I Denna Natt Blir Världen Ny: Jul I Betlehem II

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A follow-up to 2000s Jul I Betlehem, I Denna Natt Blir Världen Ny: Jul I Betlehem II consists of 14 minimalistic blends of new age and adult contemporary music similar in effect to a Swedish take on Enya or the more recent work by idiosyncratic Canadian singer/songwriter Jane Siberry. While there is much original material here, a few tracks, such as "Stilla Natt" and "Vid Betlehem en Vinternatt," are familiar carols sung in Carola's native Swedish. (The latter is "The First Noel," while the former should be obvious.) Set to arrangements consisting of little more than ghostly synthesizers or, on occasion, jazzy fretless bass and brushed drums, as on "Ett Barn Ar Fott Pa Denna Dag," this is a deliberately quiet record often more suitable for background atmosphere than active listening. But unlike many similar records, Carola invests these songs with dramatic tension through her skillful vocals and clever arrangement tricks like the dramatic Spanish guitar flourishes that decorate the still, beautiful "Mariavisa." Those potentially put off by the Swedish lyrics have English-language takes on the gospel standards "This Child" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain," the latter given an incongruous bluesy arrangement that doesn't quite fit with the Nordic chill of the rest of the album. That misstep aside, I Denna Natt Blir Världen Ny: Jul I Betlehem II is a better than average Christmas album that largely steers clear of the usual holiday clichés.

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