The Living Sisters
On their gorgeous new album, Harmony Is Real: Songs for a Happy Holiday, The Living Sisters —Eleni Mandell, Becky Stark, Inara George and Alex Lilly— have created a musical gift so jubilant that it could make even Scrooge break out the eggnog.
The album’s 12 cuts feature the quartet’s sterling, four-part harmonies cascading over lilting melodies that celebrate all facets of the holidays from the naughty to the nice.
Recorded in Los Angeles, Harmony Is Real: Songs for a Happy Holiday consists of the Sisters’ shimmering arrangements of holiday classics, “Jingle Bells,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silver Bells,” as well as nine sprightly seasonal originals. “It wouldn’t be a real holiday record without a few standards,” says George. “But we all wanted to take a swing at writing some too.”
From the retro cover photo to the radiant harmonies, Harmony is Real is as comforting and warm as a winter fire’s glow. Even the new tunes have an instantly familiar sensation. “I wanted this record to already feel like it was part of people’s lives for a long time, before it even came out,” Lilly says. “We wanted the record to have both the weight and the festive kitschiness of a classic holiday record.”
Working with Grammy-winning producer Sheldon Gomberg, The Living Sisters recorded their vocals together live whenever possible. “It feels so good to sing together in harmony,” Stark says, adding that they strived for emotion over perfection. “We don’t sing perfectly but it’s like organic produce: it has spots on it, but it’s a more natural process.”
The album opens with “Harmony is Real,” an introductory tune written by Stark that serves as an angelic invitation to the quartet’s exquisite vocal blending. “Harmony is such a beautiful principle for any sacred time and holidays are our most sacred time,” Stark says. “That’s part of the fun of this record: that harmony is ideal and it’s real.”
The Sisters intentionally made an album that appeals to all people, not just those of a specific faith. Mandell’s charming “Neon Chinese Christmas Eve” celebrates the time-honored Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food over the holiday, while her jazzy “Hanukkah” heralds the Festival of Lights. “There are just not that many good Hanukkah songs,” Mandell says. “This isn’t a religious record and we are very inclusive; the song comes from a place of goodness and love.”
As does the entire album. Spreading good cheer was the goal, especially to those for whom the time of year brings sadness. “We’ve all experienced some of that melancholy for the holidays,” says Mandell. “We hope ‘Harmony is Real’ can help people be happy if their holidays are bad,” Stark adds. “A song can really lift your heart.” Even when it’s George’s deceptively upbeat “Merry Happy Christmas.” “The holidays can be really magical, but they can also bring out a real darkness in people,” George says. “Maybe I wanted to touch on that.”
Holiday spirits can’t help but be buoyed by Lilly and George’s jangly “Christmas In California,” which tips its hat to “The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album” and The Muppets’ version of the Beach Boys’ classic, “Little St. … Read More