Grab Bag – Songs for a Cool Yule: 2014 Holiday Music Releases
by Greg Yost
December 5, 2014
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