Wow! Just last year, the Penny Loafers, longtime a cappella also-rans from the University of Pennsylvania, were riding the wave of their previous album (the overwhelmingly mediocre Side A) into… well, into the arms of their long-time supporters, anyway. A mere year following the release of that album, they have released another collection of covers called Quicksand, and you know what? This may be it—this may be the one that puts them back on track toward some serious national recognition. The choice of songs is even more off the beaten path than the typical Penny Loafers disc, the production has seen another bump in quality (in part, though not entirely, due to the engineering presence of a cappella all-star Bill Hare on two tracks) and the soloists do a mostly fabulous job of filling in for their mostly alt-rock counterparts. Both Snow Patrol songs (“Chocolate” and “Run”) sound fantastic, with soloists who mercifully eschew Gary Lightbody’s distracting vocal tics, the over-the-top production on Beck’s “Girl” is perfect, and somehow, they even make Coldplay’s rather dreary “Swallowed in the Sea” sound somewhat appealing. Quicksand is not a perfect album—a perfect album wouldn’t need two tracks each from the aforementioned Snow Patrol and Kelly Clarkson, and a perfect album would have a true power-soloist or two (the lack of which is regrettably pointed out on the cover of Clarkson’s “Because of You”, the solo of which is on-key but nowhere near the necessary oomph)—but it’s cleanly tuned, smoothly polished, and unflinchingly pleasant. With this sort of trajectory, the next Penny Loafers album could well be a classic.
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// Notes from the Road
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