Showing posts with the label Music

A Christmas Carol: The Concert (2013)

This should be a short write-up, as the movie in question isn't actually a movie. Instead, this is a recorded performance of a concert version of A Christmas Carol. To be clear "concert" means this is written for a chorus, symphony, and a handful of actors playing multiple parts. The recorded version is from a 2013 staging recorded in Illinois. There are a few props and a minimalist set, but the focus is on the music.  So let's start there. Fortunately, the score is quite good overall. The concert involves a number of different styles, though the bulk feels like a blend of rock opera and classical music. That's an interesting approach to the material, and it works well. The last song is less successful: it changes direction and goes for southern gospel. I understand the logic here, but it feels too different tonally to work with the rest of the music. I also think it clashes with the story in a way the rest of the music doesn't. Note everything above reference

An Adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol (1974)

This is a bit unusual for us, in that the media in question is a record, rather than a special. There are, of course, countless audio recordings of A Christmas Carol - as a rule of thumb, we don't bother tracking those down, as they're rarely well-known or influential enough to justify a review. This one is a little more interesting. Despite its unassuming title, this adaptation, courtesy of Disney Records, was the source material later adapted into the 1983 animated film, Mickey's Christmas Carol , which in turn led to the creation of DuckTales. Like the movie, the album features Disney characters playing the cast of Dickens's story. The lead role, of course, is Scrooge, featuring Alan Young as Scrooge for the first time. Young co-wrote the album and would of course reprise that role in the '83 film, as well as Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales (the McDuck surname gets a brief callout on the album when Ebenezer Scrooge lists a couple debtors). Quite a bit of the story an

Neptune's Daughter (1949)

This is not, by any reasonable definition, a Christmas movie, but we're going to cover it anyway. Why? Because while Neptune's Daughter isn't a Christmas movie, it had a significant impact on Christmas tradition, namely by introducing the song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to the world. Baby, It's Cold Outside has been debated heavily in recent years, and this year's no different. It's arguably become the single most controversial holiday song in existence. Rather than retread points others have made, I thought it would be interesting to go back and actually look at it in its original context. Okay, this wasn't actually its original context. Before being sung by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams on the big screen, it was sung privately by Frank Loesser and Lynn Garland at dinner parties. If anyone has a time machine I could borrow, I'd love to go back and hear it performed in that context, as well. I'll also need to borrow a t

Music Review: Care Bears Christmas Eve (CD 2006)

I knew this was going to be bad from the first track, but I didn't realize how bad. The music is generic overproduced "kid-friendly" stuff. It reminded me of the old commercials for Kidz Bop. (Side note: I can't find the CD case right now, but all the cover art I see online says "instrumental" on it. It isn't instrumental music.) There seem to be at least three singers: a male generic pop voice, a female generic pop voice, and a female voice doing a somewhat androgynous/generic "kids show" sound. The music production is terrible: the balance is off, the vocals sound overly digitally tweaked, yet still have prominent hissing "s" sounds. The album includes a few generic versions of traditional carols. These are mostly notable because one is set so low in the male singer's range that his voice disappears under the artificial, 80s-keyboard-demo-grade percussion. It's also strange that all three are explicitly religious cho

A Very Pentatonix Christmas (2017)

Now, I like vocal music, and I like a cappella music. But when it comes to Christmas, I am over Pentatonix. They're good at what they do, but I think much of their stuff blurs together, and it's incredibly overplayed. Like most variety-show style holiday specials, this was mostly boring. The opening wasn't terrible. For once, Jay Leno was actually amusing as he stubbornly refused to recognize the singers as anyone famous. The rest of the show alternated between songs on stage in front of an appropriately adoring crowd, songs on stage with guest singers, and short "comedic" bits filmed separately. The Pentatonix crew seem nice enough, but they are singers, not actors, and they felt stilted and awkward whenever they had to deliver a transition. I was most amused by the fifth guy. One of the members of the group dropped out earlier this year, and apparently, the new guy hasn't been accepted/made official yet. They introduced him separately, and he quietly

Music Review: Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites (CD 2010)

This is not only a really solid album as far as cartoon-character-driven holiday music goes, it's also solid for holiday music in general. This shouldn't be a surprise; much like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, one of the major attractions of the Phineas and Ferb series is the music. The first eight songs are all from the Christmas special . Well, including one that was apparently written for the special but cut for time. These include the more show-centered songs which won't make much sense to those who haven't seen at least some of the series. "Winter Vacation" is a parody of the usual theme song. "What Does He Want?" Candace is singing about her boyfriend, but this actually works fine as a standalone song about the difficulty of shopping for someone you want to impress. "That Christmas Feeling" A solid original Christmas tune. "I Really Don't Hate Christmas" This song by series villain Dr. Doofenshmirtz is

Music Review: It's a Pony Kind of Christmas (CD 2016)

It's time for some new installments in my periodic series on Novelty Character Albums ! (Oh gosh, I last did these back in year two?) You can cleanly break this album into two halves, and, in fact, the first half was initially released alone. Part one is mostly versions of traditional Christmas music, and part two is music from the 2016 holiday episode . There's one track that straddles the divide, but we'll get there. Let's remember one thing up front: ponies do not celebrate Christmas. They celebrate Hearth's Warming. (In fact, the composer clarified this point on his Facebook page .) So it's a little odd to listen to pony voice actresses singing about Christmas. However, these are some of the sweetest, most fun Christmas songs I've heard in a while, so I'll easily let that go. Many of them are unique or special rewrites of classic Christmas tunes. They aren't written to be Hearth's Warming songs, but they are otherwise completely tweak

Kirwan, Greenwood & Burns Present 2016 Soundcloud All​-​Star Holiday Spectacular

I want to take a moment and talk about this  Christmas album, which you can download for free on Soundcloud . But first let's get the "full disclosure" part out of the way: the "Burns" in "Kirwan, Greenwood & Burns" is one of my oldest friends. He lent me the first Batman graphic novel I ever read for Christmas's sake. Now that that's out of the way, this album contains some of the most unique, fascinating, gorgeous Christmas tunes I've come across. This stuff is amazing. The album contains music from an assortment of international musicians. It doesn't adhere to any particular genre, but is unified by the collaboration's philosophy of updating "old-time" music with modern elements without losing the spirit of what's being adapted. If you're a fan of modern folk music, you should check this out. Alternatively, if you like Celtic Punk or any of its offshoots, this is for you. Or, you know, if you're

Songs for a Dark Season

These last two months have been really hard. The Christmas standards haven’t really been doing much for me this year, but music has still been a touchstone for me. Here’s a short playlist of some songs that are speaking to me today. There is a lot of Melissa Etheridge’s album A New Thought for Christmas here, because I’ve basically had it on repeat for all of December. Winter Song (Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson) Let’s start with some melancholy mixed with hope. I still believe in summer days, the seasons always change, and life will find a way. O Night Divine (Melissa Etheridge) This track takes a song I don’t much like, gives it a rock opening and new lyrics about the human need to face “the longest night.” This year I find the climactic statement more defiant than hopeful, but it’s still incredibly powerful. There’s Still My Joy (Indigo Girls) The most "Christmas" song here; a song about grief and change. I’ve read so many terrible things in the last mon

Ambient Mixer Christmas Sounds

When I’m bored of instrumentals, sometimes listening to “noise” helps me concentrate. has tools for building your own atmospheric mixes, and while I haven’t gotten into building my own, sometimes I like to see what other people have come up with. Of course I noticed that there was a section of holiday ambiances. Here are the three most popular of the featured mixes: Christmas Time Well… this is unique. The most popular comment reads: “You've successfully combined Christmas and Halloween,” and I think that person is on to something. There’s a creepy music box on the verge of running down, very loud footsteps and door sound periodically, and an oddly ominous Santa voice every so often. This has many more views than anything else on the Christmas page, but I wouldn’t listen to it for long. I guess you could turn off the Santa phrase and use it for the background of a Christmas horror story. Cosy Evening in the Winter Cottage This is okay, I guess. The c

Music Review: Solitudes Christmas Albums

I got a full-time job as an editor this year, which means that I often want to listen to music without words. This has lead me to many soundtracks and atmospheric albums, and eventually to rediscovering Solitudes. Solitudes are a lengthy series of albums that mostly combine new-age-ish instrumentals with recordings of wildlife and natural soundscapes. The series was created by Canadian Dan Gibson, who created new techniques and equipment to improve wildlife sound recording. I had a compilation in the 90s (Favorite Selections), but I’d forgotten all about it until recently. I think they make great background music for office work, particularly if, like me, you’d rather be out in the woods than in a cubicle. And there are Christmas albums! Here are three you can easily access on Amazon (or YouTube. Seriously, there are a ton of quality long instrumental tracks on YouTube). Christmas Wonder (1996 CD) Overall this is my favorite of these three. The songs often evoke a melancho

Christmas Music in July

Christmas in July is not the source of nearly so much music as its wintry predecessor, but there are a few songs out there. Christmas in July, Sufjan Stevens I’ll start with the one that we already had in our library. This singer is not my style, especially when it comes to holiday music. It’s not terrible , but it is not something I would actively choose to listen to again. The singing is just this side of whining, the edge of dissonance annoying, the lyrics thin and probably meaningless. In this case, it seems Christmas in July is a metaphor for something being out of place, I guess? The only edge of meaning I can get out of this is annoying - anyone who alludes to the fish on a bicycle saying in the context of “missing a chance” doesn’t deserve to get the girl who eluded him. Christmas In July, Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick Aww, I like this one! This is a chipper little number. It’s a nice take-off on the “island holiday” tropes better known in songs like Ch

Christmas Music, the 2015 Edition

Our music buying habits changed last year when Amazon added streaming music to Prime membership. We picked up a couple of new CDs this year, but for the most part new holiday tunes are pulled from digital options. While it's nowhere near as massive as last year's additions, here are the albums I'm listening to, in addition to the 50 or so holiday playlists I've assembled out of the thousands of songs we own or stream. I want to stress that these aren't intended to be full reviews in any meaningful sense: I don't consider myself qualified to review music. Instead, view these as an opportunity to appreciate the depths I'm willing to sink to in order to experience the holiday season. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (Various) In today's installment of horrible rich people, we've got this collection of Christmas music produced by convicted murderer, Phil Spector. Spector may be scum, but he was influential scum, thanks to his "W

Music Review: Broadway’s Carols for a Cure 2015: Volume 17

I bought the 2011 Carols for a Cure album in person in New York, and I’ve meant to pick up another one ever since. I love the combination of classic carols and new songs, all done by current Broadway singers. I was excited to find that they’re now all available in MP3 for those of us not able to pick them up on Broadway! The 2015 volume has a lot of gems. Here’s a quick run-down of what you’ll find this year: CHRISTMAS VACATION - The cast of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical Hey, this is a good reminder that I actually like this song when it’s divorced from the terrible movie. Fun! JOY TO THE WORLD - The cast of Hamilton  I'll admit it, this song is a big part of why I hunted down this album. Per the Mainlining Christmas rules, I can't go back to listening to Hamilton over and over until Dec 26, so this'll have to hold me over. This track opens with narration and segues into the song, done in a style of overlapping harmonies and echoing lines that heavily evoke

Christmas Music: Prime

If you thought my Christmas music write-up was a little short this year, it means you probably remember my write-ups from past years, which were ridiculously long. This year's initial article looked at 20 CD's I bought between last Christmas and the start of this season. That's a fraction of what I've bought in previous years, but there's a reason for that. Amazon Prime. Earlier this year, Amazon expanded Prime benefits to include free streaming music. I know there are plenty of other streaming services out there, but I never jumped on for a few reasons. First, some don't seem to be geared towards building playlists and listening to one album at a time (much less keeping track of which albums you've listened to and which you haven't, which is essential for this exercise). Second, I was already paying for Prime, so the added features were essentially free. The free music is limited to select albums, so you're not getting total access to Amazon&#