PTX Volume 2 Review

Am I actually allowed to do music reviews? If you consider that we allow comedians and actors to run for public office, I guess the answer is, “yes.”

So, if you ever read my review of PTX Vol. 1 (Pentatonix Rocks With No Instruments) You will be well aware that I don’t do typical reviews. I’m a humorist. A humorist that listens to music. As a humorist, it’s my job to notice things, and make comment about them. And while sometimes I just think of wacky “stuff” and let it rip — for today, we’ll stick with the more thoughtful side of my personality.

So, here’s the thing that I noticed when I hit play and gave PTX Vol. 2 a whirl: How far the group has progressed. You don’t think of things like that as events are unfolding, and many fans of Pentatonix were right there at the beginning. But now we can take a look back, as this group now has a bit of a history (and a Wikipedia article — that must be rather surreal for them).

When Pentatonix made their debut in 2011 on the third season of The Sing-Off, an a cappella competition on NBC, we have to remember that they were debuting as an entity, as well — there was no history as a full group, except maybe for Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, and Scott Hoying. Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola joined the trio just before auditions.

So, for them to connect at all, let alone create some very memorable musical arrangements, LET ALONE to win the thing, was a tribute to their professionalism and abilities.

PTX Vol. 1 was the first offering from this new group. Individuals working together for a limited time, still learning not only about each other and themselves as an entity, but as individuals within that entity. It was well-crafted and fun. The inclusion of two original songs were icing on the cake: A hopeful promise of more to come. Their first video was a great shout of joy from a group of kids who overcame great odds. Big smiles (and why not? They were happy, AND it was sponsored by a teeth whitening product…) and wide-eyed wonder at where they might be heading: into the great unknown of the music “biz.” It was Rocky set to music, albeit without anyone getting the snot beat out of them, which was a good thing. I wouldn’t want to see Mitch try to take on Apollo Creed — It would be messy…

Above, “Starships,” the first video from PTX Vol. 1

PTX Vol. 2 comes to us is a year down the road. Now, these individuals are a solid group with direction and focus. They are more seasoned after touring and spending time together. Writing, performing, creating videos, interacting with fans — finding a voice and a place as a unit. The second album comes to us from a group that is now in a very different space. Yes, it’s technically the third offering, if you consider the Christmas album — While I enjoy holiday works, they are not always ground-breaking: you have to stick to tradition to make them work — And breaking tradition, throwing songs on thier sides and giving them a different spin, is more the Pentatonix way. So, I consider Vol. 2 as the actual progression from Vol. 1. This is supposed to be opinion, right? There. I have one.

PTX Vol. 2 hits with a punch. It’s doesn’t have that “Holy cow, we did it!” vibe, like the first effort. It’s more mature, with direction and purpose. From the first song, you feel a power, a driving force. Avi and Kevin are not just Bass and Beat-box, now, but freaking super-human special effect machines that, combined with exceptional production, create atmosphere and substance that push Pentatonix beyond traditional a cappella. And both of their voices are in there, as well, along with exceptional turns from Scott, Mitch and Kristie. The group’s original works in this effort are truly worth release as singles — and not as “a cappella” efforts, but with the ability to live right next to the hits and efforts of their contemporaries.

Above, “Natural Disaster,” an original work from PTX Vol. 2

Yes, I said contemporaries. Pentatonix have moved beyond their status as winners of The Sing-Off season three. They have shown their abilities are not just a cappella, but simply musical. The complexity of some of the songs both chorally and technically are masterful, and a joy to experience.The band’s recent video releases are sharp and structured — and so is their music. This album does not disappoint.

Above, “Daft Punk” from PTX Vol. 2

My wife has PTX Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and PTXmas running on shuffle right now, while I’m writing this — It’s all great and worthwhile, don’t get me wrong, but each Vol. 2 song that pops up really does stand above the rest.

And that’s just as it should be. Progress. Growth. Maturity. Self-assuredness. These are the qualities of PTX Vol. 2, and the qualities of the members of Pentatonix. Think of bands and artists that have a great history, such as the Beatles, or Sinatra: we can look back at their careers and see the progression through their music. This progression has only begun for Pentatonix. They have many years ahead of them, and I can’t wait to see where their growth as artists and as a group takes them.

Don’t have PTX Vol. 2, yet? CLICK HERE and check it out.

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