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 G-Men

University of Michigan

Hijklmnog (2018)

4.3

December 21, 2018

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 5.0
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 4.7
Repeat Listenability 3.7
Tracks
1 Mr. Brightside 4.3
2 Ultralight Beam 4.0
3 Sunday Morning(s) 4.7
4 Super Rich Kids 4.0
5 Like Real People Do 4.3
6 Sandcastles 4.7
7 Colour My World 4.3
8 Eleanor Rigby 4.7

Recorded 2017 – 2018
Total time: 34:22, 8 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Mr. Brightside 4
2 Ultralight Beam 3
3 Sunday Morning(s) 5
4 Super Rich Kids 3
5 Like Real People Do 4
6 Sandcastles 5
7 Colour My World 3
8 Eleanor Rigby 4

The covers on Hijklmnog venture into the impressive realm of avant-garde but lose some of their charm along the way. Though you will instantly recognize titles and artists in the liner notes, your ears could take some time to reconcile these G-Men arrangements with the melodies you've heard on the radio.

Creativity, in the context of covers, comes in two castings. The more common cover adheres to the spirit of its namesake. It may make use of different instrumentation, tinker with tempo and structure, or transpose musical genres entirely, but the underlying emotion and cadence of the original is still there. On Hijklmnog, you get what you expect with Like Real People Do and Sandcastles. Both follow a dynamic arc from delicate to resounding then back down to pensive that is predictable yet powerful.

The rest of the album exemplifies the second type of cover. Borrowing only a few elements from the original, usually lyrics or a signature riff, this cover uses its namesake less as a roadmap and more as a springboard for an entirely new piece of music. In the repertoire of the G-Men, Mr. Brightside is not a punk-rock anthem and Ultralight Beam and Super Rich Kids are not drawling raps. These songs are much more amorphous than their source material. Marty Gray, who takes credit for all eight arrangements on the album, unchains these melodies from their radio-friendly backbeats and lets them loose in a tide of soft solos, loud unisons, and dizzying polyrhythmic rounds. Sections are separated by collective breaths; moments of silence that leave you wondering whether you are about to be basked in a gentle thrum or floored with a wall o' sound. The majority of Hijklmnog features visionary arranging that enables you to experience songs you've heard a million times (Sunday Morning? Eleanor Rigby?) as though you are hearing them for the first time.

Creativity is a prized characteristic in collegiate a cappella. In a scene saturated with so many covers of so many of the same songs, it takes creative arranging and dynamite performances to make a group stand out. The trouble with Hijklmnog is that as much as it delivers new ideas, rockstar voices, and clean recordings ... it sorely lacks in energy. Without the familiar grooves, many of these songs also lack their sense of direction. Combine this with a prevailing melancholy demeanor and you have a collection that requires a degree of effort to enjoy. The moral, I suppose, is that more creativity is not always more fun. Listen in small doses with an open mind and appreciate the potential of imagination.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Mr. Brightside 5
2 Ultralight Beam 5
3 Sunday Morning(s) 5
4 Super Rich Kids 5
5 Like Real People Do 5
6 Sandcastles 5
7 Colour My World 5
8 Eleanor Rigby 5

Hijklmnog by the Michigan G-Men is meant to be an experience. From beginning to end, it takes you on an auditory journey. If you are not interested in a heavily artistic album full of risky and innovative arranging choices, turn back now. These boys lay their emotions bare with nothing but fantastic soloists and a soundscape that ranges from sparse to intricate, but maintains cohesion throughout. Each track is perfectly fine to listen to on its own, but the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. For me, this is not an album that I will listen to often. But when I do, it will be intentional. There is so much to take in, it's almost meditative.

Eleanor Rigby has an intense, raw, rock feel that could be contrived in most circumstances but is absolutely earned through the course of the album. Listeners are taken on a sonic journey that encompasses the high energy Ultralight Beam, contemplative Sandcastles, and uplifting Colour My World, which is my favorite track of the bunch. The production is wonderful in that it is clearly a cappella, and instead of being downplayed through studio manipulation, it is enhanced to weave a rich tapestry of sound, letting the dynamics and even the silences speak for themselves. The arrangements, production, and the talents of the G-Men come together flawlessly into a synergistic blend, complete with over-tone singing.

I encourage everyone to listen to this release at least one time straight through. Set aside the time, and just experience Hijklmnog.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Mr. Brightside 4
2 Ultralight Beam 4
3 Sunday Morning(s) 4
4 Super Rich Kids 4
5 Like Real People Do 4
6 Sandcastles 4
7 Colour My World 5
8 Eleanor Rigby 5

Hijklmnog is an album full of rich harmonies. It's targeted to those who seek reimagined pop tracks — songs that do not lose their original spirit due to reharmonization. With close harmony arrangements resulting in quasi-dark and tension chord-enriched vocal lines, Hijklmnog is just an eargasmic experience more than anything else.

Marty Gray, who arranged all of the tracks on this album, has a real vision towards bridging the gap between avant-garde music and pop music. Vocal painting is used intensively and the current generation may not be ready for this kind of art just yet. Super Rich Kids is an example of this visitation to the atonal music realm. To me, it's a smart decision to make a song that has repetitive chord patterns sound much more interesting. Mr. Brightside sounds like the same style as Ultralight Beam, which makes use of the lyrics in close harmony tension chords as a driving force to move the song in its intended direction. The album really is an enjoyable listen with its perfections present in all of these tracks.

Colour My World and Eleanor Rigby are classics that were supposed to be better off left as their original versions. But then, the G-Men sing it in a different "what if" environment, and route these classics to a modern playground — it's a brave move by the G-Men to create such innovative approaches to these songs, and I quite like it. Same goes to Sunday Morning(s), Sandcastles, and Like Real People Do, all of which are reimagined to suit the group's musical tastes and capabilities, of which I have no complaints whatsoever.

This genius work of Gray is by far great in almost all aspects. However, the only factor that's lacking is the emotional connection to me as a listener. With all its fanciness and artsy execution of pitch perfect chords, I'm unable to find myself engrossed by the music I've heard on this album. Due to its cerebral value, I'm rating this album "4". Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure I'll be interested in listening to this album again.


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

HIJKLMNOG streams on Spotify

×