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.
Local psych-rock outfit Horse Thief’s first album, “Grow Deep, Grow
Wild,” blasts open with a Gothic church organ undercut by some very
subtle guitar scratching for texture.
Singer and ACM@UCO student Cameron Neal’s voice soon joins the mix, completing the band’s go-to sound as some bizarre, wonderful, northwest-by-way-of-The Cure alt-rock act.
But if bands like Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper write tunes that qualify as pastoral, then Horse Thief’s are best described as primal, full of lurking beasts and dark forests, as literal as they are metaphoric.
The group doesn’t shy away from writing long, murky songs that avoid easy classification. “Colors,” the aforementioned first track, is the longest, ringing up just shy of seven minutes’ worth of synth and vocal melodies buried within dense layers of organ and guitar. One moment, Neal’s mumbling about people not understanding him; the next, he’s singing about the sky, full-throated and languorous like Robert Smith.
It’s an awesome track, and the album’s remaining nine follow a similar blueprint, ranging from the marching dirge “Ann Walter” to a song about being a bear (“I Am the Bear”) a more subdued number about being a magician, titled — wait for it — “I Am the Magician.”
The latter two serve as great metaphors, but with such freaky music, one has to consider if Horse Thief really is a band of odd creatures. —Matt Carney