For a moody Christmas:
* * * *
The blues has been hard to get right since the birth of rock. Latter-day artists working in the style either lean towards amplified crunch or old-timey cornfield charm. And as woefully inaccurate it would be to pigeonhole “Parched Dry” as Handshake’s attempt at a blues song, the foundation of this new jam is firmly rooted in prewar sharecropper blues. The moody acoustic guitars, Devin Clary’s dusty drawl, and some of the best non-emo handclaps I’ve heard in a long time definitely give it that wheezy old cottage feel. But at the same time it’s packed with curious little touches that give it an almost unearthly and ghostly--hard-edged rhythm guitars, horns (which Clary described to me as a “little surprise :D”), ominous bells, and other oddities rattle around in the background like ghosts in a haunted shack. The most striking thing of all, however, is Clary’s edgy but vulnerable vocals--especially the wounded vocalizations at the end, which leave the listener ambiguous to whether he is stretching his hands out to an unseen hope or simply giving out. Not a Christmas single.
For a nostalgic Christmas:
AB & THE SEA (feat. THE SHE’S)
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”
AB & the Sea, the Bay Area’s indie heartthrobs supreme, collaborating with the SHE’s on one of the most beloved holiday rock songs of all time--what could be better? Well, maybe not the Stormtroopers Of Death version, but as far as covers of this tune go, this one does not rank among the better versions. AB & the Sea are unremarkable--they sound strangely unmotivated, and a lackluster organ solo and a strained vocal delivery affect their performance heavily. But the SHE’s shine brightest on this tune, delivering hot-cocoa girl-group vocals on the chorus.
For a jolly Christmas:
RATHERBRIGHT (feat. Takumi Nakagawa)
“It Never Snows In San Francisco”
* * *
Even TNAK, the ironic angry-suburban-kid MC at the mike of Hundred Grand Brand, can get into the spirit sometimes. Here, he joins his HGB-mate James Wenzel on one of the best non-weed-oriented SF-themed carols of the season. If “It Never Snows In San Francisco” sounds like something off a Target compilation, it’s deliberate--this is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable Christmas tune, and it is. And yes, it sounds a lot like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”