Pentatonix caused a surge of interest in acapella music after winning Season 3 of the ‘The Sing Off’ in America, and becoming a worldwide internet sensation. Since then, they have released two Christmas albums and three collections of music and have now released their new self-titled album with nearly completely original tracks. The deluxe edition also contains covers of pop songs, including Justin Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now”. The group are known for breaking acapella music into the mainstream industry but are also self-confessed “choir nerds”, so this album contains a diverse range of genres.
The album starts with an upbeat song called “Na Na Na”, which instantly sets the most upbeat theme of the album and shows off the group’s tight harmonies. Mitch Grassi takes the lead in the song and all the group members get a chance to shine throughout the album, but with Scott Hoying taking the lead for most. This first track makes very good use of foot stomps and hand claps which seems to become a recurring resource in the album. “Sing”, the third track of the album, has a very similar feel to the first track and is very catchy, likewise with “Na Na Na”.
“Misbehavin’” is one of my favourite tracks of the album by far, creating a laid-back, jazz-like atmosphere, with Avi Kaplan’s bass line holding the song together. This song also exemplifies Scott’s stunning tone in the solo verses, with Mitch taking the lead in the chorus.
The album also contains many more sombre tracks, demonstrating the group’s diverse nature and ability to hit at the heart strings and create extremely emotional music. “Take Me Home” contains tight harmonies and finger-clicking that makes the piece irresistible to be pulled in by. “Light In the Hallway” is a cleverly arranged and slightly haunting song. Avi, the bass, takes the lead and creates an interesting vibe that is very contrasting to the other tracks in the album. This track was tweeted about by choral composer and conductor Eric Whitacre recently who praised them. “New Year’s Day” is a track with a very anthem-like feel with Scott taking the lead, demonstrating why he takes the solos and soulful tone. The start has a very calm touch until after the first chorus where beatboxer Kevin Olusola kicks in, but there is more percussion than just Kevin which does distract from his incredible capabilities.
Overall this is a very cleverly formed album, with a fantastic ‘feel-good’ factor, almost always making you feel the urge to join in or click/clap along. However, this album, compared to their previous tracks, sometimes feels over-produced, diverting from their core acapella origins. Despite this, it is still a thoroughly well produced album and is my favourite collection of tracks by Pentatonix so far. They have managed to make ‘choir nerds’ and acapella ‘cool’ and have been accepted by many mainstream supporters, which is a difficult thing to do and which they have achieved very successfully with their worldwide tours. Long may acapella continue!
Words by Will Moore