Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Record Store Day (RSD) has become an audiophile’s Christmas since its inception in 2008, celebrating independently owned record stores with exclusive titles and limited-edition releases from everyone from The Beatles to Arcade Fire.
The resemblance is eerie at first: Rami Vierula’s easy-going, high-pitched keen echoes Gibbard’s, while the band’s dreamy soundscapes within indie-pop structures call up comparisons to both “The Photo Album” and “Codes and Keys.”
But the aesthetic distance that Pitchfork blasted in their review of “Codes” and I noted in passing is not present here. These songs sound grounded and intimate, despite their tightly constructed arrangements. Delay Trees’ greatest accomplishment is the fact that the appealing little cottage somehow contains a mansion inside it without losing the perks of either.
It helps that the melodies are immediate and Velcro-lined. The group bakes the cake and then melts candy bars on top of it. “About Brothers” has a beautiful “whoa-oh” section that is only trumped by the shiver-inducing one in “Tarantula/Holding On.” You know when bands try to force epic things into otherwise normal songs? That’s not what Delay Trees is about. They painstakingly build their tunes, and the payoffs are all the more great because of it (“Whales and Colors,” “In February”).
But they pass the pop-song test as well: I woke up this morning with the verse melody from “Cassette 2012” in my head. It’s an incredibly pleasant way to wake up.
Delay Trees has constructed a beautiful album that should not be missed by those who love indie pop or the mellowed side of indie rock. I foresee myself spinning this many more times this year, as it is at least equal, if not better than Death Cab’s latest. —Stephen Carradini