HomeRecording Review: "The Shadow Aspect" by The Cornell Chordials

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The Cornell Chordials are one of the rare collegiate groups that has a distinctive sound. They are known for being more than just a little eccentric and have released some of the most creative and fantastically bizarre a cappella hits of the past few years. Tracks such as "Ramalama (Bang Bang)" and "What's A Girl Gotta Do". This album is different. I enjoyed The Chordials' eccentric period, but with new leadership comes a new focus. And that's not a bad thing. The Shadow Aspect signals a new direction for the group while remaining unmistakably Chordials. All in all, The Chordials' new album is another great achievement.

Most collegiate albums have a very similar flow. The first song is great, the rest of the first half is good, the second half is meh, and the final song is good again. But I actually found my favorite tracks in the back half of this album. If you're looking for a new song that's like their covers of "Ramalama (Bang Bang)" and "What's A Girl Gotta Do, it's Bizness". And it's awesome. It's filled with synthesizer-esque licks and percussive, mechanical sounds. It begins simple and sparse, but grows complex and chaotic. "Too Close" is one of the best produced a cappella tracks of the year. The intro in particular is incredibly tense and dramatic and sets up the song perfectly. The album ends with perhaps the two strongest songs. Their cover of Sara Bareilles' "The Light", especially the lead, is stunning. And after a long and slightly strange intro, "Nothing But Water" reveals itself to be a brilliant closer. If you only check out one track from this album, make it this one.

There were a few tracks I didn't care for. "Face Of Light" opens with an awkward soprano line that the arrangement keeps coming back to and trying to highlight. I get that that's how the original song goes, but either make those parts worthy of highlighting or don't highlight them. And like many other a cappella groups, the Chordials have competently recreated the sound of a Mumford & Sons song, "The Cave". I honestly don't know what it would mean for a Mumford & Sons cover to be great. They are the definition of a cappella album filler in 2013 and for the foreseeable future. They're are hard to mess up but even harder to make great.

There are a few tracks I'll be skipping when I revisit this album in the future, but I will certainly be revisiting it. Because The Chordials know how to make great music.


About the writer:
Patrick Hockberger is a RARB reviewer and a student at Northwestern University studying music composition and vocal performance. He is music director of the Northwestern Undertones.