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.
Naming your band Jackie-O Motherfucker is the titling equivalent of
purchasing a license to record whatever the hell music you want, as far
as I and the Americana-experimentin’ Portland indie collective are
They’re kindred spirits to Waka Flocka Flame in that sense. And that sense only.
But enough teasing about Jackie-O’s name. Let’s tease them for recording a patience-trying album.
“Earth Sound System” contains a pair of tracks — one exactly seven minutes and eight seconds in length, and one sitting right at nine and a half — that might not even be music. They’re titled “Raga Joining” and “Raga Separating,” respectively, and are both experimental droners that don’t sound anything like … well, anything, really. They sound like what your typical layperson probably thought the inside of computers sounded like in 1987: lots of offbeat clicks and whirrs, and percussion instruments that bands often think are really funny.
The album marks a pretty stark difference from 1995 when the collective — it’s hard to call them a band when they’ve had more than 40 members over the years, only one of them constant — started out as a freeform jazz outfit. Their sound’s pretty clearly evolved into a rustic, psych-folk-type thing. Lots of finger-picking on the guitar that nicely comfits around Tom Greenwood’s dreary singing, which is basically an earthier, less-British take on Jason Pierce of Spiritualized. It’s lovely and comforting, like a big, sloppy St. Bernard licking at your face.
With this formula, “In the Willows” and “Dedication” both redeem the album’s title, but not “Earth Sound System” as a whole. It’s too spaced-out to be saved. —Matt Carney