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Exit 245

James Madison University

XMAS (2013)

4.0

December 16, 2014

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town 5.0
2 Little Saint Nick 4.0
3 White Christmas 4.0
4 All I Want for Christmas Is You 4.0
5 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays 4.0

Recorded 2013
Total time: 13:46, 5 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town 5
2 Little Saint Nick 4
3 White Christmas 4
4 All I Want for Christmas Is You 4
5 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays 4

Just in time for Christmas, Exit 245 has put together a very enjoyable Christmas mini EP. It's worth your time, especially for the first track, a jazzy and irresistable Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. Really, it's adorable; before you roll your eyes at me, go listen to a sample and then treat yourself to a download while you're at it.

The rest of the album isn't bad either. Little Saint Nick brings a verisimilitudinous vibe of Beach Boys, dead-on in sound and spirit. White Christmas has more of a medley feel due to the contrasting soloists: John Powers brings to mind the modern country singer Wade Hayes, while the higher-voiced Kyle Yampiro has more of a Frankie Valli thing going on. It gives the track a certain youth, and to my ears the genre flips back and forth from country to oldies as the song moves up and down their respective registers. 

All I Want for Christmas Is You stays in the modern country mood, much more Lady Antebellum than Mariah Carey in spirit if not in arranging details. The last song, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, is apparently originally performed by NSYNC. I am way too old to write knowledgeably of such things, so I will say instead that the track is mellow and friendly and a bit fuzzy around the edges, like the best of contemporary Christian soft-rock radio.

Overall the guys of Exit 245 sing amiably and well, though the tuning frays here and there and I hear an occasional burst of Cher-like autotune. They seem to have put a lot of thought into the holiday spirit, and this EP shows them in a flattering (be-tinseled and twinkling) light.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town 5
2 Little Saint Nick 4
3 White Christmas 4
4 All I Want for Christmas Is You 4
5 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays 4

Maybe you won't ask for much this Christmas. Maybe you won't even wish for snow. But asking Santa for Exit 245's XMAS is a solid request: it's sparkly, it's fun, it's earnest, and it's not annoying in the least (a Christmas miracle). 

Honestly, have I heard a more tender solo delivery this year than Ryan Sill on Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town? Doubtful. Couple his sweet-as-a-red-wrapped-hershey-kiss voice with Anicka Pathammavong's finger-snappin' jazzy arrangement and you've got all the Christmas joy you need right here. Stuff this track in everyone's stocking.

Next up: are we still listening to Exit 245 or have the Beach Boys jumped in for Little Saint Nick? Love the delicate high vocals here and spirit of a time gone by. 

The low voice-high voice baton passing in White Christmas is exquisite with its contrasting colors. John Powers delivers the round bottom and (RARB's) Kyle Yampiro adds plenty of flourish at the top of his range. Too bad something curious happens in the last :35 with both the tuning and arrangement's direction. 

All I Want for Christmas Is You has excellent form, voice leading, and some pleasantly unexpected chord structures within its arrangement from Yampiro that gives all the voices a lot to dig into. 

Finally, the quick-clip tempo, warm background choir, and energy of Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays makes the song an ideal closer for our little end-of-the-year musical soiree. 

Yep, you'll enjoy this one. Give XMAS a spin on Christmas Day or wrap it up for a friend.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town 5
2 Little Saint Nick 4
3 White Christmas 4
4 All I Want for Christmas Is You 4
5 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays 4

As a fan of some of Exit 245's more rambunctious previous albums, I have to admit that I was curious how the group's XMAS EP would be. If you haven't checked it out yet, I highly recommend picking up a copy before the holiday season passes us by. The guys of Exit 245 put together a nice collection of five tracks that are decidedly charming.

The album starts with what is easily the strongest number: a jazzy, reharmonized version of Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town featuring a soulful solo from Ryan Sill. It might be my new favorite version of this song. Messing around with classics typically involves walking a fine line, but I think in this case the risks definitely paid off, so kudos to Anicka Pathammavong who provided the arrangement.

Luckily, Exit 245 doesn't get carried away with needing to reinvent every song on the album. All I Want for Christmas Is You has some snazzy chords added in a few spots, but most of the rest of the tracks are fairly straightforward takes on songs we all know. Little Saint Nick sounds like it could be straight off a Beach Boys record, and White Christmas is done in a gorgeous split lead provided by John Powers and Kyle Yampiro (a fellow reviewer here at RARB). Yampiro also provides two of the arrangements on the album (Little Saint Nick and All I Want for Christmas Is You).

Overall, I have no complaints about this release. The group blends beautifully, and the soloists are all well suited to their songs. The production quality is great as well, thanks to James Gammon Productions and diovoce. It's a wonderful collection of Christmas classics which I will definitely be glad to add to my holiday playlists.


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Ordering Information

XMAS can be downloaded via iTunes or purchased from the group's website. You can also listen to XMAS by following Exit 245 on Spotify.

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