Updated: Mar 30
This Christmas, being away from home, I had to find more creative ways of entertaining myself. This album has been responsible for me having a perhaps not merry, but most definitely content Christmas this year. Although I’ve only just discovered it, A Christmas Album was released in 2002 by Saddle Creek records by one of my favorite bands, Bright Eyes. It was also released on 180-gram white vinyl in 2009. The album is arranged by the phenomenal Bright Eyes pair Conor Oberst and Maria Taylor.
Bright Eyes has had a long lifetime by music industry standards. Most people don’t get this from the first impression. The band was founded in the Omaha indie scene by front-man, lead guitarist, and songwriter Conor Oberst in 1995. Saddle Creek is also founded by Oberst. The familiar collaborators appearing on this album include Mike Mogis on steel and electric guitar (among other instruments) and Nate Walcott on the organ and accordion. But the line-up includes many other performers.
The Night Before Christmas stands out as one of the most hair-raising Christmas tracks of my entire life. It’s beautifully spoken and flirts merrily with the imagination. Blue Christmas and God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen are good examples of this album's tenacity to put a special twist on otherwise mundane carols. And I have never heard the Little Drummer Boy rendered in such a sweetly alternative way. The drum section is tense and delightfully unpredictable in this stretched interpretation.
Although the album was not particularly well received by my suburban acquaintances on this corner, as a die-hard indie listener, I’m extremely impressed. It won’t give you a jolly feeling; in fact, if you’re susceptible you might end up wanting to slit your wrists. But you will appreciate it if you want something authentic. The melancholic pace is just an extension of the band's style and offers a daring albeit unnecessary commentary on the superficial nature of Christmas celebratory rituals.