By MEL TAEVIN
You may not have heard the name Drew Angus, but even Santa has him on his list for best new holiday music. A Snow Globe Christmas, the latest EP by the handsome crooner, is a heart-warming and uplifting addition to this year’s musical gifts.
We’ve heard the new classics from Justin Bieber’s “Under The Mistletoe,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” to Michael Bublé’s simply named “Christmas.” But Angus’ tunes present a new “at-home” view of this holiday season, a season like no other before.
The cozy Westport, Conn., home of Angus is snuggled tightly under a blanket of snow, and, due to the pandemic, his home like many others takes on the appearance of a snow globe.
“The holidays are going to look a little different this year,” said Angus. “Thanksgiving was quiet and small, our big family Christmas Eve party won’t be filled with the usual gathering of families, but the cheer will never be lost.”
A part of that cheer is rooted in tradition, he said.
“One of my earliest Christmas memories is listening to Harry Connick Jr’s When My Heart Finds Christmas through the holidays. That CD lived in our family stereo pretty much year-round until six cables and streaming became a thing.”
Every year the Angus family hosts a Christmas Eve jamboree at their home, a time to get together with friends and family near and far.
But the Christmas display is just one of the many things not happening this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked what he’ll be doing instead, Angus responds with a plan to which we’ve all grown accustomed: “Too early to tell, but I imagine we’ll do our annual caroling over Zoom.”
A Snow Globe Christmas is five full songs that are ready to pep you up in a way no spiked nog can do.
“With Christmas music, you’re not reinventing the wheel,” said Angus. “Instead, you’re taking songs that everybody knows and loves and making them your own.”
The record has familiar songs you know, love, and can sing along to.
“In this 5-track EP, you’ll recognize ‘The Christmas Song,’ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ and a slightly lesser-known, ‘Step Into Christmas,’ originally by Elton John,” he said.”I joked about making this record back in April or May with my producer Mikhail Pivovarov, but we didn’t hit the gas until late July or early August.”
Original tracks “Snow Globe” and “Santa’s Early Gift” shine through in a way that’s a bit brighter than the other classics. They’re shiny and new, like unpacking a new box of Christmas bulbs or rainbow-colored lights. They offer endless possibilities and are ready to fill your head with new memories. Both songs give you a chance to start your Christmas season fresh. Drew and his team whipped this record up in a ginger snap, just in time for Christmas.
“Nicholas Wells and I wrote ‘Snow Globe’ and ‘Santa’s Early Gift’ in August and we were in the studio about a week or two later,” Angus said. “This record was pretty much laid down in a day. We brought the rhythm section into the studio and cut the basics for all five tunes in an afternoon. From there we added some additional keys, percussion, and additional guitars before hitting the final vocals. I really tried to capture the essence of my favorite classic Christmas songs and arrangements like Nat King Cole, HCJ, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry. I tried to get these familiar sounds in a new voice with strings, horns, and all the instruments that we’re familiar with already.”
How was Angus able to pull off writing two Christmas originals in the Saint Nick of time?
“We had almost 20 people who helped work on this record. From art to arranging and playing,” Angus said.
He has worked and collaborated with a group called “Love Raptor” on previous works, and his Christmas record is no exception. Known for their keen craft of putting a funky twist on your pop favorites, this Black Rock, the group puts the twist and the funk into Drew’s holiday record.
The EP kicks off with that exact holiday funk with Angus’ original song, “Santa’s Early Gift.” It’s a jazzy tune that takes you back to the classic, happy, simpler times. This upbeat tune has you swaying back and forth, sipping spiced mulled cider and actively looking for the nearest mistletoe as you find your Christmas love leaning up against the piano. A jubilant horn line provides a tangy texture to the sweet sonic ground as Angus’ voice reminisces of his Christmas music inspirations. “Santa’s Early Gift” follows a lyrical structure that is familiar to the ear.
“‘Santa’s Early Gift’ pays homage to the classic A B A form where you start with a chorus,” said Angus. “It’s totally written with traditional Christmas songs like ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ in mind. It’s a nod to some of my favorites.” In the studio, this song had its quirks, and came pretty close to getting nothing but coal in its stocking. “The horn arrangement gave us the hardest time”, says Angus. “We went through a few different iterations before we finally landed on the one you hear on the record.”
“Snow Globe” is the perfect song to sit up by the window with your knees pulled in, cradling a cup of cocoa and watching the snowfall softly in your globe. The piano narrates your gazed moment as you begin reflecting on the year, looking at your own reflection against the glass. Angus pays homage to the classics with the help of Westchester-based songwriter Wells.
“When working on holiday originals, they still need to sound familiar to the listener,” Angus said. “With that in mind, I wrote the title track “Snow Globe” with my friend Nicholas Wells over Zoom.”
Angus and Wells grace us with the lyrics:
“The year is like a snow globe/
Turning upside down/
Day by day the whole world/
Keeps spinning ’round and ’round/
Angus also feels the longing to see family, he acknowledges the broken hearts all over the world that aren’t celebrating with loved ones or those who are trying with all of their might to get through this holiday season after losing a loved one from this brutal year.
“It’s nuts how we’re doing things these days. This year has been extra chaotic in more ways than one,” Angus said. “‘Snow Globe’ is a hopeful reminder to take a step back and find some calm amongst the mayhem of the holiday season.”
And as we search endlessly for a glimmer of hope this season, we learn that with the magic of music, hope isn’t far from our reach. Much like the star on top of your tree, you can look up to it, and know that there’s beauty breaking through the darkness. After all, that’s what the holidays are all about.
Aside from wishing the best for people during the Pandemic, what is it that Angus wants for Christmas?
“I would also like an Xbox with Halo 1,” he said. “I hope A Snow Globe Christmas brings you and your family a little joy this crazy holiday season and more importantly, for many years to come.”
Listen to Drew Angus’ A Snow Globe Christmas wherever music is streamed.