, spot-on soloist in Lullaby. Lullaby really is a stellar track. In addition to a fantastic solo, the pacing of the song is perfect. The pauses between phrases are just long enough to allow the meaning of each melodic motion to sink in, and the overall build of the track is really well done. It's a pleasure to listen to.

On the flip side, low points include Everything, which sounds as thin as the earlier tracks, and Warning, which never really evolves past the original ideas presented in the arrangement.

With so many excellent moments on one album, I wholeheartedly expect great things from the Accidentals in the future. Being even pickier about solo quality, and taking care to flesh out every arrangement in the studio could result in an album that's totally enjoyable from start to finish.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Life is a Highway 3
2 Barrel of a Gun 3
3 Violet Hill 3
4 Rains in Asia 3
5 Warning 3
6 Nothing in My Way 3
7 Everything 3
8 Cupid's Chokehold 3
9 On a Night Like This 4
10 Lovestoned/ I Think She Knows 4
11 Acoustic #3 3
12 Through With You 3
13 Lullaby 5

The UGA Accidentals present a nice, pleasant sound on Imprint. Everything is in tune, rhythms are solid, vocal percussion is present yet not over-bearing, and the guys provide a polite pop energy throughout. Everything is nice — yet incredibly boring.

Life is a Highway and Barrel of a Gun are tracks that just burst with infectious energy in the originals, yet the Accidentals don't seem to find that energy. These songs should arrange themselves. Backing syllables and rhythms shouldn't be hard to hear and put right into the arrangement swiftly and without effort. These opportunities to make the arranging easy (and a moment where the listener would actually want you to do a straight transcription) are blatantly ignored. Instead, we're left with uninspiring backing vocals, and the songs themselves suffer no matter how well the soloist sings or the mixer tries to cover up the inadequacies of the arranging.

There are some cool effects (engine sound at onset of Life is a Highway, and some fun mouth-popping percussion during Barrel of a Gun), yet the meat of the performances is unsatisfying.

Soloists are all pleasant and average, neither detracting nor adding to the quality of Imprint. Maybe that's because Imprint sounds average from beginning to end. The album actually sounds unfinished, as if the Accidentals rushed it to production. The mixing is good, yet sounds incomplete, like an album that is a good 20% away from being done.

The Accidentals are probably at their best with On a Night Like This, which employs a more natural arranging style (mostly "oohs" and "ahhs"). They sound more comfortable with this type of singing. On the other hand, their best contemporary-sounding track is Justin Timberlake's Lovestoned/I Think She Knows. The backing voices reach down and find some pulsing energy to support the soloist in a rare moment that forces the listener to feign at least a little interest. The level of performance on these two tracks would be a nice baseline for the album. Instead they are the stronger tracks here.

Now, all of that said, the UGA Accidentals put together some musicality for their closing track Lullaby. It's the first time this year I've heard a group use rubato on this song, and the results are simply beautiful to take in. Soloist Myers Boicourt gives you everything you love about Josh Groban's interpretation while providing listeners with his own take on the song. Where was this group on the rest of Imprint?! If the Accidentals can answer this question and then utilize even a portion of this track's musicality, energy, and fantastic singing they will be on their way to creating an album worth listening to.

I'd encourage you to take a listen to Lullaby if you can find it available as a single. If not, take a pass here. The album is simply not worth the listen.


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