Killer or Filler?
What to get that music lover in your life? Well, iTunes gift cards are great but are grossly impersonal. Worse, they don’t allow you to impose your superior musical taste on your loved ones. So for your last-minute shopping pleasure, enjoy a sampling of some holiday-themed local recordings. And remember: If you don’t shop local, the terrorists win. — Anthony Mariani
Lindby’s Christmas on My Street
The novelty tune rules at Christmastime, and no one does serious musicianship in the key of cheeky like Lindby. The Arlington pop-rock quintet’s second holiday EP, Christmas on My Street (available for free download), may not be as tuneful as the first, Christmas with Lindby & Friends, but all of the band’s favorite genres — lounge-y jazz, synth pop, and souped-up indie-rock — are well represented, sending the Charm-O-Meter deep into the red (and green).
A horn-laced Steve-and-Edie-esque duet between keyboardist-singer Ali Grant and guest vocalist Larry g(EE), the title track is full of finger-snapping fabulosity that is utterly, undeniably infectious. Grant takes the same lyrics and spins them into a beautifully wistful confection called “Lights on a String” — her clear, rich, utterly sincere tones will raise gooseflesh in the best “Christmastime is here” kind of way.
A maddeningly catchy reworking of the Bach standard “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Moog keyboardist Nick Spurrier, “Jesu, Joy of Synth” gets an extra shot of merry from Logan Bowers’ quick-tumble drumwork.
Without breaking new territory, Christmas on My Street confirms that the season of musical joy and goodwill is a very Lindby time of year. — Jimmy Fowler
Randy Brooks’ Greatest Hits
You probably don’t need to hear another song by the Fort Worth guy who wrote “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” any more than you need to inhale another Santa-shaped sugar cookie, but what the hell, right? And like your “just one (or three) more” rule, if you listen to Randy Brooks’ Greatest Hits, you’ll likely find yourself hanging around until the last track. You might also get your fill of novelty songs but not because Brooks’ knack for catchy, wry jokes isn’t tasty.
Occasionally, Brooks’ pickin’ and a-grinnin’ hides a trenchant stream of sarcasm, like when he finds fault with fault-finding in “Blame the Japanese.” Another eyebrow-raising tune, “I’d Rather be Sailin’ (with Governor Palin),” might make you wonder if Brooks is aiming to join the blowhards at Fox News, but it’s all jokes: “With her Photoshopped body, she looks like a hottie / She’s nice, but she’s naughty, too.” A song like that makes you wonder how Brooks really feels about living in an era when popular humor has been reduced to goofy photos and run-on sentences written in Impact font. But then there’s the good-natured treacle of “Will You Be Ready at the Plate (When Jesus Throws the Ball)” that sort of defangs the whole thing, reminding you why you’re grateful that all of those excessive sweets come by only once a year. — Steve Steward
Sam Mason and Matt Jones’ Lonestar Christmas
Behold, a gift! Beneath the lamp upon my desk! A pretty-looking five-song EP called Lonestar Christmas by up-and-coming Fort Worth singer-songwriters Sam Mason and Matt “Songbird” Jones. The holiday spirit is so much upon me that I shall pretend I’m 10 years old and that each song is a gift I’m unwrapping on Christmas morning. (Just go with it, people.)
The first song/present is “Empty Tree (All I Want for Christmas)” — uh-oh, a pair of socks. The message is simple enough: A guy wants to chill with his sweetie rather than deal with holiday hoopla. But the lyrics are snowdrift (“You told me twice I want a new shirt / I’d like it on my body as we start to flirt”), and the repetitive melody could be from any stale-sounding country song.
Song No. 2: ka-ching! “Christmas Night” is the equivalent of a Case pocketknife. This swinging ditty is just what I was hoping for! The smooth vocal trade-offs are friendly and appealing, and it makes me feel happy. Thanks!
Next? “I’m Leaving Santa Lonestar (sic).” The countrified musical intro and opening line, sung with a wink — “Santa rides around giving gifts to all the kids” — telegraph this as a novelty song a la “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or “Merry Christmas from the Family.” The problem is that the lyrics aren’t funny and the shtick about leaving beer for Santa is chuckle-worthy maybe once. So it’s a three-minute joke with a middling punchline repeated numerous times. Geez, thanks for the fruitcake.
Present No. 4 infuses me with joy, gratitude, and good tidings. “The Day Our Savior Was Born” is that new bicycle I’ve always wanted. The song begins in a welcome minor key, immediately setting it apart from the first three, and offers gorgeous production, lyrics, vocals, ambiance, message, everything. The beat-heavy, almost ominous verses segue into soothing choruses with sweet harmonies. This track could be put on a mix tape with all the holiday classics and hold its own. Thank ya very much!
Well, one present left. And hey! “Fireside” is another bicycle! Again with the beautiful production and an acoustic guitar arrangement I could listen to all day.
Three great presents out of five ain’t bad. Merry Christmas, y’all. — Jeff Prince