Review: “CompOWLation Vol. 3,” An Honest Representation of FAU’s music scene.

Joseph Fields

Album Art Courtesy of Hoot/Wisdom Recordings.
Album Art Courtesy of Hoot/Wisdom Recordings.

After all the hype, emails, tabling, cool t-shirts, articles and concerts, FAU’s music community was psyched for Hoot/Wisdom Recordings’ third album, “CompOWLation Vol. 3.”

This album was supposed to expand Hoot/Wisdom to the forefront of FAU’s music culture with an interesting format. Twenty songs, two albums: “The “Red Album,” consisting of rock, reggae and singer/songwriter music, and “The Blue Album,” consisting of rap, hip-hop and electronic music. All songs are by current or former FAU students.

What the school read in the press was promising. On Oct. 25, the day of release, what  students heard was an honest representation of FAU’s developing music scene: the brilliant, the OK and the kind of bad. For all the tracks with great composition and production, we heard some poorly written and low quality music.

“The Red Album”

“The Red Album,” the rock album, to me, is reminiscent of rock albums written around 2005. The main feature, Phantomime’s “Invisible Hand”, may bring back some nostalgia from the heyday of Panic! at the Disco. There are some truly artistic rock songs, such as the progressive rock single by The Pathetique “Bottles” and the rock opera “Because of His” by Raggy Monster. The songs by Emerson, “The World and All its Loose Ends” and Gracy Kimmel’s “All Day Man” had the most commercial appeal. After these songs, the album begins to lose some of its luster. They don’t live up to the masterful and creative compositions performed by Phantomime or The Pathetique. The only reggae track, “Be Free” by Spred the Dub, is well executed but not particularly memorable.


Phantomime’s “Invisible Hand” – “Invisible Hand” is a reference to economics and modern digital theft. It’s the most memorable song of both albums. The song opens up with latin piano and guitar, then it takes the listener on a wild adventure through a robbery, choruses, a haunting bridge and a shredding guitar solo all in under three minutes. To explain Phantomime in a few words, Hoot/Wisdom President Matt Smith explained, “It’s like Panic! at the Disco and System of A Down had a baby, abandoned that baby, and it was raised by Captain Hook.” If you want to go back to the days of Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy listen to this track! I give this track an A-.

Grace Kimmel’s “All Day Man” – Grace Kimmel has an attractive, smoky tone and style similar to artists like Colbie Caillat. The song is well produced, has good harmonics, lovely piano licks and a fun guitar solo, however the lyrics tend to wander and the song starts to drag on a bit too long. Grace’s voice is not just technically good, it has likeability. The moment she opens her voice, the listener already has fallen for her. With some better songwriting, she could have an excellent album. Grace deserves a B, but has a lot of potential and room for improvement.

Emerson’s “The World and All its Loose Ends” – This song is an empowering march that tells the story of a man trying to accept love. Its tinkling bells and tapping of the snare drum propel the listener forward. The track is well layered with driving percussion, synthesizers, multiple guitar lines and a choir of singers in the chorus. The open, atmospheric sound of the piece is uplifting. Emerson’s vocals could use some improvements, but other that, it is an overall fantastic track, I give him an A-.

Low Lights:

Chris Aiello’s “Who Needs Originality?” – When I read the title, I was hoping for some insightful lyrics and original content. However, the song suffered from overall poor execution.There are so many words in the chorus that the listener can’t grasp the message of the song. The vocals are hoarse and become harsh to the ear. Due to the lack of execution, some listeners could become possibly offended by the commentary on commercial music. Some pop artists are very talented and creative.Tough topic to write about, however it’s a good try for a starting artist. It needs work on lyrics and composition. I give this a C.

Erica Morgan’s “Just Like Hollywood” – An incredibly generic song, so generic it’s actually impressive, kind of like Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” It has a typical acoustic guitar entrance, with weak vocals that at times turn flat. The lyrics and the hook are technically dreadful, but if you kind of like country pop, a mix between Rebecca Black and Taylor Swift, this might be the girl for you. The production isn’t actually that bad; the piano lines at the end of each chorus and bridge give it some redemption. Props to the person that took the time to put some mandolin in at the end of the song. Give me some mandolin! From a technical standpoint, I have to give this a C+.

“The Red Album” was a mixed bag of good and bad tracks overall. I give it a grade B.

“The Blue Album”

“The Blue Album,” the electronic/hip-hop/rap album, suffers from poor quality mixing especially in the balance of the vocals to synthesizers on the tracks.. The first song on “The Blue Album,” Anthony Vincent’s “Just Had Tonight” sets the tone. The vocals are so strained that listeners could possibly turn it off and never listen to the rest of the album. The raps by Sean Dough, Youngin Da SP Feat. Ty Swasey and Lotus Hill are decent and have good beats, but they also have some of the same vocal problems at the chorus. The throwback 90’s R&B love mix, “Get to Know You” by Juice was hilarious to listen to, for its cute lyrics and love making vibe. There are some ambitious tracks like Porshia J’s “That’s How You Loved Me” or Reid Santiago’s “Far From an Angel,” that have good artistic intentions, but such poor quality audio they could come off to the listener as plain confusing. The song that made this album was an excellent jazz/electronic composition, “Nu Moon Dance” by Sopheye. The lack of a well-executed pop or dance tracks on “The Blue Album” weakens it as a whole and thus misses a large portion of the FAU audience. There should be an effort to make a fun upbeat track that would attract students to listen to the more artistic compositions of both albums.


Sopheye’s “Nu Moon Dance” – The best track of “The Blue Album,” a fanciful electronic latin-jazz fusion composition with well-mixed male and female vocals, entrancing piano interludes and grooving electric bass. Some compare Sopheye to modern jazz artists like Erykah Badu. I was caught completely off guard when I heard this at the end of the album. I could easily be listening to this at Starbucks sipping coffee. I would buy this track by itself, however I wouldn’t call it everyone’s cup of tea. Grade: A-

Lotus Hill Feat. llana Armida’s “Choice of Words” – A great rap track that has grooving walking bass and a haunting piano riff. Lotus Hill hits the audience with his smooth rapping and takes turns with vocalist Armida on the chorus. The rap has great flow, but the chorus, as opposed to adding to the song, serves more as an interuption and leaves the audience hanging. I give it a B.

Youngin Da SP Feat. Ty Swasey’s “It Feel Right” – The song starts out with bouncing piano chords, a simple drum beat and a sweet female and male duet. The rapping is smooth and lyrical. Extra effort was taken to put in quiet synth interludes throughout the song. However there are some backup vocals in the song that sound slightly off and detract from upbeat feel of the chorus. It deserves a B+.

Low Lights:

Juice’s ”Get to Know You” – I had to mention this cute throwback R&B track reminiscent of the 90’s. The song has good vocals and a repeating high synthesizer that kind of sounds like Sonic the Hedgehog. Juice raps to his female singing counterpart. However, the love mix is really really corny. When I listen to him sing about nibbling on his lover’s neck, I crack up. If you are an R&B fan check this guy out, if not, it’s worth listening to for a giggle. Grade: B-

Anthony Vincent’s “Just Had Tonight” – Everytime I listen to this track, I get ready to cover my ears at 20 seconds when the vocals come in. Maybe Vincent had a bad day in the studio, but the same strained vocals keep repeating throughout the entire song. If the listener can get over the first lines, the synthesizer work is okay and kind of fun and bubbly. There is also an excellent hip-hop drum break in the second verse. However, the possible urge for the listener to turn off the track is too great. Sadly, not the best way to start an album. For its bad vocals, but not so bad synth work I give “Just Had Tonight” a C.

For a bad start and its audio problems I give “The Blue Album” a grade of B-.

Overall Thoughts

Hoot/Wisdom made an ambitious effort this year to expand to a 20-song double-album format to become more diverse and inclusive of the student body. However, for its inclusivity the album suffered from sub-par music. There definitely were enough well-written sophisticated tracks to make a strong 11 song album like “Vol. 1” and “Vol. 2.”

When questioned, Faculty Adviser Alejandro Sanchez and President Smith agree that they will probably return to the 11 song format for “Vol. 4.” They commented that this year they wanted to give artists on campus more opportunities.

Despite the attempt to expand, a major drawback to the album was the lack of modern electronic music. It would be satisfying for a commercial music program to produce at least one trap track that we would hear at venues like Ultra Music Festival. I also think everyone is craving that one catchy pop song or dance track, something that we could work out to at the gym or dance to at a club with friends. However, despite a few flaws, there is some really great sophisticated material on this album, please check it out and support music scholarships. Right now I give this album a B. If it was cut down to 11 songs, I would’ve given it a B+. If it had some trap or a fantastic dance track it could’ve been a A-. This is a unique developing music program and I do not fault it at all for it’s ambition or it’s attempt to give artists across campus the opportunity to be heard. There is some major talent in the upcoming class, and I can’t wait for the new and improved “CompOwlation Vol.4.”

Overall Album Grade: B

Here’s the Album on Bandcamp.