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Mic Radicals: Vocal Adventure in 2014

by Seth Colter Walls

Mic Radicals: Vocal Adventure in 2014

About this playlist

Probably not one of these songs will be called out for a Best Vocal Performance Grammy in the near future -- but that's OK. There's more than one way to impress with the voice, as each of the half dozen albums represented in our attached playlist proves in a distinct way. So jump along across the genres with us to experience some of our favorite innovative vocal styles of the still-young year.

First up you'll hear how, on the track "Wut," the rising rapper Le1f proves that speed-rapping can be executed without the aggro cadences of, say, a Tech N9ne. Next, you'll check out the way Merrill Garbus -- of the eminent indie rock group tUnE-yArDs -- balances the need for carrying the melodic line of "Water Fountain" while also preserving the vocal power needed to execute the song's talk-shouty climax. Then, over in the world of contemporary classical, prepare to be impressed by the way Erin Gee's voice builds a language out of avant-garde lullaby tones and wordless syllables.

We've also mixed in St. Vincent's multitracked voice, from the single "Digital Witness." (Note the catchy effect that occurs, in the verse, when her voice marches downward -- along with the guitar line -- while the backing horn-stabs ascend up the ladder of pitch.) And then there's Schoolboy Q's album-opening track "Gangsta," which starts out in full-growl mode, but steadily introduces some new timbres as the song progresses. Finally, we turn to a glitch-happy movement from soprano Kate Soper's new song cycle, Voices from the Killing Jar. So click play and get ready to venture as far as the voice can project!

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