I'm an electronic music fan and I've grown tired of the standard, straight-forward renditions of Christmas classics. Until now, my sole Christmas album has been a jazzy Crystal Lewis album. So, I was excited when I came across David Arkenstone's Christmas Lounge. But, I knew that the quality of electronic music varied greatly. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Christmas Lounge was more than just Christmas elevator music with no vocals and occasional jingle bells.
Arkenstone does an excellent job of incorporating original, and at times groovy, melodies that are seamlessly integrated into the Christmas classics. Tracks like "Sleigh Ride" and "Deck the Halls" are immediately recognizable even though they've been transformed with a sophisticated metropolitan flavor typical of lounge music made popular by groups like the Thievery Corporation. But on other tracks, like "Angels We Have Heard on High", you're invited to sit back and enjoy the sounds until that familiar tune arises to the forefront.
Arkenstone uses piano and classical guitar to provide those main familiar melodies and then layers in electronic synths and chilled drum beats to spice things up nicely. Usually the synthesizers add a secondary melody that keeps things interesting and allows Arkenstone to put his own stamp on the Christmas classics.
My favorite tracks were those that lent themselves to more of a downtempo flavor, but all-in-all the entire album is well done. There were a couple that I didn't enjoy as much, but it was because I didn't care for the original songs either.
The standout tracks, were both familiar sounding, but also re-worked brilliantly. "Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy" is arguably the best track on Christmas Lounge. For that Christmas staple, Arkentsone transports you to a sleek, sophisticated, spy movie world. All the while, that familiar melody is still there. It's got to be what secret agents listen to during the holidays.
Another standout is "We Three Kings", which sounds like it's perfect for a city drive with a very upscale urban feel. And then there's "Carol of the Bells" which has a Trance under current, but never goes all the way to red and green glow stick territory. A few tracks like "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and "First Noel" take fewer liberties with the original. They're well done, but for me, less memorable.
David Arkenstone's Christmas Lounge is a great album for those looking for an alternative to the typical Christmas music fare. It's also perfect for those urban sophisticates and anyone who considers themselves electronic music fans. I highly recommend it for adventurous listeners that want to put a spin on their holiday listening. Christmas Lounge is great background music for a holiday party, that long drive to visit loved ones, or even to help pass the time at work. It'll be helping me celebrate the holidays this season and many seasons to come.