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.
You’ve got to admire what they’re up to in the north Midwest these days.
That Bon Iver/Gayngs/Megafaun collective is probably the best non-Aaron
Rodgers thing to happen to Wisconsin in forever.
Winning an NFL Championship (last season) and a couple Grammys (for Bon Iver) probably has a lot of those folks high on life, which could possibly also explain why they’re so unafraid to strike out in weird sonic directions.
Enter Channy Leaneagh (formerly Casselle). Previously fronting Minneapolis folk ensemble Roma di Luna, her new vehicle, Poliça, sounds like she really loved her time spent soft-rocking ’80s Auto-Tune jams with the 20-something-member Gayngs.
“Give You the Ghost” is the product of her and producer Ryan Olson, who seems to bring all the weird, twitchy synthetic sounds here, backing Leneagh’s transition to ethereal R&B performer. Whether or not you dive into this batch of electrified goo hinges mostly on your tolerance for Auto-Tuned vocals. Here’s a little litmus test: If you thought “Bon Iver” could’ve really used more of that stuff, Poliça may just be for you.
If not (I’m definitely in this camp), then “Give You The Ghost” proves a provocative, if difficult 45 minutes. Single “Lay Your Cards Out” is the most compelling of the bunch, but too many of these tracks are stretched thin by hazy synths and similarly out-there vocal work that’s really strangely textured.
While Leneagh’s lyrics seem more immediate and pressing than Justin Vernon’s, I think that works against her in this format. Her songs’ sentiments are more clearly articulated (see: “Happy Be Fine,” “I See My Mother”) and easier to understand, locating themselves in the front of the listener’s brain instead of the deep distance of shadowy memory where “Perth” or “Calgary” reside.
“Ghost” could’ve definitely benefited from an extra dance track or two, like the final track, “Leading to Death,” which is way too groovy to actually be about death. Poliça might experience some success if they were to back into synthy indie-pop, considering the great demand for that stuff nowadays (see: Foster the People), but I’m not too interested by this project.