Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Over the Rhine - Snow Angels (Album Review)

If you’re looking for some Christmas music that invokes the season without being so ornamentally overt, Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels is here to help. The multi-faceted duo of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler have been churning out their mystifying brand of jazz-based, folk-infused refrains since the early 90s and they’ve continually been able to sonically shuck every definition and label that’s been clumsily attached to them. With the smoky vocals of Billie Holiday, the melodic touch of Cole Porter and the eclecticism of Tom Waits, Over the Rhine is beautifully peculiar and a (gin-tinged) breath of fresh air. 

While Snow Angels is actually Over the Rhine’s second Christmas album (they released The Darkest Night of the Year in 1996), it contains far more original material than their first holiday release of traditionally non-traditional interpretations. Karin’s slinky vocals and Linford’s deft instrumental wizardry allows Snow Angels to glide and weave through 12 tracks of emotionally rich seasonal songs. Some are festive, some are romantic, some are sentimental, and some are even downright sad, but they are all uniquely warm and resonant.   

If you want to sample a couple of tracks first, I recommend giving the following cuts a chance: 
“All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue” – lounge vocals, tinkling piano, stand-up bass, snare brushes… Move over “Please Come Home for Christmas,” this is sad Christmas music at its finest. 

“Snowed in With You” – Are we sure this isn’t an Ella Fitzgerald cover? Time to grab the nearest mistletoe and make your move. 

“Darlin’ (Christmas is Coming)” – this folksy little sashay lifts the mood and might even get those toes tapping. There’s even a playful organ solo in this one that begs you to take your holiday honey for a quick spin around the room.   

“Snow Angel” – A beautifully heartbreaking ode to romance ripped apart by war, the story that never gets old or any less sad. Keep the kleenex close and just blame the sniffling on it being flu season.

“Goodbye Charles” – A whimsical piano-led instrumental homage to both Vince Guaraldi’s classic soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas and to Charles Schulz himself. 

While those songs will give you an adequate feel for the album, Snow Angels is best enjoyed in full and in good company. If you listen closely enough, I bet you’ll even hear the crackling of a fire and the clinking of ice cubes in glasses. So grab the download and the hand of your own snow angel and give them both a spin. To check out more of Over the Rhine’s stellar catalogue and to help them make their next two records (The Farm and Blood Oranges in the Snow), visit them HERE

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