Various Artists – The My Pal God Holiday Record, Vol. 2

Various Artists
The My Pal God Holiday Record, Vol. 2

It’s November now, officially, and it’s getting to be time to start thinking about Christmas. Some of you moan and scoff, but I’m a big fan of Christmas. In fact, just the other day I saw my first commercial for some multi-CD set of Christmas songs from all the classics. It put me in the mood instantly for snow and decorations and trees and all that good stuff.

I agree with My Pal God headman Jon Solomon: nothing sums up the feel of the holiday season quite as well as the music. Just hearing a Christmas song takes you back to your childhood, it evokes feelings of goodwill toward men, and it just makes you feel warm and happy. Regardless of how many times I’ve heard the same songs, I still relish those days of nothing but Christmas songs around the holidays. Granted, when I worked in retail throughout high school and college and heard these songs a million times a day, it wore on me. But I never got sick of hearing them.

What My Pal God has done on its second holiday record is pull together several unusual indie rock artists who perform both traditional Christmas songs with an entirely new twist and songs of their own devising. From the instrumental takes on Christmas classics to the ridiculously fun Christmas off-shoots, these songs are unique. They’re certainly not going to be my favorite holiday songs, but they’re a lot of fun to listen to to get me ready for the season.

Volume 2 of the My Pal God Holiday Record doesn’t have as many artists with as big of name recognition as the first volume, and it relies heavily on My Pal God’s roster, but you still get some real gems here. The first track, “Erotic Xmas [Home for the Holograms]” from Emperor Penguin, is a neat little retro-dance track, full of keyboards, distorted vocals, and plenty of sleighbells. In typical Emperor Penguin style, it defies all pigeonholing, but it’s a clever, cute little track. Things take a more traditional turn from there, with a nice bass-heavy indie rock track from the Joshua Falken Trio that I like quite a bit, especially the vocals.

Oxes have a silly little (I emphasize little) song called “100 Handshakes with President Christmas” that sounds like something your fifth grade class might put together. But it’s followed by the best track here, Neutrino’s “Island of Misfit Toys/Little Drummer Boy.” This intricate instrumental should be a classic, especially the way it combines the two holiday songs so perfectly, with stellar electric guitar, impressive drum work, and the feeling that the band was in the holiday spirit even if they recorded this in June. This album is worth getting for this track alone.

But we have other good stuff too. Pedal’s “On Xmas Day” is a nice, subdued, Idaho-like song. The French Kicks’ “Alabaster City” is a kind of fun, soulful rock song that possibly has something to do with Christmas but wouldn’t sound out of place on a regular album. “Christmas” from Camellia Lane” is a very nice little ditty that reminds me of something The Aisler’s Set might do.

I didn’t know Atombombpocketknife could do a song as slow and mellow as “Candycane,” but this song is quite somber and sparse and still very nice. In contrast, “Candy Your Cane” from The Beau Grumpus GoBEAUlins, an offshoot of The Goblins, sounds like something out of the 1950’s, very light and bouncy and slightly otherwordly, as you might expect. Del Ray’s “Nutcracker Overture/Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” is a pretty intense instrumental take on these two tracks, full of blazing electric guitars and high-power rhythms. I wouldn’t have known it without the title, but I like it.

Port Vale’s “The Snowman” is a bouncy, catchy, lo-fi sounding pop song. Then Rebecca Gates, formerly of The Spinanes, contributes a very lovely, moody song entitled “12.31” that’s full of Gates’ pretty vocals, soft piano, and light drumming, making this easily one of the best tracks here. And finally, Drums and Tuba use just those instruments for a startlingly precise and impressive version of “Auld Lange Syne.”

I actually wish there were a few more retakes on traditional Christmas songs here, but each song has its high points. And no one took the easy way out and just remade an old favorite. This is definitely an album worth having for any time of the year, let alone one to get you in the Christmas spirit.