I’ve mentioned The Vassar Devils before on this blog when I talked about The Staves. This group of amazingly talented individuals make up my favourite collegiate acapella group.
Yes. I have a favourite collegiate acapella group. Sue me.
What characterises The Vassar Devils? I’d say phenomenal harmony, with evocative use of discord, creative song choice, and mind-blowing arrangements. So much of what makes them great can be found in the stiller, quieter portions of their sets when your brain is still recovering from all of the power that came before. But what’s got me so excited?
On the 22nd of February they released the tracklist for their upcoming album. While I would have preferred for this to come with a definite release date so I can mark my calendar in bright red sharpie, I’ll gladly delve into the set list and get excited.
So the album is made up largely of songs from their 2015 ICCA set and their BOSS set from 2016. This makes sense, since the Devils are known for being somewhat self-referential in their performances. Have a listen to the 2015 set and then see how many times they call back to it in 2016, I dare you.
The title ‘coming alive’ is one such reference, a lyric that appears in both the ICCA and BOSS sets. The lyric is from the fifth song on the album ‘Cough Cough’ by British Indie Pop band Everything Everything.
‘But I’m coming alive
I’m happening now’
-Cough Cough, Everything Everything, 2013
Other songs I am really excited about are the first track on the list, Iscariot, a song by Walk the Moon. I’m not a huge fan of the performance of the song by the band itself but the arrangement of this by the Devils, which was threaded throughout their 2015 ICCA set is sheer perfection. This is the perfect track with which to open an album, it showcases everything The Vassar Devils are about.
Lets skip through all the other phenomenal tracks on this album, or we’ll be here all day and I fully intend to review the whole album once it launches, right through to the last song. It’s Alive, that well-known track from the wigged wonder Sia. Now there are quite a few acapella groups who have an arrangement of this song, some of them are even quite good.
This one is great.
I mean it, there’s a moment where the whole thing reaches a huge crescendo and I swear I get goosebumps every time.
Why did they choose to end it on this song? Well there’s a certain symmetry to starting the album on the opening song from their 2015 set and ending it on the closing song from 2016. This album is a celebration of the amazing journey that this group of individuals has taken over the last 2-3 years and how they came to life and are in fact ‘still breathing’. When you think about it like that, it makes perfect sense.
If you’ve never encountered them before, I recommend giving this group a serious try. Even if you hate acapella, I promise this is acapella you won’t be expecting.
Devils, if you’re reading this, I ask only two things, firstly, a release date. Secondly, will you come to England and sing at my wedding?