There's something about a cappella music that has kept me entertained since I discovered The Nylons while in high school. About five years ago I started listening to The Nylons again and stumbled onto the amazing array of college a cappella groups. The sheer variety and support for this genre is astounding. Since then, I've discovered groups like Toxic Audio, moosebutter, The House Jacks, Spiralmouth, Blue Jupiter, The Bobs, and many others. Some serious, some hilarious, but the quality of arrangements for original songs and covers has always been excellent.
Now with shows like Glee hitting television screens in September 2009 and tracks from that show rising to the top of iTunes lists, this is turning out to be a great time for a cappella to show off great voices.
So when I learned that a group I hadn't heard before was releasing a new album of covers, I knew I had to check it out. Sonos didn't disappoint. SonoSings takes songs including Radiohead ("Everything In Its Right Place"), Sara Bareilles ("Gravity"), Rufus Wainwright ("Oh What a World"), Björk (“Joga”), and Imogen Heap (“Come Here Boy”), transforming them into compelling a cappella arrangements.
Sonos was just founded in 2007 and consists of three women (Jessica Freedman, Rachel Bearer, and Katharine Hoye) and three men (Ben McLain, Chris Harrison, and Paul Peglar), all with amazing voices and from a variety of backgrounds. Hoye attended the Berklee School of Music before heading to UCLA. Harrison sang in UCLA group Awake A Cappella with Bareilles and both Freedman and Peglar. Bearer grew up singing opera and found a cappella at UCLA and USC. These folks don't lack for talent. And by approaching a cappella from a new, younger direction, I think the group will gain an immediate following.
SonoSings consists of eleven great songs, but two of them on the album really stuck with me, burrowing deep into my brain to echo for a while.
"Gravity" features Bareilles, herself no stranger to a cappella. It's great that even with her own budding career she could go back to her roots to help out her friends. There's something organic about this arrangement and I find it hard to argue with Bareilles' poetry sung so beautifully: "Set me free, leave me be / I don't wanna fall another moment into your gravity." With the other voices, Bareilles fits right in.
"Come Here Boy" (originally by Imogen Heap) has some simply gorgeous harmonies that echo in my mind from beginning to end. This renders the opposite side of "Gravity," with someone falling in love, not trying to get out of a relationship. And once again, the arrangement flows organically, each voice adding to the whole of the piece.
Though Sonos may not be for everyone, I think fans of a cappella will respond well to another group shining the light on today's music through beautiful harmonies and arrangements.