Clef Hangers- Twist

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Clef Hangers- Twist

Postby ThunderCurl » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:20 am

Elie's review interests me. I have heard the opening track, and samples of the other tracks, but I have heard the Clefs last two albums, and believe I have a slight handle on their style. And from the review of Twist, I don't think they've changed TOO much.

Guang and Rebecca gave glowing 5 reviews. They show the reviewer's perspective on a cappella and reaction to the album.
It seemed to me that Elie WANTED to give one of the same reviews, but he just wasn't feeling it. And he was maybe...pressured to give a 5? By the notions of how the album "should" or "would" be perceived by the public? But that seems counter-intuitive to a review.

I read some of Elie's other reviews (teehee...stalker...) and he seemed more enthusiastic and excited about other groups' 4s than he was about the Clef's 5.

Now, it's a review, and the man can do what he wants and we don't have to question it.

But...if an album rubs us the wrong way, even if its polished so I can see the broccoli in my teeth through the melodyne, shouldn't the reviewer feel free to say something? Or is the trajectory of contemporary recorded a cappella too hard for the average joe to comment against?
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Postby ThunderCurl » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:26 am

An addendum so people don't jump on me (as quickly).

I don't mean to say that one has to be "exited about an album" to give a 5. Because a 4 review can be superb improvement (but still not "5" quality) that is very exciting.

But an album deserving of a 5...should be the best, right?
And Elie's review was (personally, i think rightfully so) harping on the faults of the album. Things that would, when I was reading it, make me think that they lined up with a 4. And again, it's not really about numbers, but the discrepancy made me wonder.
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Postby dr00bles » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:55 am

Alas, we return to this never-ending discussion.

Elie's review certainly doesn't seem like a 5 to me either, nor did his reviews of previous Clef Hangers albums. But this is the way it goes, and I don't necessarily blame him for handling it the way he did.

As many probably know, I have a similar distaste for this type of production. But the problem is, many would argue that this is a STYLE, an artistic choice, and that the group shouldn't be penalized for it, especially if you consider the strictly defined criteria that RARB uses for its quantitave scoring. Maybe if there was an "Intangibles" section, Elie would have been more comfortable giving a lower numerical score, but as it stands it may be hard for him to justify giving a "3" on "Production" if, technically, the production is very good at what it set out to accomplish. And obviously one can't argue with "Tuning/Blend," even if it's machine-assisted (although the Clefs do have exceptional intonation and blend in a live setting).

I think this discrepancy between the numbers and the words is actually making more of a statement than you'd realize. The CD brought about conflicted thoughts, which led to a conflicted review, and that has an impact on the reader's perception of the album. Heck, we're having a discussion about it right now, and without even hearing it, we all know what it sounds like.

If Elie had given the album a "4" or "3" for his cited complaints, as I did on a highly controversial review of a Madison Project album some months back, people may think that it's just an average-sounding album. But he didn't - he gave it a "5", because it's an above average-sounding album - it just isn't what Elie expects out of an a cappella record.

I think I'd agree with the original post that if you have a fundamental issue with the record, you should score it accordingly. But at the same time, I think Elie was making a very real statement with his scores, and I think that should be appreciated.
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Postby acageek » Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:01 pm

This brings up a broader topic of whether or not it is appropriate to have the same people writing reviews for a group, album after album.

This applies to a lot of other scenarios, but since we're already talking about the Clefhangers...

Rebecca Christie has been writing reviews for the Clefs since the 1997 release of Five O'Clock Shadow. Elli joined the party in 2005 with Facing Clarence and the last two albums have been reviewed by the same three people, Rebecca, Elli and Guang Ming.

This approach would seem to undermine the entire purpose of a review, which is to give as much of an unbiased opinion of the music in question. Complete objectivity is of course impossible, as we all approach everything with our own set of biases. It seems that relying on the same opinions for multiple albums that a group releases adds a layer of predisposition in favor of (or against) that group. It is a source of bias that is avoidable.

Why not lend a fresh set of ears to the process?

I think Tyler hit the nail on the head...

It seemed to me that Elie WANTED to give one of the same reviews, but he just wasn't feeling it. And he was maybe...pressured to give a 5? By the notions of how the album "should" or "would" be perceived by the public? But that seems counter-intuitive to a review.


Perhaps a 5 is simply what a group that has always received 5's deserves, just for being who they are.
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Postby rebecca » Wed Sep 23, 2009 1:56 pm

acageek wrote:Rebecca Christie has been writing reviews for the Clefs since the 1997 release of Five O'Clock Shadow.
...
Perhaps a 5 is simply what a group that has always received 5's deserves, just for being who they are.


Actually, I reviewed Safari and No Ninths Allowed too, so I'm responsible for an even bigger chunk courtesy of the Hall of Repressed Memories, to borrow a phrase from Carolyn Hax.

RARB has usually tried to include a mix of old-timers and newbies. Usually there are some of each on a review, and without speaking for Ben I expect that will continue. I've certainly been cut out of plenty of repeat performances over the years as our workloads change.

Old-timers don't score on reputation though. Here's my scorecard, along with apologies for the bad writing and poor spelling in the early years. I won't make up my mind on the next one til it shows up.

- No Ninths Allowed (I was reviewer #2) - score of 6 out of 10

- Safari (I was reviewer #5) - score 6 out of 10

- Five O'Clock Shadow - score 7 out of 10

- Elevation - score 4 out of 5

- Breeze - score 4 out of 5

- Facing Clarence - score 5 out of 5

- Time Out - score 5 out of 5

- Twist - score 5 out of 5
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Postby kevin47 » Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:13 pm

and samples of the other tracks,


Where could I find these?
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Postby H.F. » Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:47 am

Another Clef CD, another round of misunderstanding about how RARB's scoring works, another quasi-gently-delivered batch of hegemonic/croneyistic theories. Le sigh.

ThunderCurl wrote:But...if an album rubs us the wrong way, even if its polished so I can see the broccoli in my teeth through the melodyne, shouldn't the reviewer feel free to say something?


That's just it. He did say something. Lots of things. There is no "you must write X" guideline for RARB reviewers, AFAIK (other than the word minimum). There is, however, a "if an album meets R and Z criteria, you must score Y" set of guidelines. It has been (sometimes rather blatantly) ignored by some reviewers, and my understanding is that they have been taken to task internally - in one case I know a score was actually changed b/c of this ("Unbroken") - but the metric is plain as day.

Andrew is right though, the scores are important, and nice, but the real value is in the words. And Elie made the statement he wanted to with both his scoring AND his words. Taken as a whole, one reads it something like "this CD sounds "top-notch", and as compared to the general body of aca under the RARB metric it scores as a 5, but man I would love to hear more from this group". At least, that's how I read it all, in sum.

I'm curious though about your "polished" comment, especially in light of the context in which you are writing. I have the last 3 Last Call CDs, I have several of the Clef CDs. It seems to me that "Blinded by the Light", for instance, is far more "polished...with melodyne (or AT)" than nearly anything the Clefs have ever put out, with the possible exception of "Let It Rock". One could make similar comments about say, "September" (correcting for the time period), and other Last Call tracks. This isn't an attack - I love your CDs, and like I said I actually *own* them. But your comment has a negative connotation/tone to it, it seems. Which strikes me as odd, given your own group's albums. Are you...conflicted about the styles you like? Is there something else happening here? If I am completely off base, please forgive me! It's a common theme with the Clefs, so I can't help but wonder.

ThunderCurl wrote:But an album deserving of a 5...should be the best, right?


I don't know that it means it is the "best", though I get your drift. What a 5 means is this

ThunderCurl wrote:And Elie's review was (personally, i think rightfully so) harping on the faults of the album.


Do you mean, rightfully so based on the admittedly "few clips" you have heard of the CD? You're more than entitled to your opinion, but you've already admitted you don't have the record. Perhaps buy it, and return with a fuller review? :)
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Postby billhare » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:16 am

dr00bles wrote:As many probably know, I have a similar distaste for this type of production. But the problem is, many would argue that this is a STYLE, an artistic choice, and that the group shouldn't be penalized for it, especially if you consider the strictly defined criteria that RARB uses for its quantitave scoring.


Exactly. Let's say Rolling Stone uses one of its classical reviewers to review the new Black Eyed Peas album, then used its Deathcore reviewer to give us the scoop on the Carpenters retrospective that just came out, etc, etc. It wouldn't really tell you much, but would probably be entertaining reading at least. The problem with not matching a reviewer to a style they actually understand (or at least enjoy) in this case is it's the only review that particular magazine or outlet releases, thus becoming the "opinion" of the magazine - "BEST ALBUM I'VE HEARD THIS YEAR - ROLLING STONE"

One of the beauties of RARB reviews is you get 3 at once, with different perspectives that you can weigh yourself as you get to know the reviewers' own tastes. Yes, this can make for some inconsistent scoring, and 180 degree opinions on certain songs, but that's what is going to happen in art anyway.

Our tiny little world resembles the big mainstream world more than we think. Albums that get panned by reviewers win the Grammy for Album Of The Year, other genius works go unnoticed because they are a little "weird" or less accessible to the listener, and so on and so forth.

This goes back hundreds or thousands of years... once we all agree on what makes great art... well, I hope that day never comes!

-B

Bill Hare Some dude who records and mixes people who can't play instruments. http://www.dyz.com

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Postby davecharliebrown » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:26 am

This discussion (and Bill's post in particular) reminds me of the giggle I get whenever I see a CLASSIC, AMAZING, LEGENDARY movie re-aired on TV and it has like 2.5 or 3 stars. Or when you read a review that was written contemporaneously with the release of a brilliant film, and it totally pans the film and predicts its complete demise.

Speaking as one who reviews albums nearly weekly, I'll say sometimes this whole context is alarming. The possibility that I'll get it "wrong" leaves me worried. But only temporarily... because the honest truth is that you can only give your own, best informed, opinion. Just say what you think, and let the chips fall where they may.

Similarly, from the other end, as I read reviews, I remember that these people do know what they're talking about, but what ultimately matters is what I think as a consumer. And perhaps moreso, what matters is how the artist feels about the creation.

I am all in favor of competitions and reviews and scores. But let's not take ourselves too seriously. :)
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Postby ThunderCurl » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:49 am

First, let me say to Bill, about the STYLE remark, that I believe that strongly. I think style is a really good point, and true for all mediums of art. And for that, even with a good review, you gotta see it/hear it/experience it for yourself to know whether you dig the style. I've certainly gone to Academy Award winning movies and been bored or annoyed, AND to "nobody" movies which mean the world to me. Same for music, theatre, visual arts.

H.F. wrote: your comment has a negative connotation/tone to it, it seems. Which strikes me as odd, given your own group's albums. Are you...conflicted about the styles you like?


Yeah....it did have a negative connotation. And the album that I'VE worked on for Last Call hasn't come out yet, but I'm hoping the style for THOSE works is more in line with my thoughts. Heh. Though maybe you can be the judge as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk7cM-VzD4Q

A cappella is a growing, changing medium, and especially since technological innovations over the past 5 years have made virtually the impossible possible, many are thinking "what IS a cappella" and "what is recorded a cappella" so yeah, naturally, i have my own opinions.

To put it shortly (i just wrote and deleted a couple paragraphs on my own preferred style), I think the line between live, unaltered tracks and sounds.....and highly edited, produced tracks is still being made. What shows off voices, the composition of the arrangement, the blurring of the line between a cappella and really good pop music. Code Red, LC's September, the Clefs, and many things on this year's BOCA (only examples) show off the many advantages and AWESOME things that technology can help us do. Is that the destination or is there a middle ground?

And how much of this discussion is style. Aaaand how much will NBC or Ben Folds care.
Tyler Herman
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Cornell U. Last Call ('05-'09)
Rock Beats Paper vocal band- Ithaca, NY ('06-'08)
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Postby ThunderCurl » Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:51 am

aaaaaaand i was writing my response when Dave posted his. I like his words.
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Quiet Hours- Barbershop Quartet ('08-'09)
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Postby Ed Boyer » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:32 pm

To put it shortly (i just wrote and deleted a couple paragraphs on my own preferred style), I think the line between live, unaltered tracks and sounds.....and highly edited, produced tracks is still being made. What shows off voices, the composition of the arrangement, the blurring of the line between a cappella and really good pop music. Code Red, LC's September, the Clefs, and many things on this year's BOCA (only examples) show off the many advantages and AWESOME things that technology can help us do. Is that the destination or is there a middle ground?


This mindset assumes that there is less merit on the part of singers/arrangers who make "produced" recordings than there is with those making organic recordings, which I think is silly.

Getting a singer to match vowels and sing proper dynamics for a good organic recording is extremely difficult. But so is getting someone to properly perform the material it takes to make a killer guitar solo. And the latter requires the singer to venture farther out of there comfort zone, so to me it's more impressive.

Too many people give all the credit of a "produced" recording to the engineer. It's like they think you can just fart in to a mic and have some engineer turn it into Rumors.
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Postby H.F. » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:58 pm

Ed Boyer wrote:Too many people give all the credit of a "produced" recording to the engineer. It's like they think you can just fart in to a mic and have some engineer turn it into Rumors.


I mean...isn't that how "Better Days/Where It's At" was created? Purely farts, right?

ThunderCurl wrote:Yeah....it did have a negative connotation. And the album that I'VE worked on for Last Call hasn't come out yet, but I'm hoping the style for THOSE works is more in line with my thoughts. Heh. Though maybe you can be the judge as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk7cM-VzD4Q


So no comment about having not actually...heard the album...before commenting on it's review and score, eh? OK, but at least you've heard them live, in person, so you know they can't sing all that well, right?

Re your video/song, it sounds great! Man, James and Bill really made you guys sound awesome.

I'm kidding here obviously, on both counts - I get your point, even if it's unfair as it's based on what amounts to a semi/BOCA-educated guess. Hopefully you get mine.

Your song really does sound nice, though. A bit too much reverb for me, and kind of choral-y perhaps, but it's a great track. And I'm betting the rest of the album will be diverse and awesome too. I'll probably wait to comment on it until I've heard it, though :)
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Postby autumnshades » Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:24 pm

DaveCharlieBrown wrote:Speaking as one who reviews albums nearly weekly, I'll say sometimes this whole context is alarming. The possibility that I'll get it "wrong" leaves me worried. But only temporarily... because the honest truth is that you can only give your own, best informed, opinion. Just say what you think, and let the chips fall where they may.


And the other part of this, which Dave doesn't mention (but surely has come across) is that when you get up to the point of reviewing an album per week (or, in my case, very often more than that), you often have to listen and form an opinion very quickly in order to turn the review around. There's been many a case where I've revisited an album I reviewed, only to find that my opinion of it changed tremendously. (This happens very often after I see the artist live, actually: there's something about watching someone perform his/her material that gives me an understanding of what he/she/they were going for that I don't always get when listening to the CD.)

This isn't quite as much of a problem here at RARB, as the powers-that-be give us an extremely generous two weeks to listen to and absorb an album before a review is due. But since folks are drawing comparisons with Rolling Stone and that ilk, i will say that based on my own experience, you'd be surprised how many reviews are written after having heard the album only once or twice-- and it's usually due to logistics outside the writer's control (tight deadlines, not getting the CD with enough lead time, etc).

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

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Postby ThunderCurl » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:35 pm

I'm not interested in throwing words at anyone or insulting anyone, and I'm sorry if I have. I know how intricate and how much thinking and work goes into arranging and making sounds for the more remix-y type of a cappella. And I've been on all sides: live arranging, musical directing, studio arranging, studio coaching, editing, and mixing. I won't defend my ethos anymore.

All that interested me was that rarb judges albums on a number system where 5 (as H. F. thankfully pointed out) means "Excellent: top notch, shining, an example to us all." In a medium where standards are being created and technology and our minds are expanding the possibilities of a cappella... it is now, more than ever, more a "style/taste" issue than it has been before. As opposed to a "good/not good" issue. I mean, there are still groups who don't sing or arrange well, or where the production unbalances things, but

...but, if a 5 is "an example to us all", if a reviewer dislikes a particular style (one of last call's albums was judged for being too effeminate), then should the number reflect the opinion of the reviewer or how the album might sit with the public? And I think, H.F., you said it quite nicely, that
He did say something. Lots of things.
where a review is made up of its score AND its comments.
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