Scala & Kolacny Brothers: December

There are no “Hallelujahs” or “Jingle Bells” in this Christmas cover compilation, but the unconventional song choices, including covers of Linkin Park, Coldplay, and Damien Rice, only augment the audible pleasure of December.

This is choir music: voice-centric and airy, but managing to stand out with exceptional emotional expression and arrangement. The melodic female voices accompanied by piano are almost church-like, but the album is supplemented by a couple of male solos, percussion, and electric guitar on certain tracks, which ensure that songs don’t bleed into each other. Each is distinct and more than pleasant to listen to in its own way.

The Belgian women’s rock choir, conducted, arranged, and accompanied by two brothers, gained attention when their cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was featured in the trailer for The Social Network. They have released five studio albums of specially-made arrangements of well-known musicians, won numerous awards, and have been featured on The Simpsons, Downton Abbey, Conan, SXSW, and the London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony. Their success is a testament to their ability to take songs that would never be considered choir material and turning them into beautiful, and in this case seasonal, arrangements.

Linkin Park’s “My December,” Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights,” Joni Mitchell’s “River,” Sufjan Stevens’ “It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad,” Damien Rice’s “Eskimo,” and “Did I Make the Most of Loving You,” from the Downton Abbey soundtrack are particularly lovely covers. Though these aren’t typical Christmas songs, December doesn’t have a single track that doesn’t call to mind crisp winter night air and snow crunching under boots, and embody that Christmas feeling.

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