Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

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Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby daverab » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:37 am

Wow!!!

So it's been a long 8 months but finally the review has gone up!

**I just want to preface what I'm saying here with - I completely understand and accept that the reviews done are the opinions of particular reviewers and the group could have just as easily gotten a group of reviewers that would have scored the album all 5's or all 1's.
So I'd like to first thank our reviewers for their honest feedback and putting out what I know will be an educational read for the group as each year they take critical feedback and try their best to improve upon it. Thank You **

So now that my long wait for this review to be posted has ended I can pose the question to the a cappella masses - how'd we do?!?!?!
Rarb reviews, Cara nods, and Compilation discs aside - would you buy this album - yay or nay?

At the end of the day I think it's clear Casual Harmony didn't produce a "Yearbook album" but instead an album to appeal to the masses - no we didn't span back to the 30's for song selection and yes a lot of the music is 90's-present - but in the a cappella "cover band" genre - what sells??

I'd love to hear your opinions!

To the guys in the group - job well done - keep on doing your thing. At first it was disappointing and I would have loved to score better but I'd say having the names "Off the beat" and "Bubs" in our review just goes to show what level of recording this is being compared to and just how far we've come. Congrats on a job well done!
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Re: Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby seth » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:41 pm

DJR wrote:the group could have just as easily gotten a group of reviewers that would have scored the album all 5's or all 1's.

It's really not as arbitrary as that.
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Re: Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby Nick Lyons » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:11 pm

Seth wrote:
DJR wrote:the group could have just as easily gotten a group of reviewers that would have scored the album all 5's or all 1's.

It's really not as arbitrary as that.


Knowing Dave fairly well, I can say that I don't think this was meant as an insult, either to any particular reviewer, or to the system as a whole. My guess is, he was simply trying to head off the "argument" before anyone could make it.

While I probably couldn't find many instances of one reviewer giving a song or an album a 5 versus another giving it a 1, I'm sure I could find plenty of 5 vs. 2, and 4 vs. 1 scenarios. It happens. I think that's all he was saying.

Also, according to strictly the definition of "arbitrary" (not the somewhat negative connotation that may come along with it), I fail to see how the reviews *aren't* exactly that.

Reviewers are instructed to grade albums in comparison to the general body of a cappella recordings available.


They're instructed to compare albums to a completely subjective standard. Don't get me wrong, it's music. There's no way around that. There's no disrespect meant. Honestly, it's quite the opposite. Each reviewer has the impossible task of trying to make everyone happy. While everyone can make an effort to put their personal "bias", "preference", and "taste" aside, there are some things you just can't get around. It's what makes music great.
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Re: Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby dherriges » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:34 pm

WareHauser wrote:I'm sure I could find plenty of 5 vs. 2, and 4 vs. 1 scenarios.


Song, yes. Album, VERY unlikely. Maybe Seth or someone would know how many times that's ever happened? A 2-minute skim of the review list spotted only this one: http://rarb.org/reviews/815.html

Sure, there's personal taste and such involved, but I also think the RARB reviewers are generally competent judges of, well, competence.
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Re: Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby Nick Lyons » Tue Jun 09, 2009 7:42 pm

dherriges wrote:... I also think the RARB reviewers are generally competent judges of, well, competence.


Well stated. ;-) FWIW, I wasn't disputing this fact, *at all*. It's a very valuable, and reward-less job... but someone's gotta do it. :-)
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Re: Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby autumnshades » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:02 pm

WareHauser wrote:Each reviewer has the impossible task of trying to make everyone happy.

Hmmm. I'd be interested in hearing whom you think reviewers are trying to make happy.

From my perspective.... A music critic/reviewer is not trying to make anyone happy; rather, his/her sole job is to write about music, honestly. To describe it, to talk about what works and what doesn't, to make comparisons, and so on, so that ultimately, consumers (the readers) can decide whether this album is something that they want to buy or whether this band/artist/group is one that they want to seek out in concert. Critics can be as blunt as saying "Buy this album" or "don't waste your money", but it's usually a much more compelling review if they are able to describe the recording in such a way as to make the reader decide for him-/herself whether the strengths/weaknesses of a given album are enough to make it a worthwhile purchase (or an album to avoid).

If a critic starts trying to please an artist, then he/she will-- whether consciously or not-- begin to filter or soften his criticism (or bump up his praise) to make the artist happy. A critic might be trying to make his readers happy, but only to the extent that he doesn't want to mislead them (readers are generally not happy when they go out and buy something on the strength of a review, only to learn that the product was not as strong as the writer made it out to be). But trying to make people happy is not something that crosses my mind when I sit down to write about a band/concert/album/etc.

Catherine Lewis freelance writer & photographer http://www.autumnshades.com

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Postby seth » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:13 pm

Sorry, I didn't mean to hijack the request for feedback. I just took issue with the one remark: "could have just as easily gotten a group of reviewers that would have scored the album all 5's or all 1's.". "Just as easily" doesn't mean "it's not impossible" or "one could find examples of moderate disagreement", it means "is equally likely". He's saying the scores can't be predicted even a little bit, which means no feature of the album (like, say, its quality) has any bearing at all on the scores. This is provably false to a reasonable degree of confidence, given hundreds of reviews in which independent reviewers submit highly correlated scores. I started to do the math, then remembered nobody cares. Except maybe Daniel. :)

Anyway, apologies from the stats geek. Please resume talking about music.
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Re: Casual Harmony: Casual Harmony

Postby Nick Lyons » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:33 am

autumnshades wrote:
WareHauser wrote:Each reviewer has the impossible task of trying to make everyone happy.

Hmmm. I'd be interested in hearing whom you think reviewers are trying to make happy.


I don't feel they are consciously trying to please anyone. My point is, they run the risk of taking flak from anyone and everyone through the writing of any given review. The ideal situation is where everyone agrees, or at least, disagrees tactfully. Again, I'm not trying to attack what the reviewers do. I'm very grateful for all the thankless work they put in.

Perhaps I chose my words poorly. Seth, while I understand your stance (structured system vs. arbitrary randomness, for lack of a more in-depth explanation), and yes, the numbers would tend to agree with you (plenty of albums that have received straight scores (all 3's, all 4's, etc.) or scores separated by one number, we've also had the discussion on this forum plenty of times regarding the system of criterion each reviewer uses to determine their scores.

Also, by "quality" of the album, what exactly do you mean? To me, that's exactly what is being reviewed. Don't get me wrong, I certainly guess scores on albums that are up for review, so I would agree with what you're saying. I guess my biggest qualm is in trying to make it all objective. I guess the argument is *how much* variance subjectivity can create in any given review. So, I can completely understand why you might take issue with that statement. I meant no disrespect. :-)
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Postby billhare » Wed Jun 10, 2009 8:15 am

Reviews are opinions, for the most part, and it's well-known that the various reviewers have differing opinions on how things "should" be done. This is a good thing, and what keeps Contemporary A Cappella from becoming Barbershop. Look it up - there are such set rules in BBS for everything that judging and reviews are extremely consistent. I'm glad that's not us.

RARB scores are not meant to be the end-all exact meter of how "good" something is, just one of the authoritative benchmarks, and again, knowledgeable opinion.

FWIW, having mixed the album and liking it very much, I took a guess at how these 3 reviewers would score it a few seconds before clicking the link. My guess? 4.0. Naaiiiiiillled iiiiiiiiit!

Even though *I* enjoyed this album quite a bit (not to say 4.0 isn't a good score anyway), I know it's not everyone's perfect love match, just as albums that are 10 times platinum are not liked by certain people or reviewers. And I know I've said it over and over... read the original reviews for the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, now considered one of the greatest pop records of all time, which met with a resounding "meh" in 1966! This doesn't make the reviews "wrong" - tastes and styles change, and if you're not right there with the timing or a million other things, that's just how the cookie bounces!

-B

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Postby Nick Lyons » Wed Jun 10, 2009 8:57 am

billhare wrote:Reviews are opinions, for the most part, and it's well-known that the various reviewers have differing opinions on how things "should" be done. This is a good thing, and what keeps Contemporary A Cappella from becoming Barbershop. Look it up - there are such set rules in BBS for everything that judging and reviews are extremely consistent. I'm glad that's not us.

RARB scores are not meant to be the end-all exact meter of how "good" something is, just one of the authoritative benchmarks, and again, knowledgeable opinion.

FWIW, having mixed the album and liking it very much, I took a guess at how these 3 reviewers would score it a few seconds before clicking the link. My guess? 4.0. Naaiiiiiillled iiiiiiiiit!

Even though *I* enjoyed this album quite a bit (not to say 4.0 isn't a good score anyway), I know it's not everyone's perfect love match, just as albums that are 10 times platinum are not liked by certain people or reviewers. And I know I've said it over and over... read the original reviews for the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, now considered one of the greatest pop records of all time, which met with a resounding "meh" in 1966! This doesn't make the reviews "wrong" - tastes and styles change, and if you're not right there with the timing or a million other things, that's just how the cookie bounces!

-B


That's the way I probably should have worded my thoughts. That was basically what I was trying to get across, sans the Pet Sounds reference. :-)

Thanks, Bill!
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Postby Box_Beatin_Lady » Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:16 am

What is it with Casual-Harmony-related threads getting hijacked by other bid'ness? This has definitely happened before. So I'm just going to bypass this whole argument and opt for discussing the album.

There are two main things I wanted to touch upon...

1) I was intrigued by the comments in the review about Casual Harmony's "identity."

The main thing I take issue with is the assertion that these guys are not original because they've done songs numerous other groups have done as well. Name me ONE collegiate group that hasn't done this. No really, please. I really think it limits groups in general when they're all defined by the songs they do, and attention isn't paid to HOW those songs are executed. Sure, many groups have done "Iris," but how many of those arrangements are as layered, as involved? Groups do Dave Matthews all the time, but I've never heard a soloist make it his own like Casual's (just to name a couple of examples). Plus, it's not like the album is 100% typical all-male fare. There's also the added aspect of how these songs are done live, which is relevant because I truly felt knocking them for saying they "push the envelope" was unfair. I understand it's in their CD liner notes, but it's their bio, and they're talking about their identity as a GROUP, not just this one CD.

Also, sorry to point it out, but we ARE talkin' a cappella here - it's largely a cover art anyway, so right off the bat, the term "original" is relative.

One other thing... I feel that, in life, people bend the definitions of words like "inspiration" and "influence" to mean whatever they want, and morph that into "stealing" or "borrowing" whenever the occasion calls for it. Just a general observation.

2) The other interesting thing for me in this review were the production comments.

About six hours before the review was posted, I was talking about how much I enjoyed this album's production - it's definitely about as far as I'd go with effects on the whole, but I liked it. However, it seems like those in the world who don't know Casual's repertoire as well were hindered from hearing everything by the production (whereas I knew what I was listening for after hearing the songs live so many times). Take "Paralyzer" for example. That is a detailed, nuanced arrangement that still rocks mightily. But it seems like the mix hindered the reviewers from hearing the details as well, leading one person to call it an unrealized chart (forgive the paraphrasing, RARB is moving too slow for me to cross-reference this AND do real-people work).

I stand by my feelings - what I like is what I like - but it brings up interesting points about what other things outsiders might miss on an album that leans more toward "produced" than "organic." And I suppose one could say this is why people didn't "get" as much of what makes CH arrangements unique, but I really don't think the production hinders the experience THAT much. Oh well, food for thought.

Alright, I'm done.

*I have Rutgers ties, I speak on my behalf only, blah blah blah don't do drugs yadda yadda*
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Postby mcbc » Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:21 am

Speaking of Casual Harmony, this reminds me of the time I stubbed my toe at the ICCAs and the producer was mean to me about it. I found the response to be shallow and pedantic. Didn't she know ...? Han shot first! </hijack>

I'm cool with reviews actually. Some points I do think are wrong and can be easily disproven. But so I don't ramble on and provide more hijack fodder (no really, Han shot first)

1. On the album -- I thought it was a good and more importantly relistenable album. It's winning awards for a reason. Some of the tracks are really, really good. I personally would have liked more "wetness" on Stronger. I mean it's Daft Punk goes West -- do it up mofo. Or maybe do a "remix" version. I think Paralyzer is an example where cleaner, slicker (?) production would have made the song sparkle and the actual arrangement could have shined more. There are few more examples of this on the album and many, many, _many_ more in the world of a cappella. Producers, if the arr. is good highlight it. Unfortunately, most arrangements you see aren't. I'm sorry.

2. On the reviews -- completely fair & balanced. I personally disagree with a few points on a solely factual basis. The only one I care to highlight is that the album tracks were unoriginal and overdone. With the exception of Iris, all it takes is a YouTube and Google search to see that this is not the case. Now sure, if I were to put on (put back on??) my a cappella nerd hat sure I might say "oh gawd DMB, Pearl Jam and the Goo Goo Dolls? How shallow and pedantic. And another Stronger cover?" However the songs picked from each aren't overly covered, haven't made any RARB list of overdone songs and to the larger audience may even be the first time they've heard the track a cappella. This isn't Longest Time, Good Ol' A Cappella, Motown or Zombie Jamboree fare.

Oh! One reviewer just doesn't like Stronger. I think the quote was it's "a bad, bad song." That's the epitome of hyperbole and the quintessential example of a reviewer's taste. Argueably it was the best rap song of 2007 (Source, Rolling Stone, Blender and me). Anywho ...

3. To the RU trolls who I know are reading ... Dudes, it's a decent review -- 4 stars across the board. And hello, it's your sophomore (that means 2nd) album. I'll also point out Stronger got a 4.7 when it was reviewed before. And here's my spin, it's the best reviewed all-male collegiate album in 2009. OK only a handful have been reviewed this year. But one judge gave you the same score he gave Straight No Chaser -- better in fact.
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Postby kevin47 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:35 pm

Name me ONE collegiate group that hasn't done this. No really, please.


Historically, Wibi, the Bubs, Off the Beat and any number of Stanford groups come to mind.
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Postby Box_Beatin_Lady » Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:45 am

I'm not saying there aren't innovative groups out there, but all of those groups have called upon songs like "Love Song," "Such Great Heights," "Stuck," "What Goes Around, Comes Around," "The Sound of Silence" and "Linger," as well as artists such as Kelly Clarkson, John Mayer, Imogen Heap, Evanescence and Ben Folds, for songs to fill up their repertoire in recent history.

And going back in time, yes, they did make very genre-progressive set decisions (and I give major props for that), but in fairness, those are also some older groups you're talking about, so they were around to BE the innovators, and we're talking about a CD review for a group that's far younger, just barely five years old.

I don't fault any of those groups for their more aca-standard set choices, because groups like that find fun new ways to present some of the "same old, same old" business (given the groups listed, I think the best examples here would clearly be the Stanford Harmonics' version of "The Sound of Silence" or the 'Bubs on "Linger"). But also, some songs and artists just plain work, and you can't fault groups for wanting to take a stab at it while trying to infuse their own personal flavor.

And Casual Harmony shouldn't be faulted for it either, because they rock songs in their own way as well, and have their own number of unique song choices under their belts.
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Postby H.F. » Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:53 am

I really don't see how they were "faulted" for it. They got a 4. On their second CD. And they got some cara noms and one win. I don't see too much "fault" being found there :)
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