It’s not hard to pigeon-hole a cappella music as a quirky novelty act.Â A cappella music conjures up images of smiling, lovable-yet-nerdy undergrads, waving their jazz hands and singing versions of kitschy pop songs.Â If you’re not well-versed in the genre, at best, maybe you’re thinking of the cast of Glee (with their totally not a cappella music, yes, I hear you, band playing as backing track).Â And even then, you’ve probably got a bit of a snicker going on, because, okay, evenÂ I can admit it, a cappella can be pretty cheesy sometimes.
But not Sonos.Â While the members of this California sextet have their background in university a cappella choirs, they’ve expanded their repertoire far beyond Top 40 pop songs and into the far more juicy world of indie rock.
Yes, a show by Sonos features their recreations of songs such as Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place”, Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks”, and Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”.Â Â Other artists covered include Bjork, Depeche Mode, Rufus Wainwright, and Imogen Heap, and that’s just on their debut album.Â Â TheyÂ toss in covers of songs by Israeli/South African singer Yoav, the Jackson 5, and, okay, a little Britney Spears, just for fun. Â You can’t take all of the hilarity out of a cappella, after all.
The group put on a highly entertaining, captivating show, performing most (if not all) of the songs from their debut album, plus a few still-unreleased tracks (including one which remains so for, uh, legal reasons). Â Even more important than the inspired song choices, however, is the fact that all six members are very strong singers. Â You have to be, in order to sing unaccompanied and still manage to stay in pitch. Â Each member got a chance to shine, with lead vocal responsibilities never being relegated to just one person. Â Even beatboxer Ben McLain had a chance to pass the beatboxing duties off to the rest of the group for a while as he soloed on Yoav’s “Club Thing”.
If Sonos ever rolls through your town, take a chance and go see them. Â If anything, they might help to dispel a few of the preconceived notions you may have about a cappella groups. Â But I’m betting that you’ll find yourself spellbound by their great harmonies and innovative arrangements.