Album Review – Vocal Few, "Snowdrift EP" (November 25, 2016)
It’s been a year since we’ve heard from acoustic duo Vocal Few, made up of The Classic Crime’s Matt MacDonald and his wife Kristie. They usually release an EP every time they’re expecting a child, and while their last effort, The Dream Alive was an exception to this rule, this latest release, Snowdrift, was not, and the MacDonalds welcomed their son River into the world during the recording and production process. Snowdrift only took a few weeks to complete, and Vocal Few eagerly posted it for pre-order in late October. After hearing Vocal Few describe this EP as “Christmas music for people who don’t like Christmas music,” this reviewer thought “challenge accepted!”
Snowdrift opens with the mellow yet cheerful “Ice Storm 2008 (Merry Christmas).” This song showcases what Vocal Few does best with their music–describe scenes of life and tell stories about people. The song humorously describes the experience of a couple stranded at home on Christmas due to a blizzard, as they watch their neighbors build a snowman, witness a car skid down the street, and ride a hydroplaning bus to a local dive to celebrate. Lines like “People share our smiles as they can relate / Yeah, we’re forced to accept the things that we cannot change” remind the listener that natural disasters show us how much alike we all can be.
Lest the listener think this will be a completely lighthearted outing, the three middle songs (“Oh Holy Night (There’s Only Love),” “Not Giving Up,” and “Beloved”) add quiet urgency to this release. “Oh Holy Night ” is not a cover of the traditional “O Night Divine,” but rather a minor key reworking of the chorus with original verses focusing on the hope of salvation we have in our Savior. “Not Giving Up” is the flip side to the story told in the opener–instead of going outside and making the best of the snowy day, this couple stays shut inside with the windows boarded up and commiserates. Chilling lines like “Do you find hope? / Is it hanging by a rope in your heart?” give way to a hopeful ending, in which the key of the song changes and the couple declares “You are my only hope / I’m not giving up!” “Beloved” is a dreamy song that gently urges the listener to “Believe you’re beloved and live.” The incorporation of bells in the back end of the song lend it a holiday feeling, but it never turns cheesy or sentimental.
Closer “Cheers to Your Holiday” is a pleasant way to end this thoughtful and concise EP. Images of snow, hot cocoa, family gatherings, and wrapping gifts are pretty universal for this time of year, regardless of people’s beliefs. Vocal Few wishes everyone well in their repeating refrain “Cheers to your holiday / Whatever way you choose to celebrate it / Here’s to you ” If taken out of context, this song can undermine the messages of the three previous songs, so listeners might want to hear to the entire Snowdrift EP to get the full story. “Cheers ” is an all-inclusive holiday sing-along song, and it’s meant to make everyone happy.
Those who are holiday music aficionados will find the Snowdrift EP to be an interesting and engaging listen, while those who are weary of songs like “Let It Snow” and “Silent Night” will enjoy the less traditional route of this release. Vocal Few has crafted a unique set of songs that encapsulate both the warm and the chilly emotions that come during this time of the year, and Snowdrift can be enjoyed long after the holidays have passed.
– Review date: 11/25/16, written by Nicole Marie Vacca of Jesusfreakhideout.com