Review: Janelle Nadeau – “Star of Night”

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The music of the holidays inspires and enlightens anyone willing to listen. The current musical climate has just about something for everyone. The precedent seems to be on big, glossy releases from today’s big pop stars, but for those willing to dig a little deeper, there are some Christmas-ready releases that soothe and relax and would be more at home for a chill evening reading by the campfire than for a New Year’s Eve bash.

Vancouver’s own Janelle Nadeau joins the ranks with her collection of holiday tunes Star of Night. Nadeau’s release is a refreshing spin on Christmas, providing a beautiful and understated array that is as beautiful as it is relaxing. Nadeau’s ability to pluck away at her harp strings in an effortless seeming way is at the core of this release, backed by some accompanying musicians who actually enhance her spotlight rather than detract or distract from it.

Seasonal classics are here, like opener “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” that invokes an almost dark, solstice-laden vibe. Later, “We Three Kings” stands out as a highlight, turning up the tempo but not too much. You will notice that the cheesier, candy-coated fare like “Jingle Bell Rock” are missing, making this release a cohesively executed masterpiece. All of Nadeau’s selections were hand picked for a different type of Christmas release. Here instead, we have tracks that are well known but not overdone. “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” are by no means uncharted territory, but they’ve definitely become lesser known tunes in holiday lineups. Nadeau’s versions may change that.

It’s soft and pretty, and showcases Christmas in a daydreamy like mood. Janelle Nadeau’s talent is clearly plentiful, but she doesn’t overdo it. These arrangements are beautiful because they give these classic songs some room to breathe. Similar to a painter including a lot of blank space, Nadeau’s release is successful just as much because of what she doesn’t do as much as what she does. There aren’t dozens of layers of sound here. The stripped down tracks she’s included will be a nice breath of fresh air even for those who say they aren’t fans of Christmas music.

The holidays mean different things to different people, and hearing Nadeau’s Christmas collection in contrast to what is played on the radio is a great reminder of that. There’s a stress free, chilled out version of Christmas out there, and this may be the perfect soundtrack to inspire that type of relaxing holiday season.

Listen to Janelle Nadeau’s Star of Night below, courtesy of Janelle Nadeau’s BandCamp page. Be sure to check out Janelle Nadeau’s website as well as the artist’s pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify.