RE: Tufts Amalgamates - Baggage Claim

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RE: Tufts Amalgamates - Baggage Claim

Postby Stixnstr » Wed Feb 21, 2007 5:18 am

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Re: RE: Tufts Amalgamates - Baggage Claim

Postby lcmike » Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:31 am

Stixnstr wrote:Could it be that listening to a slew of albums laiden with distortion and invasive vocal effects reduces the impact of our album?


I don't quite understand this - other group's albums are obstructing the success of yours?

Stixnstr wrote:I would encourage you all to give your ears a break, and listen again.


I'm not sure I follow.




Not trying to call you out or be mean, I'm just curious.


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Re: RE: Tufts Amalgamates - Baggage Claim

Postby jthelegend » Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:44 am

Stixnstr wrote:Could it be that listening to a slew of albums laiden with distortion and invasive vocal effects reduces the impact of our album? Maybe its the juxtaposition that makes you feel like our rock tracks don't. I would encourage you all to give your ears a break, and listen again. I think you will find that there is sufficient butt-kicking drive in every driving track. It is just important to remember that the 'Mates do not make rock music, they make a cappella. If you like a cappella, then listen to the 'Mates album, if you want rock, then go buy the originals


It has (and still is) a rather stirring debate over the use of effects in a cappella; however, i find the assertions you make in this paragraph a bit offensive. there are different views of albums and the art of making an album, but i do not think it is right or fair to criticize one way of creating art over another. It feels as if you insinuate here that albums such as otb, harmonics, bubs, etc are not actually a cappella which is a rather bold and, imo, incorrect statement. it is fine to have an opinion and you are free to voice it; however, i would venture to say that letting your pride in your work and it's not-quite-warm reception get the best of you is improper. hurling insults is no real way to gain respect sir.
that being said, as someone who claims an affinity for both natural and produced a cappella who also owns your album, i would be more than happy to give you my comments privately on the body of work presented in baggage claim.
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Postby carlyonders » Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:28 am

Matt, are you still using the homemade mic you used for your last CD? What kind of room did you mix the tracks in? From what I have heard of your project, to me, the overall sound/color of the tracks are the biggest earsore...your blend is obviously great, and you have some other really nice attributes, but it does still sound like your last CD, which was pretty muted/dark and spectrally iffy, in spite of some really great singing. You're the 'Mates, after all...you put out great CDs like 'Juice' and 'Bamboo'. You go to Tufts, where there is a lot of a cappella tradition, and way more money to be found (though I doubt from the school itself...think gigs and parents) than at most public schools. Why not spend a bit more money getting those issues addressed somehow, so the end result is all that much more wonderful?

It seems a bit of a cop out, with respect, to play the "we only care about making great a cappella, not a great recording" card (obviously paraphrased, but carried over from what your last CD's producer said, as well). I mean, your colleagues the Bubs made pretty much the best CD ever in Shedding, and all it was was creative layering and great singing, plus great but primarily augmentative post-production, not super fancy effects or added distortion. So why not set the bar a bit higher, since you can?

Just my thoughts.
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Postby Stixnstr » Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:57 am

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Postby carlyonders » Wed Feb 21, 2007 11:08 am

Matt, I doubt the booth affected the sound much, assuming it was decently padded and relatively small. The mic/pre/channel defnitely could have, as could the room in which you mixed it, or even the person who mixed it. Of course, it could also be the preference of your producer to go for a "darker" sound. Or a combination of factors...

I think you're right in that production shouldn't make or break an album. I'd suspect that you guys are being held to a bit higher standard though, b/c frankly you should be, for the reasons I listed, and also b/c you're being compared to groups who did all the great singing and arranging that you did, but also amped up the production to "today's" levels (whatever that is), in whatever manner they saw fit. From the production angle at least (not speaking of song selection etc), that your CD is great, but could be (and perhaps should be, see above) even greater, is probably where people are coming from. Not "your CD isn't great because of the production".
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Postby RnBMrE » Wed Feb 21, 2007 11:30 am

I was actually surprised by the near unanimity of the reviewers' primary comments. I think that they speak of something very important for the 'Mates and pretty much every group to consider: the transfer of raw energy, passion, and life into a recording.

Stixnstr wrote:To me production should not make or break an album, and it seems as though the production decisions made were seriously coloring peoples' views of the album.


Actually, it seemed to me like the reviewers respected that you guys chose to keep the style of production that you did (Jevan in particular). The issue appears to have been more with "bringing something new" to the a cappella community. This can be done in many other ways than purely from a production standpoint, i.e. recording songs previously unattempted, creative new arrangements of old songs, original songs, noted urgency/honesty in soloist performances, driving, passionate delivery on backgrounds, etc...

Stixnstr wrote:It just seemed to me that everyone respected the voices behind the music and the arrangements, and yet the reviews still seemed overly negative.


Yeah, this is something that I have seen happen to varying degrees in RARB reviews. I think that groups with established renown and long traditions of excellence in the community are held to a higher standard than other groups, though, in some senses. To be fair, if you have put out multiple ground-breaking CDs in the past, as the Amalgamates have, then the reviewers come to expect such efforts on future CDs. IMHO, it is their prerogative or even duty to point out if their standards are not met. Perhaps this played into the reviews of "Baggage Claim"?

In her review, Rebecca Christie wrote:As excellent as it is, I don't think it belongs in the same group as the other "excellent" recordings I've gotten over the last couple of years.


I think this is a fair assessment. I mean Matt, she did say that your album was excellent! Don't dismiss that so quickly. Though not the sound bite you may have wanted (heh), that's definitely something to take pride in. As for pushing the envelope or being the epitome of current a cappella, though, I think it brings a fair challenge to you guys to step it up a notch on your next CD... which is one of the big goals of RARB reviews anyway, am I right?

To finish, I'm a huge fan of "Good Luck". Last week, a friend of mine volunteered that the soloist's voice made him... well, I will leave it at that. I also like that it conveniently starts to play every time I listen to our group's track on this year's BOCA, too. =D

Matt Emery CASA Director of Communications Three-time Recipient of RARB "Post of the Year" Title

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Postby Stixnstr » Wed Feb 21, 2007 3:29 pm

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Postby jthelegend » Wed Feb 21, 2007 3:49 pm

pardon me if i sound like a jerk for this, but must you really whine and push for praise. making a cd is an art. as is the case with art; some people will love it and some people will hate it. i know how much work goes into making a cd and i know how proud of the body of work you must be; however, i really don't understand what you're looking for here.
it really just seems to me like you worked on an album, got really attached, and were personally offended when people did not jump through hoops and kiss your ass for your effort. again, not trying to be a dick, just saying...
you, my friend, were a member of one of the finest a cappella groups in the country. your group has a rich history and loads of respect for all of its achievements in the a cappella community. i don't see a reason to panhandle. if you believe in your vision, then you should just look at the criticism and say f**k it and keep doing what you believe in, because in the end that's all that matters. stay true to yourself, but don't try to blame the tides of technology for your scoring. if you truly believe that you have defined and molded the amalgamates sound...then that should be enough for you.
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Postby Stixnstr » Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:07 pm

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Postby jthelegend » Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:10 pm

i'm just saying...your post did not seem guided to spark discussion but seemed rather accusatory. and insult i did not...well not much. my point was: if you believe in it, then why pander to people. if the album is truly what you want it to be, then it really shouldn't matter what i or anyone else thinks should it?
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Postby mattootb » Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:27 pm

Matt,

Scroll down the page and see that your album is the highest scoring of 2007 so far on RARB. I'd imagine all of those albums have someone behind them who has spent an awful lot of time on them. I know for a fact one person has ruined their degree to produce a 3 3 3 album, and that's me. And you know what, I'm still damn proud of it, and very grateful to RARB as the comments will help us produce a better album this year.

You think you're great just as we think we're great and the XY's from Z College think they're great; none of us would get very far without that to keep us going. Not everyone is going to share that view all of the time however. The UK reviews of our albums are always so much better than our RARB ones, but that's not going to stop the group submitting in future I hope - it's all part of the learning curve :)
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Postby Stixnstr » Wed Feb 21, 2007 5:06 pm

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Postby dherriges » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:05 pm

Reviewers' opinions being whatever they are, I'll say this as an a cappella fan and great admirer of all the Amalgamates tracks I've heard (in fact, I think on every BOCA you guys have been on, your track is one of my favorites of the whole disc): Hats off to you and the Mates for consciously trying to create a distinctive sound and stick with it. You've obviously put a lot of thought into it, and that to me speaks of an impressive professionalism that few college groups have and that should be applauded.

One thing I definitely learned from the recording process this last year is that making exactly the album you want to make, and having it be received by others exactly the way you want them to receive it, is a nigh-impossible task. I haven't heard Baggage Claim but the reviews to me make it sound like a case of great idea, slightly faulty execution. And frankly, where college a cappella is concerned, I'd rather listen to that a lot of the time than the all-too-common opposite: great execution of uninspired ideas. If you have to take a little crap from reviewers for taking some musical risks or making some unorthodox choices, so be it.

Also, on a different note: is it just me or have RARB reviewers' standards for college albums gotten significantly higher just in the past year or so? I don't know if that speaks to a dramatic upsurge in the general quality of college a cappella being released - that'd be cool if it does. I just feel like I've seen a LOT of albums getting straight 4's recently that I really expected to do better than that, and the veteran reviewers seem like they're being much more sparing with giving out 5's than they ever used to be. Even albums that have been praised to high heaven by the a cappella community aren't getting the top scores - look at Divisi's latest, for example. So I really feel like by no means should you view a 4 as any kind of a failure or rejection of what you've done.

Question for reviewers: Now I'm curious, in light of the notion that the Amalgamates have had a reputation for years as one of the best groups in the country, and should thus be held to a higher standard. Do you consider the context of the group's past work in assigning your numerical scores? Will you be more inclined to score something favorably if you consider it a marked improvement for the group, or less kindly if you think they could have done better? Or are the scores meant to be taken solely as an impartial comparison to other a cappella being released this year / recently?
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Postby seth » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:38 pm

dherriges wrote:I don't know if that speaks to a dramatic upsurge in the general quality of college a cappella being released

Or professional groups. No one gets bonus points for being in college. Everyone's in the same league as far as scoring goes.


dherriges wrote:Do you consider the context of the group's past work in assigning your numerical scores?

They're specifically told not to do that. Reviewers are encouraged to talk about the group's relevant history in their comments (which is why we try to use some of the same people as reviewed their last album), but it's not supposed to affect the scores. Scores are meant to be based on the context of all recorded a cappella.
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