By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
It’s time for the albums to shine!
In this edition of Jake’s Take-New Music Reviews, we will be taking a closer look at a diverse group of albums from today’s hottest artists and two of A cappella music’s finest acts.
A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix
Pentatonix has played a huge role throughout the blog’s five years of existence! I have interviewed Mitch Grassi and Kevin “K.O.” Olusola on three different occasions and have seen them perform twice. This impeccable A cappella group released their second full-length holiday studio album. This time around, the quintet breathed new life into a diverse group of tunes ranging from contemporary Christmas tracks such as “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” to classic holiday anthems such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Up On the Housetop.” However, the only disappointment that I found with the album was the addition of “Good to Be Bad,” which was out of place. Of all the amazing tracks that are featured on the album, it will be their haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that will give listeners chills. Keep up the good work, guys! A-
Tracks to Download: “Hallelujah,” “Up on the Housetop,” “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Coldest Christmas,” & “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.”
Uncharted by The Piano Guys
The Piano Guys are one of the hottest classical crossover acts that have dominated the music industry! For six years, Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson, and Al van der Beek, have produced music that proved to the audience that both the piano and the cello are pretty hip instruments. The quartet’s sixth studio album (their fifth album on the Sony Masterworks record label) contains their impeccable takes on some of today’s outstanding hits such as Adele’s “Hello,” Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” plus theme music from Disney classics such as The Jungle Book & Pirates of the Caribbean. Also, this album also marks van der Beek’s vocal debut as he sang “Okay,” a Andy Grammar-penned track. Uncharted is a must have album for your music library and put a smile on your face. A
Tracks to Download: “Fight Song/Amazing Grace,” “A Sky Full of Stars,” “Okay,” “Main Theme (From “Pirates of the Caribbean”) & “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
Cosmic Hallelujah by Kenny Chesney
I have a love and hate relationship with Kenny Chesney. He is a big entertainer, but some of his songs lack the necessary substance I need from a country album. For his 17th studio album, Mr. Chesney has stretched his country roots to the rock quadrant of the country crossover graphic plane. While his superb duet with pop rocker Pink (“Setting the World on Fire”) remains one of the best duets of 2016, the rest of the album is best described as a hybrid between a hot mess at a hoedown and drunk karaoke at the local country bar. I would skip this album if I were you. D+
Tracks to Download: “Setting the World on Fire” & “Rich & Miserable.”
Tkay by Tkay Maidza
Ever since Nicki Minaj released “Super Bass,” several artists have been trying their best to duplicate her success of blending pop music and hip-hop music together. One rising act that might have the chance to replicate this idea is Tkay Maidza. The Australian singer-rapper dropped her debut studio album through Interscope Records and Downtown Records today is one of my favorite hip-hop/synthpop albums of the year. Tkay’s beats are bombastic and pack a punch. For her debut, Maidza co-wrote all 14 of her tracks with some of hip-hop’s top producers such as What So Not, Lee Mortimer, and Salva. I have a strong feeling that we are going to be hearing more of Tkay for years to come. B+
Tracks to Download: “Afterglow,” “Simulation,” “Monochrome,” & “Follow Me.”
Two Vines by Empire of the Sun
Next year, Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore will be celebrating their tenth anniversary as an established music act. For their third album, Empire of the Sun recruited some of the music industry’s talented musicians to lend their impeccable artistry to Two Vines. Among the artists that collaborated with the Australian electronic music duo including former Prince collaborator Wendy Melvoin, Henry Hey, and Tim Lefebvre, who played on David Bowie’s final studio album: Blackstar, and Lindsey Buckingham, who co-wrote “To Her Door” with the guys. Listeners will experience euphoria at its finest as Steele & Littlemore’s music put a spell on you. This album will help you briefly escape reality through one of the best electronica albums of the year. A-
Tracks to Download: “High & Low,” “There’s No Need,” “Way to Go,” “To Her Door,” & “Walking on a Dream.”
A Hollens Family Christmas by Peter Hollens
Another A cappella artist that has made a significant impact on the blog is Peter Hollens. The Sing-Off alum and four-time Contemp. A Cappella Recording Award-winning artist’s fan base is known as the Hollens Family. In fact, 4,236 Hollens Family members supported the creation process of this masterpiece. For his latest studio album, Peter recruited a diverse group of his favorite friends and invited them over for a spectacular holiday party. Among the artists that make appearances include America’s Got Talent alumni Jackie Evancho and One Voice Children’s Choir, longtime collaborators Mike Tompkins and wife, Evynne Hollens, and the last Sing-Off champions Home Free. Peter continues to showcase why he is one of the A cappella music’s finest vocalists and producers with his fabulous covers of holiday anthems! Thanks to the assistance of vocal arranger Tom Anderson, this album heads straight into the stratosphere and should be added to your holiday playlist! Congratulations, Peter! A Hollens Family Christmas is my Album of the Week! A+
Tracks to Download: “Little Drummer Boy,” “Believe,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Grown-Up Christmas List,” “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” & “Amazing Grace.”
I do not own any of the clips that are featured in this article. They belong to the artists and their respective record labels.