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 Flaming Lips’ latest cover album, Playing Hide and Seek with the
Ghosts of Dawn, is a song-by-song remake of King Crimson’s 1969 classic,
In the Court of the Crimson King. Naturally, it’s only available on
hard-to-get, limited-edition colored vinyl.
Highly listenable, it’s an interesting take on prog-rock classics like “21st Century Schizoid Man,” adding the Lips’ patented fuzzy squawks and reverbed squeaks to songs only the geekiest of us know by heart.
That said, Ghosts is also a maddeningly frustrating disc for fans desperately wanting a return to the brilliant, pop-psych form of The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, where honest-to-goodness symphonies of emotion and meticulously crafted treaties of humanity beautifully — almost impossibly — merged into one cohesive, coherent, classic album.
With Ghosts, it’s becoming more obvious that Wayne Coyne and “fwends” (and by “fwends,” I mean four other bands that do most of the heavy lifting here) don’t seem interested in making traditional music as much as they just want to hit “record” and blast out noise-drenched sound collages with no point.
And that’s fine, I suppose. But it’s also important to realize that it’s quickly getting old and less adorably quirky.
Ghosts is not the metal-machine mess of Embryonic or Heady Fwends, but it still feels like tossed-off busy work — an overblown novelty from a band with too many fingers in too many pies, too many of which are not thoroughly baked.
I eagerly await their next full album, The Terror. We can’t give up hope just yet. And if the Lips have done one thing, it’s providing fans with hope. That’s why we keep coming back. —Louis Fowler