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The Faux Paz

University of Maryland

...ends with a Z (2001)


May 14, 2001

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 3.7
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 3.7
Repeat Listenability 4.0
1 Sweet Child O' Mine 4.7
2 When Doves Cry 3.0
3 Crush 3.3
4 Larger Than Life 3.3
5 Cornflake Girl 2.7
6 Black Balloon 4.3
7 Uninvited 4.3
8 Zoot Suit Riot 4.0
9 The Radical Light 4.3
10 Hole Hearted 4.0
11 Kyrie 4.3
12 Why Should I Cry For You? 4.0
13 Africa 3.7

Recorded 2000
Total time: 50:11, 13 songs

Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 4
1 Sweet Child O' Mine 5
2 When Doves Cry 2
3 Crush 3
4 Larger Than Life 3
5 Cornflake Girl 4
6 Black Balloon 4
7 Uninvited 5
8 Zoot Suit Riot 4
9 The Radical Light 5
10 Hole Hearted 4
11 Kyrie 4
12 Why Should I Cry For You? 5
13 Africa 3

This is the first I've heard of the University of Maryland's Faux Paz, and despite the reservations I have about the group's name, the fact that both Kyrie and Africa are listed on the album, and the so-so graphics, I have to say that I was pleased to find that these guys can kick some butt.

Faux Paz and their album, ...ends with a Z, remind me of another group I reviewed, Kaskeset, from Binghamton University. The primary similarity is that both Shir Pleasure and ...ends with a Z show much promise but lack the spit and polish of more seasoned (or better funded) collegiate a cappella groups like, well, a whole ton of groups out there.

The tuning on this album is remarkable, with the exception of a very shaky solo on When Doves Cry, especially since it sounds like the tracks were not recorded in parts, a common practice nowadays. That's not to say that the blend is exceptional, but for a recording as rough as this one, I had almost no "cringe" moments. You know how I hate those. The greatest thing about the album is how these singers rock unabashedly. They throw themselves into the songs and you can really feel it when they're jamming on songs like Sweet Child O' Mine, Cornflake Girl, and (I can't believe I'm saying this) Kyrie. The soloists vary from decent to pretty damn good, with special props to Monique Vieras, whose interpretations of Uninvited and The Radical Light are powerful and soulfully delivered. Do your thang girl!

Problems with ...ends with a Z include the aforementioned production quality, as well as a lack of dynamic variety throughout the CD (with some exceptions). The disc felt very loud throughout, which is good for rocking out, but not so good for communicating emotional intensity. Also, the vocal percussion was clearly very carefully planned (multiple VPs on most songs), but not tracked very well. I can hear the great riffs and rolls that they have incorporated into each track, but some additional effects would have really rounded out the percussion sound.

Faux Paz are definitely heading in the right direction, and I'm positive their next studio effort will result in some truly great collegiate a cappella.

Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
1 Sweet Child O' Mine 4
2 When Doves Cry 3
3 Crush 3
4 Larger Than Life 2
5 Cornflake Girl 3
6 Black Balloon 4
7 Uninvited 3
8 Zoot Suit Riot 3
9 The Radical Light 3
10 Hole Hearted 3
11 Kyrie 4
12 Why Should I Cry For You? 3
13 Africa 4

If this album has one thing going for it, it's great songs. I have heard many a college album sunk by dull repertoire, but The Faux Paz from the University of Maryland have chosen wisely. Sure, some tunes may be a little overdone (Uninvited, anyone?), but on the whole, the album makes for a satisfying listen from start to finish.

There is one glaring exception. Now, I am a Backstreet fan, but Larger Than Life, which I've now heard on a few occasions, is reminding me of a storefront near me that has a new business in it every time I drive by: restaurant, laundromat, gift shop. It's like no one can succeed in that location. I think there are a few songs that simply don't work a cappella, and Larger than Life is probably one of them.

Anyway, the Faux Paz can sing. There is some unevenness in production (this is the first album for a group that's been around a number of years. Why? Get going on that next one!), and rhythmic integrity wavers (careful on those opening syllables of Cornflake Girl), but overall, there is nothing to make the listener wince.

I would like to note the multiple soloists (is that an oxymoron?) on the last track, Africa. Personally, I really wish more groups would do this, in performance and on albums. It's refreshing to hear different voices interpret the same song, especially voices that otherwise might not be heard on a full-length song.

Overall, an album that the Faux Paz can be proud of.

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
1 Sweet Child O' Mine 5
2 When Doves Cry 4
3 Crush 4
4 Larger Than Life 5
5 Cornflake Girl 1
6 Black Balloon 5
7 Uninvited 5
8 Zoot Suit Riot 5
9 The Radical Light 5
10 Hole Hearted 5
11 Kyrie 5
12 Why Should I Cry For You? 4
13 Africa 4

The University of Maryland's a cappella group The Faux Paz is an excellent group of singers. Within the group are excellent soloists. Within the group are arrangers who understand the group's strengths and write the right notes for the right singer. They have selected a production facility that understands how many and how few production techniques should be used to produce an excellent CD. The singers' innate abilities and hard practice sessions, combined with the above, add up to ...ends with a Z, a superior college CD.

That ought to be enough to convince you to buy it. No? How about ...

There are thirteen songs. The thirteen songs are arranged by eleven different members of the group (i.e. no outside arrangers). There are thirteen different soloists, with only two songs having more than one soloist. The vocal percussion is performed by eight different members. In a world that seems to propel musicians to the top based on a single skill, the members of Faux Paz did not rely on only one. Instead, each talented member contributed in many ways, and the contributions of the ensemble created this very enjoyable, multifaceted work of art.

That ought to be enough to convince you to buy it. No? How about ...

I did not find one single note sung off pitch. Wait ... On Alanis Morissette's Uninvited, Monique Vieras sang every note flat. Really? It's supposed to be sung that way? Monique, that is amazing.

That ought to be enough to convince you to buy it. No? One more ought to do it.

If you buy Faux Paz's ...ends with a Z and don't like it, you can get your money back, or at least most of it. How?

Buy it from your favorite a cappella CD source. Listen to it. If you don't like it (which is almost certain not to happen), go see your friend who is also an a cappella fan. Let him listen to the CD. Offer him the CD at face value, no shipping or tax. You'll have your money back.

But why would you do that? This is a very, very good a cappella CD. Congratulations to all the members of Faux Paz for their excellent creation: ...ends with a Z.

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