12-14-2010 16:36
Melodies befitting Yuletide season

By Lee Hyo-won, Han Sang-hee, Kwon Mee-yoo, Ines Min

The holidays never feel quite complete without the celebratory seasonal tunes ¡ª whether it¡¯s the typical annual carols or a more nondenominational Christmas melody. Here are a few of this year¡¯s selections, from pop inspirations to baroque scores that can double as a timely holiday gift for family and friends.

Mariah Carey
`Merry Christmas II You¡¯
(Universal Music Korea)

Mariah Carey releases her long-awaited sophomore holiday album since its predecessor in 1994. Sixteen years, nine studio albums and a new era later, the diva returns for a recollection of the nostalgic. Four original songs mix with a medley of familiar, welcome covers (from ``Auld Lang Syne¡¯¡¯ to ``Charlie Brown Christmas¡¯¡¯). ``Christmas Time is in the Air Again¡¯¡¯ recalls the dulcet tones of Carey¡¯s ballads, while the booming ``Oh Santa!¡¯¡¯ wakens the sleep from any drowsy wintry crowd. Though nothing reaches the staying power of the famed ``All I Want for Christmas,¡¯¡¯ which sees a revival of Carey¡¯s ¡®90s hit, the album proves nevertheless a sweet inclusion in the holiday soundtrack. Deluxe edition includes DVD.

Silje Nergaard
`If I Could Wrap You Up in a Kiss¡¯
(Sony Music Korea)

Norwegian singing sensation Silje Nergaard offers a softer side of the holiday season with her charming lounge vocals. The artist¡¯s first Christmas album reflects ¡ª not the cliché caroled version ¡ª but a classic edition. Bypassing the traditional, religion-tinged songs, Nergaard explores her compositional skills with four original tracks. The title-track is a clean, romantic ballad, while ``Vintersang¡¯¡¯ provides the mostly English-singing artist to work in her native tongue.

The effect is not lost, however, with the smooth Norwegian lyrics, while legends Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell are seen via poppy covers. The release maintains a steady tempo throughout, perfect for indoor nights, closing with Nergaard¡¯s own ``A Christmas Wish.¡¯¡¯

The Priests
(Sony Music Korea)

``The Priests,¡¯¡¯ a trio of Irish Catholic priests, is ready to cherish Christmas with a musical contribution.

The three priests ¡ª Frs Eugene O'Hagan, Martin O'Hagan and David Delargy _ from Northern Ireland debuted in 2008 and sold more than 3 million copies of their first album "The Priests" and followed with a second, "Harmony" within two years.

The Christmas carol album was released this November, titled "Noel." The collection of carols ranges from all time classics such as "Silent Night" to more British songs such as "Sussex Carol."

The 15-track album overflows with a Yuletide mood and the carols are interpreted with an alluring festive spirit by the Irish priests.

Various artists
Vivarte 60CD Collection
(Sony Classical)

Forget that box packages are for amateurs. Reputed period music label Vivarte has released a 60-CD limited edition that is a collector¡¯s must ¡ª only 2,000 sets were imported and would make the perfect Christmas gift for classical music aficionados.

Tracks include jewels of chamber music by Bach to Beethoven, as well as French organ music and 17th-century motets by renowned artists including lute player Lutz Kichhof, master cembalist Gustav Leonbardt and the baroque ensemble L¡¯Archibudelli. Tafelmusik, a group that has given numerous tours in Korea, as well as the Huelgas Ensemble, conducted by Paul Van Nevel, are also featured.

Recommended tracks are Schubert¡¯s String Quintet, D. 956 (CD 9), Bach¡¯s Six Suites for Cello, BVW. 1007-1012 (CDs 13 and 14), Beethoven¡¯s String Trios, Op. 9, Nos. 1-3 (CD 19).

Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic
`The Nutcracker¡¯
(EMI Classics)

``The Nutcracker¡¯¡¯ is so overplayed that one often forgets to appreciate how wonderful the score actually is ¡ª and Simon Rattle doubly surprises listeners with his first ever recording of Tchaikovsky with the unfailing Berlin Philharmonic.

The album marks the maestro¡¯s 30th anniversary as an EMI recording artist and seems to mark a foray into new territory. Surely, this is no Valery Gergiev-led Mariinsky Orchestra with its sweeping romanticism, and Rattle opts for a more dynamic approach honoring the Russian composer¡¯s inventive orchestration.

The angelic voices of the boys choir Libera enliven Clara¡¯s adventure into the Kingdom of Sweets with the Nutcracker.

`Christmas Lights¡¯
(Warner Music Korea)

Coldplay¡¯s first release in two years takes not the form of a full album (fans will have to wait till next year for that), but a single special Christmas song instead. While the festive music video for the piece features everything from fireworks to mass balloon releases ¡ª taking place around a well-worn, colorful theater stage ¡ª the song itself underscores the inherent hope the holiday instills.

``Those Christmas lights/Light up the street/Maybe they¡¯ll bring her back to me/Then all my troubles will be gone,¡¯¡¯Chris Martin¡¯s well-worn croon fits right in with the robust, saloon piano sound together paired with that dream of finding love anew in the coldest season of the year. ``Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on.¡¯¡¯

JYP Nation
`This Christmas¡¯
(JYP Entertainment)

Artists under JYP Entertainment have joined together to collaborate on a Christmas single just for the holiday season. ``This Christmas¡¯¡¯ was led by Park Jin-young, or JYP, himself, with the Wonder Girls, 2PM, 2AM, Miss A, Lim Jeong-hee, helping him out with the vocals. The holiday song is funky and fun, with some powerful lyrics from Lim and 2AM. Other top agencies including YG Entertainment and SM Entertainment have released Christmas albums in the past, but this is the first time for JYP to release a special Christmas single. The music video has also hit headlines, with the members enjoying themselves and getting ready for Christmas.

Jang Yoon-jeong
`Christmas Olle¡¯

Trot singer Jang Yoon-jeong has released a Christmas remake album for her fans. The seven-track album includes her best songs such as ``Olle¡¯¡¯ and ``Eolssu,¡¯¡¯ but with a holiday twist. The ``Olle¡¯¡¯ song comes in five versions, including the ``Christmas Olle,¡¯¡¯ ``Christmas Olle Remix¡¯¡¯ and ``Christmas Olle¡¯¡¯ (Santa ver.) The songs are based on the original jumpy trot form, but with a bit of Christmas twinkling and a children choir singing in the background, with the exception of the third track ``Christmas Olle¡¯¡¯ (Bossa Nova ver.) which has a smooth and jazzy twist. Overall, the album is good listening and full of holiday enthusiasm, making it the perfect disk for families to enjoy with young children this Christmas.