What more can I say about the Indie/folk duo Unintended Strangers, comprised of Robert Griffin (U.S) and Chloe Danz (New Zealand) that hasn’t been said already? We know that they met over the internet by chance during November 2017, and that they’ve been composing, performing and releasing superlative music, without ever having met since then. Beautiful and contemplative, this is a musical collaboration that one comes across, once in a blue moon, and that one never tires of. Unintended Strangers, are such a talented duo that only seems to be getting better. Or rather, evolving, not getting better, since all their previous releases are just as excellent as the subsequent ones. There is such thoughtful lyricism, melody, and poignancy on their songs. A sense of melancholia pervades throughout their catalog, but of the uplifting, peace-in-occasional-solitude kind. Upon listening to Unintended Strangers, nature, the passage of time, the transient nature of relationships and our very existence comes to mind.
Now Unintended Strangers apply that sublime magical formula to 5 Christmas songs which will be released on an EP. The duo have decided to drop the songs, one per day from November 27 to Dec 1. The also smartly had kids draw up the cover art for each song, from which a winning artwork will be chosen on December 15, to represent the EP cover.
So what about the music? The caliber of songs are what you would expect from this kind of collection: From “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” to “December”, “Wintersong” and “Spirit of Christmas Past”. However the interpretations will delight and surprise.
Chloe and Robert both have wonderful voices independently and in harmony with each other. They are both also incredible musicians who make beautiful instrumental music that accompanies their vocals perfectly. Currently there is no better Indie-Folk duo around in my opinion.
The only musical experience better than listening to any of Unintended Strangers recordings, including this one, is seeing them in live performance, which seems impossible for the moment. I don’t know what the exact order of the songs will be on the EP, but as soon as I pressed play on “Jingle Bells”, the clichéd phrase “this is a hard act to follow”, just swooped into my mind.
All of the duo’s personal and intimate characteristics were indelibly stamped on the song. Gone was the up-tempo bluster and bombast, in its place a magical kind of melancholy beauty. The harmony between the two is captivating and eminently listenable; it’s easy to detect the seamless teamwork and understand why Unintended Strangers are so captivating.
Theirs is a crystalline clear sound like the oscillating snowflakes in a hushed forest. “Silent Night” is quiet and simple in structure, with a dominant piano and two voices in a style that steadily builds somewhere between soul, gospel and folk. Yet, it has a sneaky, deceptive emotional power which could bring you to your knees.
Unintended Strangers’ rendition of “December” – a track you might have heard performed by Norah Jones – is as striking and eloquent as you’re expect it to be. Chloe Danz is just such a phenomenal singer, she is never in awe of anyone who might have performed a song before her.
Together Chloe and Robert know how these songs should be restructured, where to put the spaces, where to build, and where to change the dynamics. The confirmation of this statement comes when the duo interpret “Wintersong” – a track originally co-written and performed by the immense talents of Sarah McLachlan. Once again Unintended Strangers show immense patience in their work, never rushing towards a note, or overstepping any narrative bounds. The spaces are purposeful, the sounds connoting spirituality.
“Spirit of Christmas Past” is yet another glorious interpretation, of a song made famous by Enya. Unintended Strangers impose their own personal style and elevate the composition to transcendental heights. For all we know, perhaps certain magic occurred during the recording where Robert Griffin and Chloe Danz were just telepathically in sync.
Unintended Strangers have successfully mastered the art of long-distance partnership. Partly because they’re seasoned instrumentalists and singers, and partly because, they’re obviously so open and honest with one another – and, therefore, their listeners. That’s the real spirit of Christmas!