Scala & Kolacny Brothers - December (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
FOLLOWING last year’s phenomenal rise to international success, including high profile UK performances at the Royal Variety Show and BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Scala & Kolacny Bros. have bowed to pressure and released a Christmas album – but an alternative one.
The result is pretty good. And resolutely ‘alternative’. Not for them are the schmaltzy likes of standard Christmas carols. Rather, December offers cover versions of songs from the likes of Linkin Park, Coldplay, Joni Mitchell, Smashing Pumpkins and more.
There is even the odd non-Christmas song, such as Prince’s When Doves Cry.
For those that aren’t aware, Scala & Kolacny Brothers is a Belgian women’s choir, conducted by Stijn Kolacny and arranged and accompanied by Steven Kolacny on the piano.
Their hits, to date, include a cover of Radiohead’s Creep that was used on a trailer for the film, The Social Network, as well as their version of The Police’s Every Breath You Take, which was featured in the trailer for ITV1’s period drama Downton Abbey in 2010.
One of Steven Kolacny’s own songs, Our Last Fight, was also featured in season three of Sons of Anarchy.
Now, after years of shunning requests to perform Christmas songs because, as Steven puts it, “[they] genuinely dislike the over-used Christmas music airing each year on radio and TV”, a German radio station persuaded them to record an alternative Christmas song for them.
Asking Scala’s Facebook friends for suggestions, the response was overwhelming and the results were surprising. “Who would have ever thought that bands like Pearl Jam, Linkin Park and the Smashing Pumpkins had written or recorded Christmas songs?” said Steven.
The ensuing album is notable for delivering cracking, choral versions of My December, from Linkin Park; Joni Mitchell’s River; Smashing Pumpkins’ Christmastime and Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas! Let’s Be Glad, complete with male singer.
There’s an ethereal beauty to the way the songs are delivered that makes them both under-stated and beautiful (occasionally haunting), and which capably underline why Scala & Kolacny Brothers have become such a world-wide favourite.
Watch out, too, for further album highlights in When Doves Cry, their take on Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong (beautifully delivered), and a heart-warming rendition of The Pretenders’ 2000 Miles.
There’s lots to recommend it if you’re seeking a Christmas album to escape from the usual round of schmaltz and over-played favourites.
Download picks: My December, Christmas Lights, River, 2000 Miles, When Doves Cry, Sun-Kissed Snow, When Doves Cry