Saturday, December 08, 2012

Deck the Halls (of Shangrila Towers) 2012 - Christmas Albums Review-o-rama

Putting out a good Christmas album requires a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, you don't want to ape the songs that everyone's already heard on the radio a million times. On the other, there's only so much you can do to a Yuletide standard before it sounds so different that it turns off the listener. How do these titles fare?

Joy to the World, Pink Martini

I was a Pink Martini fan from the start ("Sympathique" includes an awesome version of "Brazil," the inspiration for this blog), and I like their multinational take on the holiday season. The record starts off with a pretty vanilla version of "White Christmas," but veers into Pink Martini territory when the song is immediately followed by a Japanese cover sung by Saori Yuki. From there, you'll hear stuff for Chinese New Year, a Hanukkah song in Ladino, and a neat cover of "Shchedryk" sung in the original Ukrainian.

Christmas Songs, Eddie Higgins Trio

Jazz is such a common choice for holiday music that it sets a trap for the unwary - go too mellow in your jazz Christmas album, and you risk diving into elevator music territory. This excellent collection by the Eddie Higgins Trio (Eddie Higgins, Jay Leonhart, and Joe Ascione) doesn't mess too much with the melodies people have grown accustomed to, but adds just enough ornamentation to keep things interesting.

An Enchanted Christmas, Taylor Davis

Taylor Davis, aka "ViolinTay" on YouTube, became famous for her violin covers of video game music (her Morrowind/Skyrim theme duet with Lara6683 has 4 million views). Here, she does the same thing for 14 holiday favorites. "An Enchanted Christmas" isn't quite as good as her previous album of video game covers: there have undoubtedly been better violin versions of these songs, and Taylor's limited production budget means you ain't getting a full orchestra accompanying her.

A Very She & Him Christmas, She & Him

Your enjoyment of "A Very She & Him Christmas" will depend on your affinity for Zooey Deschanel's voice, which I think is an acquired taste. This is a straight-ahead collection of holiday covers that doesn't stray too much from the source material. Not bad if that's what you're looking for, but there aren't too many surprises here.


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