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The Sil'hooettes

University of Virginia

LYLAS: Love You Like A Sil (2023)

4.0

December 27, 2023

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 4.0
Innovation / Creativity 3.7
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 3.7
Tracks
1 Runaway Baby 4.0
2 Liz 3.7
3 Holding Out for a Hero 4.0
4 Black Horse and the Cherry Tree 3.7
5 Killing Me Softly With His Song 4.3
6 Back To Black / Crazy Mashup 3.3
7 Cowboy Casanova 4.0
8 I Drink Wine 4.3
9 It's Raining Men 3.3
10 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 4.7

Recorded 2022 – 2023
Total time: 36:57, 10 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Runaway Baby 4
2 Liz 3
3 Holding Out for a Hero 4
4 Black Horse and the Cherry Tree 4
5 Killing Me Softly With His Song 5
6 Back To Black / Crazy Mashup 3
7 Cowboy Casanova 4
8 I Drink Wine 5
9 It's Raining Men 3
10 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 5

Exceedingly rare in the collegiate realm, Love You Like A Sil features a lineup of ten excellent soloists who are all delightfully matched to their material. That's a feat worthy of a party, perhaps one with a retro-hip vibe like this album art evokes.

Overall, this is a danged good offering from the University of Virginia darlings. Seasoned onstage performers and seasoned recording artists puts the Sils on firm footing for Love You Like A Sil, which really only suffers from a few curious arrangement choices that are more preference decisions than skill-based tumbles. Per usual, the Sils know how to open and close an album with a decisive mic drop. Runaway Baby is a sassy hipshaker with a zippy tempo that'll have you out of your seat. Let's start the journey to the end.

Liz features one of the curious arrangement choices. This chart is very high for the upper voices a good portion of the time, leaving the listener with a lot of shrillness to contend with; probably best to use the top pointy notes for brief moments of impact instead of a steady lines. Holding Out for a Hero is pretty transcriptive, but terrifically designed production (James Gammon for the release) adds a lot of depth. This iteration of the Sils likes it fast.

Some early highs come next. The arrangement for Black Horse and the Cherry Tree has sonic freshness; still fast, but with a nearly melancholic background to add nuance. But oh, that gorgeously popped percussion for Killing Me Softly With His Song! All smoky sizzle, how delicious. Of all the tracks on this album, I expected this one to be the most carbon copied, but no: the number sounds wonderfully 2023. Great lead from Pooja Viswesh giving us a nightclub show, too.

Then, a bit of a mid-album stumble with a huge recovery. It's hard to call Back To Black / Crazy Mashup a true mashup: it's long and both versions stand alone more than they merge in this arrangement. Also, both songs sound better here separately, but I appreciate the risk. Speaking of a risk, lovin' the big singin' for Cowboy Casanova: the leads always know when it's their time to slay. The possible best lead of the album (if we're even able to determine in this lineup), Faith Bush, is next at the microphone with their turn for I Drink Wine. This lead's delivery is so gorgeously honest and passionate, so painfully amazing that it was actually hard for me to listen to this unfold a second time. Faith Bush, your voice is transformative; use it often, use it well.

And then, I don't know: I don't know how we could have silly It's Raining Men nestled between two absolutely transfixing works, but here we are. It's Raining Men would be perfect for the Friday night campus show to kick off a weekend, but it's perfectly impossible to slot in for Love You Like A Sil.

Last but worthy of a listen first, why don't you abandon this review to go queue up Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Featuring the hugely impressive pipes of Katie Huber atop a delicate but strong arrangement, it's just a very cool piece that embodies the Sils themselves. People were trying to get my attention while I was listening to this song, and I just waved them off with a faraway look in my eye. You and I cannot be disturbed while this is happening.

All in all, Love You Like A Sil is a sure bet for a cappella aficionados. Stream your favorites and rejoice that the Sils remain mainstays in our genre.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Runaway Baby 4
2 Liz 4
3 Holding Out for a Hero 4
4 Black Horse and the Cherry Tree 4
5 Killing Me Softly With His Song 4
6 Back To Black / Crazy Mashup 4
7 Cowboy Casanova 4
8 I Drink Wine 4
9 It's Raining Men 3
10 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 4

The Sil'hooettes have proven themselves to be incredibly consistent over the last 10-20 years, which is especially impressive since membership in college groups turns over every few years, by definition. LYLAS: Love You Like A Sil continues the group's reputation for engaging, smart versions of (mostly) female-fronted pop songs. Fair warning: there are no sonic surprises here; these songs generally sound as you would expect if you're familiar with the originals.

Listeners don't necessarily need sonic surprises, though, if the performances and song selections are strong enough. And the Sils have a broad selection here, from oldies/classics to more recent songs to pieces that were overdone a few years ago but sound somewhat fresh now. The Back To Black / Crazy Mashup in particular gives a fresh spin on two songs that have historically been overdone, although it's not until the last minute of the track that the mashup portion really takes off.

Where the group really excels is in the consistency of its arrangements (all done by either Katie Huber or Mia Puccio), and sound (all recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered by James Gammon Productions). The Sils definitely have a signature sound, and the group knows how to write arrangements that play to that strength and then (again) work with Gammon to capture that sound to tape. Cowboy Casanova is a great example: of course, soloist Mia Puccio sounds great (as do all of the soloists across the whole album). But Puccio's arrangement makes the song sound even better; it has such bounce and movement without distracting from the lead. I Drink Wine could've been a major downer, because sometimes ballads drag, but Puccio again has a way of giving the backs a bit of movement without detracting from the soloist.

It's really hard to complain about the Sils, because they do what they do exceptionally well, and they know (and play to) their strengths and signature sound. But I'd love to hear them throw listeners a major curveball, either by completely re-imagining a song or by picking a song that's outside their sonic wheelhouse and nailing it. Don't get me wrong, LYLAS is a lovely listen and there are a lot of really solid performances here. But I'd love to find a well-executed surprise on a Sils album: something that would lift them from really good to exceptional.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Runaway Baby 4
2 Liz 4
3 Holding Out for a Hero 4
4 Black Horse and the Cherry Tree 3
5 Killing Me Softly With His Song 4
6 Back To Black / Crazy Mashup 3
7 Cowboy Casanova 4
8 I Drink Wine 4
9 It's Raining Men 4
10 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 5

When I see the Sils gracing my playlist, my expectations for the album are written by history. The songs are going to be relatively simple and without frills, but they will be well-executed. LYLAS: Love You Like A Sil is no different.

Runaway Baby is a great opening for an album. This piece is loud and in-your-face. However, there's just something missing as you go through the song. The piece feels very one-faceted. As the piece goes on, there are very few dynamic changes. More accurately, it feels like dynamics are tied purely to the number of individuals singing. When it's simply a bass and percussion backing, the dynamic is softer. Whenever everyone comes in on the chorus, there is a noticeable jump to a forte dynamic. The middle dynamics are often missing. The soft dynamics are what make this piece interesting. The build in the bridge is formed by everyone adding a new part and growing it. The soloist has to ride that change. However, we get everyone singing one dynamic. It makes the piece so much more boring than it could be.

Later down the album, we see Killing Me Softly With His Song. This piece is entirely soloist-centric, and Pooja Viswesh absolutely crushes it. It falls upon the group to give everything to support the soloist, and I'm not hearing it. Thus, this piece stagnates. Driven by a strong bass and percussive r&b groove, the backgrounds need to be giving so much more support. The lack of microdynamics is readily apparent, giving the soloist nowhere to drive phrases toward. While there's nothing bad in the backings, this piece could be so much more.

All the way at the bottom of the album, we get to what I would consider the best track of LYLAS. The opening phrases of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are perfect: Katie Huber's arrangement perfectly sets the stage for the soloist. It's ethereal and haunting. Huber also solos, giving a sound that is incredibly sincere and also strong when it needs to be. The dynamics here sell the piece more than anything. There are loud and soft moments and they work together flawlessly. This piece showcases exactly what the Sils are capable of, and I'm only sad that I couldn't hear this level of excellence over the preceding nine tracks.

This album is plagued by one issue, but it's a doozie: dynamics. This album is straightforward and easy to digest. The arranging is simple, yet effective. The soloists are strong and able to tell their stories. However, the lack of dynamics gives the group little room to grow the musical ideas and give the impact these pieces need. It's a little detail, but it would make a world of difference for the group.


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Ordering Information

LYLAS: Love You Like A Sil streams on Spotify. 

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