Instant Replay: 056
Andy Shauf — Jeremy's Wedding
I have fallen in love with the music of Andy Shauf all over again. He's a masterful storyteller whose claim to fame was his 2016 concept album The Party, where each song presents a different character's perspective of (you guessed it) a party as it unfolds over the course of one night.
As of the past three weeks, I've been OBSESSED with his latest album, Norm. But the story it tells might be a bit too... true-crime for this festive Instant Replay. Because of this, and because the winter car rides of my childhood were often scored by Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne," I instead present you with "Jeremy's Wedding." Two exes bump into each other at their friend's wedding. Is it all okay, Judy?
Choir of Merton College, Benjamin Nicholas — Bob Chilcott: A Carol to the King
It's time we had a new Christmas Oratorio! Don't get me wrong . . . I love the sacred Christmas music with which I grew up, but I have been ready for a while to add something new to the "sacred side" of my CD collection. Enter Bob Chilcott's Christmas Oratorio sung by soloists and the Choir of Merton College, Oxford (England).
In 18 tracks, from the beautiful "Jesus Christ The Apple Tree" to his takes on "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming" and "Magnificat," Chilcott brings the listener to a fresh place with sacred texts. A few of the tracks don't work for me, but you understand quickly that you're listening to a work that will become a "classic" in a short amount of time.
William Brittelle, Roomful of Teeth — Psychedelics
Since its release in May of this year, Roomful of Teeth’s album Rough Magic (nominated for a Grammy in Best Chamber Music Performance!) has had a regular place in my listening rotation. Known for their boundary-pushing repertory and extraordinary vocal prowess, Roomful of Teeth is at their most virtuosic in William Britelle’s aptly titled "Psychedelics" (nominated for a Grammy in Best Contemporary Classical Composition!). A whirlwind of micro-moments inflected by a kaleidoscopic array of musical effects, this three-movement work is perhaps best described as a musical fever dream; from its outbursts of a creaky vocal fry, to metal-inspired screaming, throat singing, and even overtly auto-tuned vocals, this work is a goldmine of musical ingenuity in a concise 15 minutes that continues to reward repeated listening six months in.
Cyrus Chestnut — Skating
As a native Oklahoman, it's never really the holidays until the BC Clark Jingle plays a time or thirty, but the tune that really puts me in a good-time wintertime mood is Vince Guaraldi's "Skating," from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The whole soundtrack is a gem, but the carefree melody of "Skating" always puts a smile on my face! This particular version is from one of the first albums I ever bought for myself, and it's made an appearance in my holiday music rotation every year since — Cyrus Chestnut's arrangement for his trio, plus violinist Jerry Goodman and harmonica player Tollak Ollestad doubling on the melody — takes me right back to lazy holidays with plenty of outdoor fun and cozy hot cocoas to warm up after.
The Oh Hellos – The Oh Hellos Family Christmas: II. Begin and Never Cease
In my family, there are several albums that scream “Christmas” — Charlie Brown, Harry Connick Jr., Nat King Cole. Among my friends, there’s only one: The Oh Hellos Family Christmas Album. A medley of different carols in folk arrangements, like this one originally by Handel, the four “movements” are warm and festive the way the holidays are meant to be, and capture the feeling of singing along at the top of your lungs with the people you love most in the world.
Tim Story — Asleep The Snow Came Flying
I'm admittedly not much of a holiday music person outside of The Kinks's "Father Christmas," but when I think of the hush and beauty of winter as a whole, this song is the one that immediately comes to mind. From the time I first heard it on a Windham Hill sampler album, it has stuck with me, from snowfall to snowfall.
You Are Wolf — If Boys Could Swim
I heard this album described as “freshwater folklore” and I had to listen. It’s sort of magical, with electronics sneaking in and out as if you’re hearing echoes of another time and place. Strangely haunting.
Open Sky Unit — Sunshine Star
Looking to add some variety to your holiday playlist? Three words: '70s Belgian Funk. Toss on a turtleneck, pour yourself a drink, and you'll be groovin' around the Christmas tree in no time.
Sarah McLachlan — Song for a Winter’s Night
My family boasts a sizable collection of holiday CDs, but as far as any of us can tell, Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong is the only one that matters. Her trademark melancholic style is present in every track and featured best, I think, in “Song for a Winter’s Night.” One thing is for sure — Christmas hasn’t started in the Stevenson home until McLachlan’s crooning can be heard in every corner!
Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, Grete Pedersen — Adeste fidelis
Nothing too complicated here: just a mashup of a seasonal hymn, sung by a terrific choir, with Sir David Willcocks’s brilliant descants for it, and Norwegian country dance fiddling (“halling”). When I first heard it, I immediately hit the back button to hear it again. The very definition of an Instant Replay for this time of year. (And the rest of the album is pretty great, too!)
Hear this month's playlist: