Release Date: October 7th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Sleigh Ride
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Crazy For Christmas (feat. Bonnie McKee)
- Feliz Navidad
- Joy To The World (Intro)
- Joy To The World
- Snow Waltz
- Christmas Time With You (feat. Frawley)
- Little Drummer Boy
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- O Holy Night
- Magic (feat. David Archuleta)
- Deck The Halls
- Ice Storm
I don’t know what it is about Christmas time, those last couple of months of the year and then flowing into early January; that gets me so excited. I’ve been reviewing on this site for a long, long time, ever since 2014. And I think the time I become excited the most when reviewing albums is when I’m reviewing Christmas albums. And throughout the entire time I’ve been alive (close to 33 years! I know, it’s scary, we’re all becoming older and older!), I’ve found that it is the last couple of months in every year that seem to swell me with nostalgia, sentimentality, a sense of hope to the future, and a sense of determination, thankfulness, gratitude, and just general happiness, joy, and cheerfulness. Celebrating Jesus’ birth, spending time with family, gifting each other presents and remembering the true meaning of Christmas, while also taking small or big allowances for your family members and just reflecting on the year that has past and looking forward to the year ahead… well, that sounds busy for sure… but each year is another year to worship God and to dwell upon his birth and to just take stock of your lives. I know, I know, this ‘review’ is becoming philosophical. However, I reckon around Christmas time is no better time than to take a look in the mirror, and to actively decide on whether the person you see is the person you want to be.
We’ve reviewed a plethora of Christmas albums in the past. Some of them a part of our series ‘Christmas In July’ and some of them not. And what I’ve realised is that the beauty about Christmas music is that so, so many artists release Christmas music- that you’d take the leap of… faith? Or something… and you’d listen to artists you wouldn’t normally listen to. You’d listen to an artist that you may have a passing interest in, and perhaps the fact that they’ve released a Christmas album is the opening you need. For me, I was listening to Christian music for a long time. I still am. But since Jon’s and my still-ongoing blog series, I have been branching out and listening to more and more different types of music- and being ministered to any type of music that God imprints on my heart. But I’ve got to say, that over the past couple of Christmases, my repertoire of music has widened even more- and it has been due to the fact that I can unashamedly listen to artists I wouldn’t normally though; because of the fact that it is a Christmas album. Listening to Christmas albums has opened my eyes to the fact that not all music artists whom I stereotypically assumed were ‘bad’, are actually ‘bad’. If you’ve read our reviews lately about Christmas music, you can see that we’ve reviewed albums over the past few years, from many different artists. From artists like Pentatonix, Kristin Chenoweth, Teddy Swims, Brett Eldredge, Maddie & Tae, Meghan Trainor, Pistol Annies, Katharine McPhee, Blake Shelton, Tommee Profitt, *NSYNC, Delta Goodrem, Ronan Keating, Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Faith Hill, Kylie Minogue, Hanson, Leona Lewis, Sheryl Crow, Runaway June, Leslie Odom Jr and Michael Bublé to name a few. These artists, and more, weren’t even close to the kind of music I was listening to 5 years ago. And it goes to show that one album can really change your outlook on music for the better- because all of these artists are inspiring, comforting, and hopeful. Some of these albums may not be sung about Jesus. But some are. And discussion around Jesus’ birth is always a good thing. And as such, now I’m much more aware of what’s out there. Fast forward to now, and we are ready as a site to tackle Christmas albums in 2022. And what better, or should I say, more challenging, album to start off with, than with violinist Lindsey Stirling’s new Christmas album Snow Waltz?
Because I’m a violinist, it’s like, certain melodies sing well on violins and certain ones are like, oh well that has to be done by a singer. So it was really fun which songs made my violin sing the best.
But also for me, if you’re going to do a song that’s been done hundreds of times and covered by a million different artists if I couldn’t think of a way to make it feel special, it didn’t make my list. So I had to think about how can I take Joy to the World and put a twist on it, to give somebody a reason to want to listen to my version. Why would anyone want to hear a violin one? Oh, it actually works as a Celtic tune. Oh, that gets me excited.
We did “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in this very steampunky vibe. So it’s kind of finding vibes I like and then finding the song that’ll fit that vibe and when I start to get excited I’m like, Oh it’s a good one. Cause now suddenly there’s a reason to listen to it and I’m in competition with a lot of different versions.
I feel like that is the big secret everyone has been trying to crack ever since Mariah Carey did “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Everybody has been trying to be the new version of that. I feel Kelly Clarkson got kind of close with her “Underneath the Tree” song. I think she might be in there but it’s really hard to find a way.
That’s the code everyone is trying to crack. I feel every artist takes their shot. I’ve taken mine twice now. But it’s always really fun to write new original Christmas songs because there’s just such a wide array of words, sounds, and feelings to draw from. It’s like a bucket of words and we just have to pick some of these and write a song around them. So it makes it fun to write Christmas music cause there’s just a vibe. You know the vibe you know the recipe, you just have to make it.
Can I say that I know little to next to nothing about Lindsey, her music, her story, and hence her style? I know that she is a violinist, and she rarely sings in her music (most are instrumentals), and I do know that she is a practicing Mormon- which was why I steered clear from her discography until now. But much like The Chosen TV series, which is being produced and created alongside people who have a Mormon ‘faith’, yet still preaches the gospel of Christianity and of Jesus Christ being the Messiah; since the start of my blog series I tend to disregard to faith of someone, and focus more so on the art of what is being said and whether that is inspiring on the whole and connects me to Jesus or not. Jesus uses anybody to spread His message of Jesus Christ being the Messiah- even people who do not know Him or think they do but they don’t. And therefore, I have decided to off the bat immerse myself into one of the year’s most impacting and inspiring Christmas albums of the year. Lindsey Stirling is well known amongst the LDS world. But in the wider world for her music and her songs that touch the lives of everyone… well, she is about to be popular and influential within a few years for all of the right reasons.
Lindsey has recorded a Christmas album before with… I guess you could say ‘poppier’ and ‘sunnier’ songs? Warmer In The Winter released in 2018, and so if you want to listen to that album first, then you can. For the purposes of this review though, I’m going to talk about Snow Waltz, and so if you’re not ready for this album and would prefer to listen to Lindsey’s earlier holiday effort- then by all means. And now that we’ve got that out of the way, the album opener of Snow Waltz, “Sleigh Ride”, is a charming, enthusiastic, vibrant, and energetic strings led instrumental piece (most of these songs are!), that is absolutely captivating and enchanting to listen to- Lindsey’s violin playing has never been better. The bouncy “Sleigh Ride” is the perfect album opener- it’s joy and cheer overflowing through the rest of the album and setting the tone extremely as well; while the mysterious and haunting yet profound orchestral melody “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (complete with Lindsey’s soothing voice for a refrain of the chorus) is a beautiful and thoroughly engaging segue from the album opener.
I could go on and on individually about these tracks- but there’s only so much you can write about an instrumental album, in so many ways before the reader becomes bored. And that’s not to say that the album isn’t good. It’s fantastic- it probably will be one of my favourite Christmas albums of the year. But you know how instrumental albums are mostly albums you need to experience and hear for yourself, instead of cherry-picking songs and taking my word for it? Lindsey’s Snow Waltz is exactly that sort of instrumental album. It’s the type that needs to be experienced rather than explored and read in a review. “Crazy For Christmas”, an original, is a powerful and emphatic declaratory statement (albeit a statement that is fun and tongue-in-cheek), with guest vocalist Bonnie McKee taking on the persona of a crazy person and announcing that ‘…no, they don’t understand, and it’s driving me mad, ’cause this is the greatest season, why not make it last? They say I’m crazy for Christmas every year, and maybe a bit much, I don’t care, ’cause baby, the first of November I’ll put on a sweater and deck the halls, they say I’m crazy for Christmas, I’m making a big fuss, I wanna get cosy together, the sooner the better, is that so wrong?…’ (similar in feeling to Matthew West’s “Come On, Christmas”!), while “Feliz Navidad” brings the album back to the instrumentals, with Lindsey providing to us an enchanting and out-of-this-world experience in an awesomely good way!
“Joy To The World” is a happy-go-lucky Irish-like/Gaelic/old-English type instrumental hymn that is completely reimagined in an ‘olden days’ type of way; while the title track, an album highlight, is an original instrumental piece that would work well in a musical- sort of like a “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” or Nightmare Before Christmas kind of eerie way. Album highlight “Christmas Time With You”, with guest vocalist Frawley, is a poppy original that is a catchy earworm about spending Christmas with family and the ones you love (it’s not terribly deep, but still a BOP that seamlessly fits right into the various Christmas songs this year and the years gone by); while Lindsey further cements herself as one of the great instrumentalists of the modern era, with epically musically superb instrumental track of “Little Drummer Boy”- one of my favourite Christmas songs ever. It’s even probably on par with Pentatonix’s version, but not so with for KING & COUNTRY’s or Jars Of Clay’s. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, one of the rare songs where Lindsey sings more than one verse/chorus, is a superb rendition that is essentially a worship song declaring that Jesus is Lord and that we all can rejoice because He has come to save us all from our sin; while nothing on this album can really compare to the legendary and iconic melody “O Holy Night” (my absolute favourite carol ever!), in which Lindsey performs (with the violin and her vocals) to utter perfection.
“Magic”, with David Archuleta, is a reflective, contemplative and resonating ballad, with David passionately reiterating that ‘…life has made me wise, but here at Christmas time, I catch a glimpse of light behind my childlike eyes, who says there can’t be magic when the world’s in doubt? Who says there can’t be joy when the lights go out? While the hope is in the air will we love more than we fear? Who says there can’t be magic all year?…’. Even as we grow up, there can still be magic and hope and joy and love in the world and we can still see the beauty in the small things even if we all seem to be older and jaded and ‘wiser’, and that is simply what “Magic” promotes- us holding onto that childlike sense of wonder that is such a joy to experience. The penultimate track on Snow Waltz, an instrumental piece of “Deck The Halls”, but in reality a medley of 5-6 carols similar to Lincoln Brewster’s “Miraculum”, is a joy to listen to and is a hopeful and inspiring surprise; while Lindsey ends this transformative and exquisite musical journey with the original instrumental piece “Ice Storm”, another soundtrack-y, orchestral type piece that is enthralling, captivating and inspiring to listen to.
I just hope that people feel all the magic and you know the things that I like I hope they feel [when they see me on tour], I hope they get all those warm fuzzies, I hope they laugh, I hope they feel wowed in moments, that’s what I always hope for my shows, I want it be really dimensional that people get all the different kinds of feelings, I want them to be surprised.
More than anything I want to people leave feeling this sense of like you know I can go out there and be what I want to be. I can go out there and I can find joy or I can try something new in my life, tackle that challenge I always wanted to try or that hobby I always wanted to learn.
I knew it in my head that instrumental music could move me. I think I’ve always known on a technical sense. After all, Michael W. Smith’s projects Freedom and Glory are some of my favourite albums ever- and they have no lyrics and no words. But I always thought that I enjoyed them because Michael was a Christian. It’s probably taken me a lot longer than I thought it would, but now I can say that instrumental music from people who don’t believe the same as me, and even oppose my morals, beliefs, and values… is still inspiring and thought-provoking and captivating. Lindsey Stirling is proof of that- and just because I don’t agree with her faith, doesn’t mean that I have to delete every single song of hers from my playlist on the basis that it could ‘stumble me’. Conversely, listening to and loving this Christmas album doesn’t mean I endorse everything Lindsey does, but rather I see an album proclaiming Jesus Christ, and an album God will use just like He used Balaam’s donkey. The Christmas story is timeless, and though there aren’t that many carols represented here, songs like “Magic”, “O Holy Night”, “Joy To The World”, “Christmas Time With You” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel” remind us that God is working all the time- we just need to sometimes sit up and take more notice. Lindsey Stirling and Snow Waltz do not scream out the immutable truth of Jesus from the rooftops; but the truth is in fact still on display here- of Jesus being born into the world as fully man and fully God; and born to save us all from ourselves. What greater truth do we need this Christmas, and to be frank, every forthcoming Christmas? So let us sit back and marvel at the wonder of how great Lindsey is as a violinist and as a performer… but more than that let us pray that God continues to work in us and changes us from the inside out. What better way to do that than against the backdrop of one of the most unique Christmas albums of the year? Well done, Lindsey, you should be proud of yourself, and I cannot wait for the next all new original studio album, whenever that may be!
My favorite Christmas album is definitely Michael Buble, well I say definitely! I just love Michael Buble so much! His voice is Christmas to me. I think Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of “Carol Of The Bells” was my favorite Christmas song growing up and that’s one of the reasons I really wanted to make a special version when I did my last Christmas album. I have to do this song just because it’s my favorite, that was a fun challenge to try and tackle. I love Mannheim Steamroller as well, that is another all-time favorite Christmas album. Those are some of my favorite classics.
There’s my childhood memories growing up that are so special, the holidays are so special as a child. It’s so funny the ones that stick out from childhood because they’re almost ridiculous, I mean they are ridiculous because the mind of this child that doesn’t always care what is supposed to be special.
The one that sticks out, I remember I was really into the TY Beanie Baby craze if you remember those! My sister and I, we had a list of all the ones we wanted the most and the ones that were like the retired ones that you can no longer get and you know what not. My mom shopped all over town and got us this box of individually wrapped beanie babies and they were some of the ones on our list, the retired ones. There is a video out there, actually I should find that video! It is so funny!
5 songs to listen to: Sleigh Ride, Joy To The World, Christmas Time with You, O Holy Night, Magic
RIYL: David Foster, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ben Rector, Pentatonix, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Little Mix, Peter Hollens, Home Free, Owl City