Happy Blog-iversary!

As of today, I have been blogging for an entire year! I’ve had a couple of blogs in the past, but none that have lasted this long or had any sort of following whatsoever, so this is quite exciting. I’ve been able to unpack thoughts on this blog, as well as share fun facts about my life and travels.

What does the future hold for Perfect Harmonies? Since this is purely a hobby for me, I don’t plan on trying to make any significant income from it. However, it is a very fun hobby and I’d love to grow my content and readership, so I do plan on making some improvements and implementing some new ideas around here. Look for fun changes over the next few months!

To celebrate Perfect Harmonies’ first birthday, here are some of my favorite and most significant posts from the past year.

The realization that my life struggles happen for a reason.

A solo trip to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios in London.

How I view my role as a wife, and what’s awesome about being married to T.

Top five things I’ve learned from working at a dental office.

One of the most life-changing decisions I’ve ever made.

Why every kid needs cousins, and why we will eventually give our nephew some of his own.

The story behind my right-hand ring.

Traveling to Brazil? Here are some of my observations about the Portuguese language.

How I overcame one of my biggest fears.

25 days of Christmas music.

The greatest trip of my life.

How to be awesome at public transportation.

I hope you enjoy reading Perfect Harmonies as much as I enjoy writing it! What are some of your favorite posts?

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Casting Crowns – Peace On Earth

Merry Christmas, everyone! What a joy it is to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

I’ve been saving the best for last in the Christmas Album Countdown. Today I give you my favorite Christmas album, the one I’ve been listening to on repeat since Halloween (don’t judge). This is the one that T and I will have playing in our house today as we celebrate Christmas with my family. It’s Peace On Earth by Casting Crowns.

Casting Crowns has been one of my favorite Christian bands since high school. Besides the fact that their music is singable-along-to, their songs address profound spiritual issues and doctrines as well as social justice. I’ve had my soul spoken to on more than one occasion by a Casting Crowns song (like this one). I’m so glad they have a Christmas album, because it falls right in line with how I perceive their music.

The album includes a handful of standard Christmas carols, like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and quite possibly my favorite version of “Silent Night.” They also perform a few of their original songs, such as “While You Were Sleeping,” “Christmas Offering,” which our church has since adopted as a congregational worship song, and “God Is With Us,” which I have sung as a solo in Christmas Eve services. The album concludes with a beautiful piano-accompanied arrangement of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” which reminds us that the world had no idea what Christ’s birth would lead to. This is followed by the closing track, a haunting violin solo of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that leaves us with a heavy sense of anticipation.

It’s really hard to choose a favorite track to share with you, so here is the one I know T would choose. It’s the opening song on the album, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” but like you’ve never heard it before. Enjoy the song (and the rest of the album), have an absolutely wonderful Christmas, and may the birth of Jesus bring joy and peace to your hearts today.

Glad – An Acapella Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! We’re just two days away from the end of the Christmas Album Countdown. Can you believe Christmas is already here?

I’m betting that 99.9% of you have never heard of the a capella group Glad. It’s not too surprising… they’re a group of five middle-aged guys who were at their music-producing peak in the 90’s. However, I grew up listening to their music, and we even hosted them at our church once for a Christmas concert. It was a much bigger deal than it sounds. At any rate, their Christmas album, An Acapella Christmas, is one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve listened to it so many times in my life that I could probably sing you all five of the parts for any song on the album.

As you probably already know from my posts about Pentatonix and Straight No Chaser, a capella is one of my favorite vocal music genres, simply because of how cool it is that voices alone can create such complex music. Glad is no exception. Every one of their songs is rich in texture and harmonies, and I love the purity of their voices. It doesn’t sound overly pop-y or manufactured, like other a cappella groups can sound at times. Besides that, the guys of Glad are all Christians, and maybe it’s just me, but I think you can actually tell by the way they sing that every word of every song means something to them.

The album opens with a fanfare on the text, “Glory to God in the highest!” and it only gets better from there. They sing innovative arrangements of “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” (with the first verse in German), “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and more of the most beloved carols. There are also a couple of original songs, like “Starlight” and “One Quiet Moment.” But the absolute best song on the album is the penultimate track, “In the First Light.” It tells the story of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in an incredibly moving and ultimately triumphant four minutes. You will get chills and maybe tears as you listen to this song and realize that there is so much more to the story than the birth of a baby.

Michael Bublé – Christmas

I love Michael Bublé. He’s the modern-day Sinatra, the epitome of cool. Okay, maybe not quite, but he’s very suave and his voice is yummy. In fact, I love his music so much that T and I had our first dance at our wedding to “Everything.”

His Christmas album, simply titled Christmas, isn’t as exciting as I would have hoped. In my humble opinion, it makes better background music than it does a listening event. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not great, and there are definitely some highlights. One of my favorites is “Santa Baby,” where Michael changes the words so that the song actually comes from a guy’s perspective. Instead of asking for a ring, he asks for “cha-ching,” and among the other items on his list are a Rolex, a convertible, and the deed to a platinum mine. The album also includes several holiday favorites, like “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “White Christmas” as a duet with Shania Twain.

But the best song on the album, hands down, is the smooth arrangement of “Feliz Navidad” that serves as the album’s musical climax. It begins with an introduction of “Mis Deseos” that builds into the main chorus of “Feliz Navidad.” The song continues to build in intensity, with a full choir eventually joining in. Words don’t really do it justice, so have a listen for yourself. Try not to hit repeat, I dare you.

Lady Antebellum – On This Winter’s Night

Here’s another album that I listened to specifically for the Christmas Album Countdown. I’ve only been a very casual listener of Lady Antebellum in the past, which basically means I knew the couple of songs that were played on my local Top 40 radio station (and that only until my classical station came back on the air). But I knew I liked their sound the first time I heard them, so I thought On This Winter’s Night would be a good album for this series.

I was right. For one thing, there’s a lot of balance on this album. There are songs that feature male vocals and others that feature female vocals. There are upbeat tunes like the opening track, “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” which I was immediately singing along to, and there are romantic ballads like their take on “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” There are the generic holiday songs like “Let It Snow,” and there are the overtly religious carols like “The First Noel.” I think my favorite track of all is the title song, “On This Winter’s Night,” which describes both the love we feel towards each other at this time of year and the love God showed to us in sending his Son. What a pleasant surprise from Lady A.

Beach Boys – Christmas With the Beach Boys

Like a good California girl, I’ve always loved the Beach Boys and their very recognizable barbershop sound. In my mind, their music is associated with sand, sun, and surf, with some classic cars thrown in the mix, so it’s kind of fun in a weird way to hear them singing Christmas songs on Christmas With the Beach Boys.

The first thing T said when I hit play on this album was, “Isn’t this the same melody as ‘Little Deuce Coupe?'” To be fair, the song was “Little Saint Nick,” so it could totally have worked to just change the lyrics of the original song. If you’ve ever spent more than about five minutes listening to the Beach Boys, you know that all of their songs start to sound the same after a while, so the melodies do tend to run together in one’s head. It’s also hard not to picture southern California beaches, the usual image that goes along with the Beach Boys’ music, just with a few Santa hats or garland-bedecked light posts. Of course, that could be because that’s the visual I have of my own visits to Pismo Beach around Christmastime. Yes, it’s true… Christmas even comes to California beach towns.

There’s a lot going on on this album. There are classic tunes as well as obscure ones, and in some cases there are multiple versions of songs (there are three of the aforementioned “Little Saint Nick”). There’s a somewhat odd orchestra-accompanied arrangement of “We Three Kings.” There’s “Santa’s Got An Airplane,” complete with something vaguely resembling airplane sounds. And there’s the Beach Boys’ take on “Mele Kalikimaka,” which is really the perfect song for their Christmas album.

Kristin Chenoweth – A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas

It seemed only fair to do a post about Kristin Chenoweth’s Christmas album, since I did one for Idina MenzelA Lovely Way to Spend Christmas was released all the way back in 2008, but somehow I didn’t know about it until now. A terrible travesty, considering how lovely this album is.

All of the songs on here fall into one of two categories: either they are upbeat and peppy, like Kristin’s character Galinda in Wicked, or they are soft and mellow. Both types contribute to the holiday spirit, and there is a nice balance of the two. In the first category, we have songs like “Christmas Island,” “Sleigh Ride/Marshmallow World,” and “Come On Ring Those Bells.” The second group includes beautiful arrangements of songs like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” and “What Child is This.” I tend to be partial to Kristin voice over Idina Menzel’s (sorry Idina) because Kristin is a master of both the chesty belt and the light, floaty head voice, and both show up throughout the album.

One of my favorite tracks is “Born On Christmas Day,” a ballad that tells the story of Christ’s birth. The lyrics express the miracle and wonder of the Lord Jesus coming to earth, and Kristin sings it with power and delicate expression at the same time.