Monday 22 September 2014

Pentatonix - PTX, Vol. III

Slowly but surely, a capella five-piece Pentatonix are amassing a considerable repertoire.  With so many songs on their YouTube channel, it's sometimes frustrating that not all of them have been recorded for the albums.  Yet whilst fans might enjoy looking back to their earliest work (including their Sing Off performances), the group press on with albums that continue to offer surprises.

As with their previous releases, 'PTX, Vol. III' is a mixture of covers and originals.  In their pursuit of bringing a capella singing to the masses, they've chosen some of the most popular tracks from this year (particularly from the UK): Ariana Grande's Problem, Disclosure's Latch and Clean Bandit's Rather Be.  Then, inspired by their touring in Europe, there's a cover of Stromae's Papaoutai - a song that was huge in France but relatively unknown elsewhere.  Sung in French and with extra violin accompaniment from Lindsey Stirling, it's an unusual but very welcome addition.

Mostly, the group stick to the EDM-style tracks they're best at.  With Scott, Mitch and Kirstie taking it in turns to sing lead vocals and mimicking ethereal trance synths, these tracks really show off the rhythm section of Avi's impossibly deep bass and Kevin's phenomenal beat-boxing.  That said, as with the EDM genre itself, the production is incredibly slick and polished - perhaps too much so.  The album doesn't quite capture the visceral thrill of hearing them sing live.

Their arrangements continue to amaze, however.  La La Latch, for instance, combines Disclosure's Latch with Naughty Boy's La La La; the way they weave the two songs together is complex, taking the listener on a journey through sombre verses, uptempo choruses and a layered middle eight breakdown.  Throughout each song, subtle changes, riffs and beats keep the album fresh even after repeated listening.  And each singer is given their moment, from Kirstie's lead vocals on Rather Be, to Scott's high notes on Problem and lead vocals on Papoutai, and Mitch's Iggy Azalea rap on Problem and stunning falsetto vocals on See Through.

What's most impressive, though, is their original songwriting that's more accomplished than ever.  The difference between the three included here and earlier volumes is huge.  Each feels distinct: the percussive On My Way Home has an anthemic soaring chorus; See Through is an ethereal electronic wonder that perfectly suits Mitch's tone; Standing By ends the album with an uplifting ballad that sees Kevin and Avi taking on greater singing roles, something that's always welcome.

'PTX, Vol. III' provides everything we've come to expect from the group, as well as diversifying their sound to match the tastes of their worldwide fanbase.  It's their best collection yet, proving that for a capella arrangements PTX are simply unmatched.


Gizzle's Choice:
* On My Way Home
* La La Latch
* See Through

Listen: 'PTX, Vol. III' is available now.