I will be the first to admit that I can be rather enthusiastic about Christmas music. I listen to it at times of the year that are just unthinkable to some people. In November of one year, I was listening to some Christmas music on my lunch break at work when someone commented on it, basically wondering why I was listening to it when it wasn't even close to Christmas. When I tried to explain that I just liked the way it sounds, I received a response along the lines of "Well, you've obviously never worked in a retail environment at Christmas." I guess the implication was that the endless repetition of Christmas music in stores at this time of year is enough to make anyone sick of it.
Now, I have nothing at all against this attitude or the person who said it (in fact, he may be reading this on Facebook right now). In fact, I can understand how being forced to listen to anything repetetively can turn someone off from it. However, over the last three Christmases (oh wow, is this really my fourth year doing the free Christmas music thing?), I have had the opportunity to listen to a lot of different takes on Christmas music, and I can't help but think that if people were exposed to some of these unusual arrangements of otherwise familiar songs, they might be a little more accepting toward the whole idea of Christmas music. Of course, I could be totally wrong about that, but at least I enjoy it, and I gather from some of the comments and emails that I receive that my readers enjoy it too.
Oh, Starling have made their EP, Joy, available for free for a limited time. On it, they have crafted some very refreshing arrangements of five familiar Christmas songs; refreshing, but no so radically different that they could not be enjoyed on the radio, or yes, even in stores that are playing Christmas music. The acoustic instrumentation and slowed down tempos give a very relaxed feel to songs like "Joy (To the World)", "Silent Night", and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear". Each song is given a lot of breathing room, and a lot of them are given extended bridges and choruses. It's a great little release to listen to when you'd like to relax for a while, especially as things start to get really hectic in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You're not likely to hear these songs playing over the PA of your favourite store, so it might be a good idea to load them onto an MP3 player for your own personal listening; it would be hard to feel rushed while listening to these beautiful renditions of familiar Christmas songs.
Joy will be free for a limited time - one article I read about it said only until US Thanksgiving - so you should go download it now if you're interested at all. The form on the site asks for quite a bit of information (email address, first name, country, city, and zip code, to be precise), so I would recommend reading the privacy agreement if you're at all paranoid about giving that kind of information out. They did send me a couple of emails, but it is worth noting that the download link appeared on the site after I submitted the form - it was not emailed to me. You can choose between MP3 and AAC formats; I chose MP3, which yielded a 37.3 MB zip file. Happy listening!