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Briarcrest OneVoice

Find Yourself (2019)

5.0

October 4, 2019

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 5.0
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.7
Tracks
1 Through The Eyes of A Child 4.3
2 Growing Pains 5.0
3 Broken 4.7
4 Skin 5.0
5 High Horse 4.0
6 High Hopes 5.0
7 Find Yourself 5.0
8 Flying 4.7

Recorded 2019
Total time: 34:15, 8 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Through The Eyes of A Child 5
2 Growing Pains 5
3 Broken 5
4 Skin 5
5 High Horse 5
6 High Hopes 5
7 Find Yourself 5
8 Flying 5

If an orchestra performed the score for Find Yourself, the strings would play continuously without intermission. This, too, is how you must first listen to this incredible work to appreciate its creative musical thematics and poetic narrative around the musing, "Growing pains are keeping me up at night". Familiar motifs and lyrics keep reappearing and disappearing on Find Yourself like a needle sewing a running stitch.

After your assignment, go ahead and listen to your favorite tracks. Maybe it's High Hopes, overplayed on the Top 40 cycle but astonishingly musical here. The very first "mama said" is stunning; time for our current pop stars to spend a day in a masterclass with OneVoice. Maybe you'll love Skin the most, with its booming low-end sounds paired with a very challenging arrangement and piercing words. If beats tip your ear, you'll enjoy the percussion-driven execution of Growing Pains with complementary syncopated vocal rhythms, as well as the electro dance feel of High Horse. If pure vocal skill is what you're here for, sit up for the places the lead dares to go on Flying.

If the concept of "finding yourself" is most aptly applied to youth, arranger (and RARB alum) Rob Dietz did not waste his opportunity and skills on Broken. A child-like choir sings the catchy countermelody on a slightly whimsical, slightly dark "la la la", bumping against the most beautiful and pure female harmonies one could pen. Dietz truly uses voices to capture a marked point in one's life, giving us way more knot-in-the-throat theater than I'd ever expect from the source material.

With the use of atmospheric vocal murmurs; the exceptional album programming; Dietz's arranging which rivals only the finest in his own catalog; ultra clean production; and the spot-on song selection; all of this music is a wild success, and all those responsible for crafting this release have given us their very best. If growing up in America gets its own soundtrack, then it should be Find Yourself by OneVoice.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Through The Eyes of A Child 4
2 Growing Pains 5
3 Broken 4
4 Skin 5
5 High Horse 4
6 High Hopes 5
7 Find Yourself 5
8 Flying 5

Each year, attention spans shrink as technology invites, enables, even trains us to keep our focus ever-shifting. News comes at us through increasingly tight character and word limits; text messages and snapchats replace emails (which replaced letters); even novelists known for their verbose, ponderous tomes release short stories rather than challenge our patience by allowing a story to slowly, painstakingly unfold. So, what is a listener to do with Find Yourself, the latest album from Briarcrest OneVoice? The perennial high school powerhouse unapologetically tacks against the current, offering a grand work that is greater than the sum of its parts. As is the group's specialty, the album explores themes — here, self-exploration and identity. And, consistent with past albums, the group does so effectively, with a thoughtfully programmed tracklist, engaging arrangements, and shockingly mature singing. But given the global push towards bite-sized consumables, I wonder who will appreciate this carefully curated art?

Of particular concern is the absence of a sharp, killer tune. Simply put, there is no standout track on Find Yourself which is likely to end up on listener playlists or shared across social media. I would be hard-pressed to choose one I could recommend to folks who don't know OneVoice — one which would tell the full story of this endlessly entertaining, introspective, and creative group. Sure, Growing Pains drives with a rhythmic constitution that nearly renders percussion unnecessary and glides effortlessly through a textural evolution in the second half, but it also feels tight, even claustrophobic and a bit cerebral. Skin, by contrast, allows more air into the room but rages, tipping the scales awfully far the other way — all heart but little mind.

To be sure, and critically, these diametrically opposed tracks are extremely effective in portraying the human struggle, the battle between self-doubt and confidence. And related contests, such as loneliness versus community, poke through — moments of singular, exposed voices sprinkled throughout contrast with group refrains and thickly layered textures. It is beautiful music, not so much at the granular, micro level, but instead on a global, macro scale.

It is quite an accomplishment to craft, in this digital age, an essential work that makes sense and has the greatest impact only when consumed whole. I can't recommend you go listen to any one song on Find Yourself. But I can't urge you strongly enough to go listen to the whole album, from start to finish. And, with patience, open your mind to hear, think, and feel perhaps the best a cappella music you'll come across all year.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Through The Eyes of A Child 4
2 Growing Pains 5
3 Broken 5
4 Skin 5
5 High Horse 3
6 High Hopes 5
7 Find Yourself 5
8 Flying 4

In this edition of its long-awaited annual release, perennial a cappella powerhouse Briarcrest OneVoice delivers quite possibly its strongest thematic album in Find Yourself. Each song deals with an element of identity-seeking, which is especially compelling when presented by this group of exceptional high school singers. With its exploration of the human psyche as helped by some slick artistic choices from the entire production staff, Find Yourself is a thoroughly moving album worthy of inclusion amongst OneVoice's already stellar discography.

Taking nothing away from the technique employed by the talented vocalists in the group, in general younger voices are simply less developed than their mature counterparts. However, equally important to what must be a strong education given the group's consistent excellence, OneVoice consistently puts its members in positions to succeed in repertoire choices, arrangement innovation, and light studio help. For example, one of the hallmarks of Panic! at the Disco's High Hopes is Brendon Urie's signature high tessitura, whereas OneVoice takes the opportunity to showcase the velvety timbre of Avery Veteto in the lower register of her voice, accompanied by the drive of a punchy percussion line and quicker tempo. The unification of these elements helps to create a unique, homogenous cover. Another instance is Mady Thornburg's tender, honest rendition of Skin, which is augmented by the perfect balance of reverb and filter to match the aesthetic of the arrangement.

In addition to his hats as Artistic Director and Executive Producer, as an arranger, Dr. J.D. Frizzell employs a clever recurring device in the use of transitional material, borrowing themes from other songs to unify the album. Rob Dietz, as the arranger of the lion's share of songs on the album, deserves immense credit for adding many interesting elements to the source material and varying each song from the other so the album never suffers from monotony. One of his greatest successes is the way he reimagines lovelytheband's Broken, retaining signature melodic lines but taking what is a sharp power ballad and imposing a beautiful, consistent legato that allows more subdued communicating by Veteto, who is fantastic in her featured solos.

The only disappointments from this album are perhaps due to the lofty expectations the group has set for itself in its consistently spectacular output. In the case of Flying, overactive arranging and balance issues between soloist and background detract from the storytelling implicit in Cody Fry's ballad, a misstep in what is otherwise a brilliant way to close the album and showcase a lesser-known artist based in Tennessee. While not aurally displeasing, High Horse feels out of place, obligatory, and shoehorned into the album somehow, with energy inconsistent with the rest of the album. The simple sweetness from Through The Eyes of A Child sets up the listener well for the coming journey, but between lack of dynamic contrast and a somewhat jarring pause that doesn't quite directly lead to transitional material, there is a feeling of missed opportunity.

Frizzell and OneVoice are, once again, leaders in the a cappella community with their musically- and emotionally-rich content. As usual with this group's releases, you can't listen to Find Yourself soon enough.


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