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.

The Loreleis

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Where The Secret Lies (2018)

4.7

December 14, 2018

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 Daddy Lessons 5.0
2 Distraction 4.0
3 Walk Away 4.0
4 Freedom 4.7
5 Billie Jean 4.7
6 Wherever Is Your Heart 5.0
7 Gone 4.0
8 Silence / Location 4.3
9 How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 4.7

Recorded 2016 – 2018
Total time: 42:24, 9 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Daddy Lessons 5
2 Distraction 4
3 Walk Away 4
4 Freedom 5
5 Billie Jean 5
6 Wherever Is Your Heart 5
7 Gone 4
8 Silence / Location 4
9 How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 5

What I've heard from the last few Loreleis albums is that the group succeeds or fails based on its song selection. Too many all-female groups fill their repertoire with angsty, belting breakup songs, and that vibe has not historically fit the Loreleis' sound well — and I'm thrilled that the group's selected covers on Where The Secret Lies truly fits the Loreleis' roster and sound.

On these emotive and sultry songs, the Loreleis settle into a solid groove — built from the strength of the soloist all the way down to the intricate and engaged group work — then twist and build the song to tell a cohesive story. The decision to interpret the Civil Wars' version of Billie Jean is a smart one: the Loreleis excel at that measured pace, and the original dance-pop version never would have worked with this group of voices. Similarly, lush Wherever Is Your Heart and the outstanding album opener Daddy Lessons feature perfect soloists (Kaitlyn Flythe and Olivia Dunn, respectively) and arrangements that are detailed and intricate without being distracting.

Every song here was arranged by current members or alumnae of the group, and the familiarity with the group's sound and strengths certainly shines through. There are little nuances to the arrangements that add to the sound here — the swooping sighs on Walk Away, the rippling and energetic backs on Freedom, the soft Swing Low, Sweet Chariot at the beginning of Wherever Is Your Heart. It's like Cinderella's glass slipper: the perfect fit between the arrangement and voices.

The Loreleis falter here and there on Where The Secret Lies: Silence / Location has some shaky moments, and there's a part on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful where the soloist barely hits the high notes. But these issues are fairly minimal while listening to the album as a whole: it's a cohesive group of songs, chosen and arranged with the group's strengths in mind, and that thoughtful song selection is truly where the Loreleis' secret lies.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Daddy Lessons 5
2 Distraction 4
3 Walk Away 4
4 Freedom 5
5 Billie Jean 5
6 Wherever Is Your Heart 5
7 Gone 4
8 Silence / Location 5
9 How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 4

Back in high school and as someone very new to a cappella, one of the first groups I started listening to in order to educate myself was the Clef Hangers, the all-male group at UNC-Chapel Hill. It wasn't until a number of years later that I heard of the Loreleis, and that was only through the annual BOCA compilation albums released by Varsity Vocals. After listening to Where The Secret Lies, I only have one thing to say to the Loreleis: I am so sorry for not actively seeking out you ladies sooner.

Where The Secret Lies is quite possibly one of the most well-balanced albums that I've ever reviewed, and I'm not just talking about the background vocals. Rather, I'm speaking more generally in that the Loreleis give the listener everything that they would want in an album. The arrangements are complex and interesting, with the perfect balance of both supporting the soloist while also having moments where they get to step up and shine through. Wherever Is Your Heart is a great example of this. The whole group starts the track with a beautiful, retro-sounding introduction of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot that has some great harmonies to dig into before jumping into the Brandi Carlile track and offering tremendous support to the trio of Kaitlyn Flythe, Jaewon Jung, and Caroline Miller. Many of the tracks on the album have either a duet or trio component to them, which is very smart as it allows for more of those moments of beautiful harmonies to be showcased while also allowing the primary soloist (in this case, Flythe) to have the vocal freedom to show off her skills with some riffs in the final chorus. All of that put together makes this track one of my favorites on the release.

Billie Jean also stands out as a highlight on the album, with the group making a reference in their liner notes to inspiration coming from the rendition done by The Civil Wars. After listening to that version, it's very cool to listen to what the group does here — starting off with a tempo similar to the original, the feel quickly changes at the twenty second mark from the uptempo energy of the Michael Jackson rendition to the more somber feel of The Civil Wars. While The Civil Wars' version is a stripped-down, acoustic version of the Jackson classic, the Loreleis keep a lot of the background from the original in their arrangement, but slowed down, which gives it an eerie and haunting feel through the rest of the track. I could listen to ten more minutes of it — the song is that good.

Great arrangements and beautiful backgrounds do not mean anything, though, if there is not a great soloist to take command of the track. Luckily for the Loreleis, there is not a weak or iffy solo on this whole album — each and every solo, duet, and trio is fabulous from top to bottom. Highlights include Olivia Dunn's incredible power and range on Daddy Lessons, the beautiful and emotional lead from Julia Kelly on Silence / Location, and the simply insane vocal control on the countless riffs from Jaewon Jung in Walk Away in a performance that I believe would make Christina Aguilera proud.

All of this, topped with tremendous production work from Dave Sperandio at diovoce, mean the Loreleis have created an album that will definitely be one of my favorite albums of the year. Make sure that you get your hands on this release and spread the word — contrary to what the name suggests, this record can not and should not live in the shadows of secrecy.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Daddy Lessons 5
2 Distraction 4
3 Walk Away 4
4 Freedom 4
5 Billie Jean 4
6 Wherever Is Your Heart 5
7 Gone 4
8 Silence / Location 4
9 How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 5

When I started listening to this album, I was instantly excited. Who wouldn't be? The Loreleis of UNC are one of the collegiate a cappella powerhouses. Between at least a dozen appearances on different compilation albums over the years and winning the first-ever ICCA competition, these ladies command respect and the sheer excellence of this album does nothing to tarnish that claim. However, by the time I got about halfway through this album, I was tired. Not physically tired, but mentally tired.

Daddy Lessons is a phenomenal opener. Ellie Cain's arrangement works really well to keep the song interesting. Olivia Dunn has a glorious, powerful voice rocking over the top of a large number of different rhythmic and stylistic interactions in the backgrounds. There's always something new happening, and it forces the listener to pay attention. This track sets the group up for greatness.

However, this album is a marathon, not only for the group, but for the listeners. For an album of nine songs, the collection takes approximately 43 minutes from start to finish. That's about 4:45 per track, all very similar in length to the original songs. This album showcases the unfortunate result of those length selections, with about half the tracks featuring slower tempos and R&B influences.

Walk Away is the weakest song on the album, and I'm fairly certain this is at least partially due to the length of the track. It's over six minutes long — that's a lot of music. There are great moments throughout the song and Jaewon Jung has some serious sass in her voice, but after hearing such a long song, I forgot the cool chords in the middle and the sultry vibes given off by everyone in the group. The number eventually becomes an amorphous blob of musicality where I remember how I felt listening to the song, but I can't remember past the feeling because there is too much to try and remember.

So, when it comes to scoring this album, it's hard to get a good takeaway. Is the takeaway the amazing solos and very solid arranging? Or is the takeaway that by the end of the album, I don't remember many highlights, just an overall feeling? There isn't a great answer to these questions for me, and I'm scoring it as such. However, there's still a lot to love on Where The Secret Lies. Check it out and see if you agree.


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

Where The Secret Lies streams on Spotify

×