Monday, December 12, 2011

Holidays Are Here Again


Local Icicles: A Special Rock Hop Holiday Release

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It’s that time of year when the “nice” contingent of Bay Area musicians comes out with holiday albums (good luck getting Ty Segall to put out Goodbye Gingerbread). So here’s arguably the movement’s four most famous members doing a holiday EP. These musicians clearly understand what makes good holiday music, and there are few moments here that dip into typical holiday-turkey territory. Finish Ticket’s version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has Brendan Hoye slurring as if drunk off a bit too much eggnog (or love?) over a background that could have been penned by AB & the Sea; Please Do Not Fight’s “It Never Snows In San Francisco” features some fine guitarwork but some less-than-convincing exhortations of holiday cheer from Zen Zenith; Rin Tin Tiger keep it simple with a 94-second “Let It Snow”; and Picture Atlantic throw a curveball with a cover of one of Nick Drake’s saddest and most beautiful songs, “Place To Be,” which somehow leads into “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” The main flaw here is that this is not a very cheerful album. Strangely, Zen Zenith does not make the best Santa, and why Picture Atlantic decided to cover “Place To Be” is beyond me. “Let It Snow” is by far the most satisfying moment here, as expected from a band who released one of the best holiday albums I’ve ever heard as the Sullivan Brothers a few years--it’s warm, comfortable, catchy, and cozy, everything holiday music should be.


A Kinder Winter EP

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Here’s another member of the contingent. Brooke D.’s third EP of the year, the three-track A Kinder Winter, is mostly acapella with light percussion. “Hibernating” is a bit too heavy on the sleigh bells, but the vocals balance it out; the title track is almost a jazz ballad; “New Year’s Blues” is one of Brooke’s best tracks yet, a warm bath of lush self-harmonies that is ultimately more tribal chant than blues. If the songs here are “wintery,” they do not evoke the meteorological aspects of the weather so much as the feeling of returning to a warm, quiet, and cozy home after being stuck out in the cold.

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