Album Review: Pollen

pollenthjThis 2014 album by The HouseJacks needs a review, because I just gave it another listen.

As you all know, the last time I met Deke Sharon was in 2012 for the first Vocal Edge when I was still working for The A Cappella Society, and I shared tracks from their previous album Level with Pamela Ho at Channel NewsAsia (now she’s a freelancer). Her reaction was timeless:

ARE YOU SURE THOSE ARE CREATED BY THE HUMAN VOICE?!

And Deke didn’t disappoint during the interview with a short demo on vocal instrumentation on live TV.

Sure, a sound engineer is definitely required to make the human sound even more sonorous or whatnot to sound like actual instruments or digital sounds, and this is just a sign of the advancements in A Cappella technology.

This is the thing about Pollen – in the album sleeve goes the line:

Everything you hear is a human voice, but sometimes we mess with it.

Besides digitally augmented vocals of the five members of The HouseJacks, they are joined by the best in every continent: the entire album is a collaboration! And EVERY track is an original!

Opening the album is As It Falls Apart, an original by Austin Willacy and collaborated with Singapore’s MICappella. We love how it feels comfortable to listen too despite the distortion, and we know that it sits in the comfort zone of MICappella which makes the track shine.

Postyr Project (Denmark) is another familiar sound that melded well with The HouseJacks on Talk2Me, a track with high re-listening value as it doesn’t jar your ears like how many groups try with their arrangements and compositions.

There were pretty amazing low-tempo tracks on the album, Quiet Moon with Brazil’s BR6 spun a very soothing Bossa nova groove that got us lazing in the office couch.

Staying on the same side of the pond, The Swingles worked out nicely with the Jacks on This Life. We particularly love the lyrics to this piece, because both groups really gave us a lesson on how a collaboration should sound like. The track (which was arranged by Clare Wheeler of The Swingles though written by John Pointer) joins Talk2Me in this reviewer’s “Please Play Constantly” playlist on his iPod.

Crossing the continent into Australia, The Idea of North’s collaboration on Crazy really spoke miles about their musicality: mashing warm arpeggios with their American counterparts’ deep basses and lovelorn vocals, and a bonus: equally brilliant lyrics compared to This Life.

Besides MICappella, Asia is represented by 3 other representatives on two other tracks.

Wo Ai Ni (我愛你/I Love You) features The Sing Off China’s winners Freeman (自由人) and Taiwan’s award-winning pop-jazz Voco Novo. Typically Chinese, screams the track with vocal instrumentations mimicking Chinese instruments and Christine Liu’s vocals in a duet response to Nicholas Girard’s lines – these things make it very interesting for the listeners.

The good friend of the reviewer insists that one must add that this song is a different lesson on collaboration because unlike on This Life where both groups give and take to each others’ style, Wo Ai Ni had both groups coming together full force – Chinese Opera meets Doo-wop and a bi-racial love story, which should become the theme to some comedy drama.

Got What You Wanted features Exit (Korea) and Kaichiro Kitamura (Japan), both prolific in their own fields of rock-pop styles and Jazz vocal percussions, which is typical of both EXIT and The HouseJacks, and the brilliant skill of Kai to keep up with them.

To conclude as well, Pollen is also a CARA Award Winner: Best Pop/Rock Album. Runner-up honorable mentions for As It Falls Apart (Best Pop/Rock Song) and Talk2Me (Best Hip-Hop/R&B Song)- so if you’re looking for an album that puts together the best of the A Cappella community in collaboration, we’re glad that The HouseJacks have done so and will continue to pollinate us with their music.

POLLEN CAN BE PURCHASED ON ITUNES (US$9.90), LOUDR (FROM US$9.90) AND PHYSICAL COPIES CAN BE BOUGHT VIA SINGERS.COM (US$14.95, BEFORE DELIVERY).

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