Pauline Frechette – Winter Romance – EP Review
You know what I love about great instrumental music? You remember it as strongly as any song with lyrics and a memorable hook to guide you along.
I certainly remember Pauline Frechette – I believe this is the sixth time we’ve reviewed her music in some form over the past three years or so, including earlier on in 2018 with the release of her previous EP, Follow My Heart. So in truth, it’d be tough to forget someone when you’re listening to them so often, right?
But it runs deeper than that.
When the first track “A Quiet Walk In The Snow (Christmas Version)” began, I instantly knew that I knew that song…that I had heard something like it from Pauline in the past. Keep in mind, as much as I’d love to start each review I write with a healthy re-listening to an artist or band’s entire catalog – but it’s just not even close to a possibility…so I rely on my ears & memory for the majority of what I do. And yes – I get it, there’s a hint in the title that also implies there’s at least another version…but I wasn’t relying on sight or clues that I could see, I was just listening. It might have been two years since I last heard the original version of “A Quiet Walk In The Snow,” which was released back in 2016 – but I was able to instantly recall this powerfully haunting & beautiful song to my mind as I heard it again, even with its new Christmas coating. I thought it was a remarkable song back then – I still feel the same way about it now – it’s absolutely immaculate to listen to and its mysterious melody pulls you right in close to do so. Main point being, it’s identifiable – my ears alone recognized this song long before my eyes confirmed it – and that my friends, is exactly when you know that an instrumental artist really has what it takes. Is “A Quiet Walk In The Snow” any more Christmassy than it was before in its original form? Maybe/maybe-not…there would probably be some debate on that. It’s full of crystalline sound and an ice-like, snowy atmosphere…so on that front, I’d get it…but I feel like I could definitely listen to this song at any point in the year happily and I’m not so sure I ever really associated a Christmas feeling with it. Designed for the season or not – regardless, it remains an incredible composition to be proud of.
Finally! Someone that can prove I’m not entirely made of stone! Though I’m normally pretty resistant to Christmas tunes, it’s largely because most bands & artists handle them all the exact same way year after year – but listen to what Frechette’s doing on “Winter Wonderful,” which is a fusion of “Deck The Halls,” (maybe “Jingle Bells” too? I think so…I’ve gone back & forth on this for hours lol) and her own ideas. I’ll say this…I know what the majority of people are probably gonna love most, which is hearing those comforting & recognizable Christmas anthems breaking through along the way – those moments are definitely easily to connect to. But for me, it was truly just about everything else surrounding those parts that tied this song together that had me absolutely fascinated with “Winter Wonderful.” The charming way this piano floats so dreamily and flows so smoothly with such impressive tone throughout this song is 100% enticing to the ears – and the strings accompanying her in the background play an essential role as well by adding their uplifting energy & sound into the mix. Best way I can put it is that this song audibly sounds like what Christmas morning feels like…everything about this entire tune is brilliantly vibrant, alive, and highly inviting. If somehow all Christmas tunes came from Pauline Frechette, then I tell ya, I’d be much, much less of a Grinch around the holiday season for sure.
“Starry Night” is spectacular, straight-up. At only 1:37 in length, no lie, I could have used a whole lot more of this, but I’m okay with pushing the repeat button for a while too when required. Each of these tunes are fairly short throughout the Winter Romance EP…so while you could push repeat on a track like this, it truly isn’t long before it comes back around again if you were to repeat the whole record, which I highly recommend that you DO. For myself personally, aside from loving & knowing the opening tune that I was familiar with already – I felt like “Starry Night” was unquestionably my favorite track on this record from Pauline Frechette. I fail to understand what anyone else could possibly want inside of a minute & thirty-seven seconds! This entire track is the audible definition of captivating – she plays this with such impressive confidence and professional control; the piano is exceptional and each subtle sound like chimes or strings that come in to join in completely complement the whole mesmerizing vibe that hangs suspended in the air. In many ways, I know this particular track is probably more the exception of sound on this EP than it is the rule – but this impressive deviation from the joyous vibes on either side of it really has a way of instantly grabbing your attention for all the right reasons. It’s gorgeous, it’s beautiful, it’s played to perfection – this would be right up there with my favorites of all-time by Pauline, I think she’s created a breathtaking moment on “Starry Night” that can’t be ignored.
Winter Romance continues with “Snowflakes,” breaking back towards a brighter sound after the darker melody that “Starry Night” revealed. It’s pleasant…I certainly have no issues with it and it’s just as welcome as the rest of this record truly is – I’ll admit that the contrast in energy & sound between “Starry Night” and “Snowflakes” is miles apart and takes a couple listens to appreciate that & each song individually, but it was definitely easy to come around to love this tune as well, just for different reasons. It’s always tough for that next song on a record after you find that cut you truly think is the defining track on an album or EP no matter who it’s made by…I suppose if anything that’s what made it a bit harder to instantly jump right into “Snowflakes,” because “Starry Night” really does take you right out of your world for a moment and puts you right under the sky to count the stars as you listen. All that being said, I think once you’ve gotten past the jolt back into the sweeter-side of Pauline’s music, you really start to dig just how much contrast exists within this one tune as well. It’s got its lighthearted attitude and tone – but “Snowflakes” also has significantly deeper moments that draw on that gift she has of being able to combine complex emotions like more curious sounds & mysterious melody into these compositions as well. The more I had a chance to hear this song, the more I liked it, and the more readily I accepted it each time it came around after “Starry Night” – “Snowflakes” has a whole host of reasons to love it from its innovative structure being so engaging within such a short timeframe to the exquisite production that enhances both its playful energy and its more emotional moments perfectly. Like those spots around forty-five seconds in and around the 1:25 mark right before this tune ends – those are seriously STUNNING spots in “Snowflakes” that melt gorgeously & sweetly into this song.
“Diamonds” starts with a beautifully graceful & sincere melody that connects right to the heart as it begins, growing bolder as Frechette plays her piano and flows flawlessly through the layers of emotions and angelic sound we hear within this tune. “Diamonds” has the slight advantage of a few more seconds than some of the rest, but just like the rest of the tracks on the Winter Romance EP, it’s still a short moment in time at just barely over two-minutes long. Pacing and space play a large role in this particular track…another sign of a great player & great writing is that professional restraint & knowing that what’s not being played is often just as important as what IS – and Pauline proves she’s got an incredible understanding of that relationship between space & sound on “Diamonds. It’s not quite “Starry Night” for me – but it’s seriously close…I think the way that Pauline plays this song is a complete confirmation to the ears of anyone listening that she’s one of those artists that are more than talented…that this is more than just a pure passion…that making music is truly what she was born to do with her life. I think you get a bit of extra drama, a bit of added story, a bit more to this composition in its complex layers of emotion diving deep here on “Diamonds” – and I think that for many out there, there’s a great chance this would be the highlight of the EP for you…though I honestly believe any of the tunes on Winter Romance would make for a great candidate for that top honor. The excellent balance in this EP from beginning to end really makes this whole experience highly repeatable and relentlessly enjoyable; when you realize how short it is every couple of spins, it’ll almost have you shaking your head in disbelief that Pauline was able to do so much and take you so many places within so little time.
Tracks like “The Glass Waltz” do a lot to speak on behalf of Pauline’s technique and stunningly charismatic style at her best, playing with timing, tempo, and pace along this short ninety-second adventure. It’s an entire series of curious & playful hops from chord to chord & note to note, serving wonderfully to lighten the mood of the EP’s final moments and leave you with a character-filled performance that puts her talent & style directly in the spotlight one last time before it ends. I like that “The Glass Waltz” kind of stumbles and surges along in such a controlled but wild way…almost as if you could completely imagine this tune becoming the soundtrack for an old Chaplin flick of some kind – it’s endearing. Of course, that could certainly be said about much of Pauline’s music – I’m always impressed by just how well she can reach me after being so regularly subjected to Rock & Rap & Metal etc. at these pages all the time, but each time I’ve ever had a chance to listen to what she’s got goin’ on next, it’s always undeniably time well spent and filled with beautiful musicianship & imaginative compositions. Winter Romance is no exception to that high standard she’s set in the past, Pauline Frechette is dialed right in to her style & sound, beautifully putting technique, tone, and talent right in the spotlight & speakers for all to enjoy on another job incredibly well done from beginning to end.
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