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Greg’s Grab Bag – Songs for a Cool Yule: 2014 Holiday Music Releases

by Greg Yost
December 5, 2014


Pentatonix – That’s Christmas To Me

As with the previous standout 2014 holiday releases, the new collection from the Arlington, TX-based Pentatonix is a vocal showcase. The thing that sets this release apart is the lack of any other instruments.

For those not familiar, Pentatonix is an a cappella quintet that first came to the public’s attention by winning the popular NBC show The Sing-Off, an annual showcase of vocal-only groups. Not only do the five members of Pentatonix sing all of the parts, but they also vocally replicate percussion, other instruments and production effects.

Of the three holiday releases profiled, this is the poppiest of the bunch. It also contains more traditional holiday classics than the other two albums combined. But thanks to the a cappella format, this one features the most innovative and creative arrangements.

An excellent example is “Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy,” a vocal mashup of the Christmas classic and Bobby McFerrin’s biggest-charting single. The lazy reggae groove of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” fits nicely with the “Winter Wonderland” lyrics until the group eventually transitions fully to the ‘80s hit. This is a fitting choice for Pentatonix since McFerrin’s tune was the first a cappella song to reach the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

The group’s considerable vocal skills and the best attributes of the a cappella genre are showcased on “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy.” By performing an instrumental song, the group highlights its arrangement skills, the importance of dynamics and the vocal range of the different performers.

Another nice surprise on this set is a cover of the popular Fleet Foxes song “White Winter Hymnal.” Although this is not the first song that comes to mind when you think of a holiday music collection, Pentatonix nails this arrangement with gorgeous harmonies that elevate the track to standout status.

With “That’s Christmas To Me,” the only song on the set written by Pentatonix, the group proves that it doesn’t have to rely solely on clever arrangements and vocal wizardry. This simple and modern composition allows the group to just sit back and sing a pretty song.