With Christmas just around the bend and Thanksgiving only about a week away, the release of That’s Christmas To Me by Pentatonix is a welcome transition into the holiday season. Your favorite group of vocal magicians has brought their A-game with these 11 tracks packed with Christmas magic. They have a good mix of traditional holiday songs, religious ballads and originals thrown in. So string up some twinkly lights, grab yourself some eggnog and take a listen to their new holiday album. It’s almost better than Christmas morning.
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”: This is a gorgeous rendition of this song. The beginning has a very full, chorale sound that highlights everyone’s voices for the first 50 seconds or so. Then the song kicks off into what Pentatonix does best: they pump up the tempo and turn the song into something new. They’re playing with gospel music and fun beats, helping to successfully transition a classic holiday song into a jazzy, rollicking tune. Everyone gets a chance to shine on this track. There’s some sick falsetto going on around the 2:35 mark, but I can’t figure out who’s singing that part. It could be Scott, it could be Mitch. Whoever it is, kudos to them! I’m shocked that the group was able to turn this straight-laced song into a bit of a jazz track but I shouldn’t be surprised. There are more twists and turns where that came from.
“White Winter Hymnal”: Full disclosure- I’ve never heard this song before. A little research tells me that this is a cover of a song originally sung by Fleet Foxes. I’m loving it. The intro starts with a group round to ease you into the song. The beats on this track are fabulous. After watching the music video for this, I’ve found that they’re getting the percussion by beating their hands on their chests, snapping, and slapping their legs. Pretty awesome, right? I could see myself listening to this one again. Way to go, Pentatonix, for getting me into a new holiday song. There are some beautiful harmonies on this one.
“Sleigh Ride”: I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this song. Years of high school symphonic band will do that to you—we always played this at holiday concerts. I love that Kirstie gets solo time on this one. She should be featured more because her voice is gorgeous. This cover has some good movement to it. It’s light and has a good clip to it. The build towards the end of the song, when they start getting into the final verses, is really great. The end features a very cool reworking of the phrasing of the lyrics. They haven’t reinvented the wheel on this track, but this is still another excellent rendition.
“Winter Wonderland / Don’t Worry Be Happy”: I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It features a singer named Tori Kelly. The first melody you hear is from “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” which is a little intriguing. This melody and beat really does fit into “Winter Wonderland” surprisingly well. It’s a little strange how great the two songs work together. Scott’s vibrato on this track is perfect. This Tori, who I’ve admittedly never listened to before, is killing it on this song. The track has a great, jazzy throwback vibe that just works. Tori’s doing a little scat singing and they do sneak in some lyrics from “Don’t Worry Be Happy” in this song. For me, this track goes on a bit too long. By the 3 minute mark, I’m a little over it. I’m not certain I’ll be listening to this one on repeat like some of the other songs on this album.
“That’s Christmas To Me”: I get pretty excited about original songs from Pentatonix. This one doesn’t disappoint. They just released the video for this track and it’s beautifully shot. Avi gets a little solo in this one, which I always love. His voice is capable of magical things, carrying the deep bass along. What makes Pentatonix such a formidable group is that they’re capable of doing creative, crazy arrangements of covers— but they’re also more than capable of creating great music on their own. This track has great harmonies and it’s making me want to sip on some hot cocoa in a room with twinkling lights. Seriously.
“Mary, Did You Know?”: The first time I heard this was not on my listen through the album, but because my Mom shared the music video on Facebook. If you haven’t taken a look at it yet, please do! It’s beautiful and haunting and basically gave me chills. This song is one of my favorites on the album. This version of the song is perfect and it has made me like the song more than I ever did initially. They include some subtle percussion (courtesy of Avi and Kevin) to help build the song up, and it really pays off. Mitch sounds awesome on this track. All of their voices never fail to impress me, honestly. They’ve really modernized this song and I love it. It’s dramatic and there are some unexpected twists, which Pentatonix always handles so well.
“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”: If you’re familiar with The Nutcracker, then you definitely know this song. On this track, Pentatonix switches it up. No lyrics, just vocal harmonies and percussion shining through. This one is so creative and fun to listen to. The group has managed to make this song fresh, despite there already being hundreds of covers out there. They are killing it on this track, every single one of them. There’s a bit of opera sound going on and I’m not complaining. This is the shortest track on the album but one of the best.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Well, hello, Avi! It’s so nice to hear his voice carrying a song for once, instead of helping to keep it up from the bottom register. He’s got such a smooth, even sound. Kevin’s got the beats handled on this one, and Mitch, Scott and Kirstie contribute great supporting vocals. There’s a bit of a vocal interlude in the middle of the song, which I really enjoyed. The key change gives this song an interesting spin. To sum it up, this is a pretty solid track.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: This one has a little hip-hop vibe in the beginning, but drops you in the original melody pretty quick. Scott kicks off the solo on this one and he reminds me of a dreamy Disney character when he sings. Mitch and Kirstie also get parts on this too. I like how they pass around some of the lyrics and divide them up. Everyone gets a chance to be highlighted. The original version of this song has a quicker tempo and is a lot cheesier. I’m enjoying the laid-back quality of Pentatonix’s version and I might prefer this one to the original.
“Silent Night”: “Silent Night,” while beautiful, is a bit of a snooze-fest on any holiday album. Pentatonix does their best with this one, sticking very much to the original arrangement. This track is very peaceful and they sound beautiful while singing it, but I might have to skip this one if I’m listening to the album straight through. As an album closer though, the song makes sense. By the 2:15 mark or so, they do break out into a more creative arrangement for a little. All in all, this is a very pretty rendition of a song I’ve never loved much.
Bonus Track – “Let It Go”: You know they had to do a cover of a Frozen song. This was a mega-hit last year and is still going strong. After you hear this track, you probably won’t get it out of your head. If anyone’s gonna take a stab at covering this, the members of Pentatonix are definitely up for the job. The first time I heard their version of this, it was while watching a YouTube video of a “Frozen” medley—posted by Superfruit (Mitch and Scott’s off-shoot YouTube channel). Kirstie, Mitch and Scott dressed up as various characters from the movie and sang through the whole soundtrack. Hearing a full version of this song with the whole group partaking is pretty nice. They all sound great, and this is sure to be a crowd-pleaser with the tween-age and younger set.