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'PTX Volume II' By Pentatonix Review: An Impressive A Cappella Collection Of Inventive Covers And Original Songs
By Siobhan McBride
11/05/2013

The newest wave in the evolution of popular music may be hitting us from an instrument that, although paramount in music is often overlooked, underrated and extremely undervalued: the human voice. Originating from Texas and gaining fame after winning season three of NBC’s The Sing-Off, Pentatonix is a five member a cappella band consisting of Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola. Their new album, PTX Volume II, includes covers of today’s pop hits and, in a completely refreshing shift, a few original tracks as well.

 

Pentatonix's PTX Volume II follows PTX Volume 1 and PTXmas, and is another solid release for the band. The album includes covers of “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and “I Need Your Love” from Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding. Plus, for those of us not prone to care how their music is produced or formulated, it also serves as a lovely compilation to some of the greatest pop hits from the 2010’s.

The standout track has to be, hands down, their Daft Punk medley, which covers “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” “Get Lucky,” “Digital Love,” and “One More Time” with such ease and vocal camouflage it’s difficult for the untrained ear to separate Kevin “K.O.” Olusola from actual instrumentation. His amazing beatbox is just that good. (You can check out Olusola’s celloboxing if you want to see more of Kevin's abilities.)

Pentatonix has hit on something within this particular track that could take them beyond what they’ve already constructed – it’s true orchestration. Using their instruments, a.k.a. their vocal chords, to convey depth, power and a range that seems at times a feat beyond-human capabilities, the title of “band” more aptly fits their quintet than the often flat and shallow connotations of “group.”

 

And they carry that title with a skill that is debatably lacking from many of the bands spanning the current airwaves. They are the epitome of what should be discovered on these vocally driven shows and singing competitions. Genuine talent who don’t just croon lithe vocals to go atop some computer produced beat, but who create the very beat themselves, and showcase the astounding talent of their vocalists like the mesmerizing vocal bass of Avi Kaplan. The key to Pentatonix is that they create their sounds without the crutch of a beat generator of which many bands not only capitalize on, but exploit and lean on desperately. This is not saying that the majority of bands are not skilled enough to physically create their own beats from traditional instruments, most just don’t. Call it laziness, call it infatuation with technology, it’s the same game. With the continuing popularity of shows such a Glee and the original American Idol (and it’s countless spin offs), Pentatonix has found itself a niche in which they have the potential to forge new territory and foster respect, not just for music, but also for vocalists. Perhaps it will be a small inspiration for this computer-aged crowd and prove that the absolute stark basics, the human instrument, can stand alone and create a genre that defies the (rather drab) societal belief that computers can do everything humans do, only better.

For more Pentatonix you can view their YouTube channel, which features covers of Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Lorde’s “Royals,” and the popular new “Evolution of Beyoncé” medley.