Friday, December 09, 2011

Of Christmas Music, And Enduring Favourites

I'm keen on novelty Christmas collections. Ever since the Ultra-Lounge series came out, their Jingle-Bell-heavy selections are an inescapable element in my December playlist. Esquivel's Merry Xmas From The Space Age Bachelor Pad is also a frequent partner in aural crime. I'm even perverse enough to include the odd selection from Eban Schletter's Cosmic Christmas. This year to round out my collection I finally picked up Surfin' Christmas: 12 Yule Tide Classics by The Wave Benders, whose Dutch nationality only compounds the novelty of Dick Dale-style carolling. It's adroit, wipe-out free fun, and it works.

Closer in spirit and execution to Verve Remixed Christmas is this year's Santastic 6, marshaled together by beat-obsessed DJs still hip to the scene. Santastic 6 is a mixed bag of tricks, lacking the uber-polish of Verve's studio product, and striking the odd dud note (if you get the joke just reading the title, there's little point to listening to the entirety of “You're A Loser, Newt Gingrich”). But overall it's a raucous beat-heavy mash-up extravaganza. My personal favourites are Atom's “Wonderland Walker” (Peggy Lee vs Fats Domino vs Bjork), Danny J's mash-up of Danny Elfman and The Supremes, and Martinn's delirious “Blenda Ree” which pulls together Brenda Lee, Golden Earring, Bananarama and the Greenhill Dixieland Jazz Band.

Also, be sure to give Mojochronic's provocative “Merry Christmas 2U” a listen. He cuts and pastes elements from our largest stage-hungry pietists (U2 and MercyMe, for starters), producing a version of "Silent Night" and "Little Drummer Boy" that is surprisingly rousing. I thought his clincher, using the penultimate verse of Greg Lake's “I Believe In Father Christmas” as a benediction, struck me as weirdly flat-footed — a moment when the artist resorted to a sophomoric piety of his own. We all know people whose Christmas mode is to smile as they take the centre of the floor and announce, “It's nice we're all having fun, but let's not forget . . . ” In Mojochronic's case, he doesn't want us to forget It's all make-believe. Yeah, yeah: thanks Dad. Now can we get back to the fun?

With that one exception, these songs are meant to inject the not-unpleasant element of surprise into your Christmas Party Playlist (and if the final minute of “2U” bugs you like it did me, the issue is easily remedied using Audacity). I'm grateful to say, “Mission accomplished.”

Say, maybe next year these hepcats will put their grubby pawprints all over She & Him's Christmas offering, and transform it into something I'll actually play!

“The one thing I used to mourn,” writes txkimmers, in her Amazon review of Porcupine Tree's The Incident, "was the fact that I probably would never love a band the way I did the Beatles as a kid, or the Clash in high school, or Nirvana.” Man, do I love her review! It illustrates perfectly how the Amazon Customer Review (the sincere ones, of course: the snow-jobs are an art-form unto themselves) can trump the “pro” reviewers by taking full advantage of three key non-pro tactics: 1) compulsive re-editing, and additional, later thoughts that reinform the original piece; 2) brazen subjectivity; 3) an artful autobiographical prĂ©cis that puts it all into context.

I'm also in complete agreement with her about Porcupine Tree “bringing back that kind of rush.” Their Signify originally earned a mere “honourable mention” from me in January 2011, getting nudged out by Arcade Fire and Elizabeth Cook. But let me say this about that: Signify has been this year's most-played album by a very wide margin, out-lapping and out-lasting last year's “favourites” by an astronomical distance, and choking out all would-be contenders for this year's prize of place. And as I've slowly collected the more recent PT offerings, they have quickly joined Signify and jostled for occupancy at the front of the queue. Until I'm able to give this band the Bangsian logorrheic existential shout-out it so richly deserves, txkimmer's Amazon review will have to suffice.

1 comment:

DarkoV said...

"Bangsian logorrheic existential shout-out"...Woah! Thank God you have Canadian Health Care to take care of this seemingly grave issue. All in all, a fabulous post! Wholehearedly agree that She & Him's Christmas dud needs to be re-visited by elves next year to see if it's salvageable. I may have to hold on to my copy and sneak it into a kid's Halloween trick or treat bag. That way, when I give them a candy with the CD, I'll be treating AND tricking.