It’s easy to want to dismiss Jars of Clay’s Christmas Songs because, really, the world probably doesn’t need another “boys with guitars play Christmas songs” album. That they haven’t done it to date (aside from an early EP) in their ten-year career, however, might indicate that they were waiting for the right time, when they had enough quality originals and covers to put out something wonderful. Indeed, Christmas Songs is a wonderful little album, with a version of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” that miraculously doesn’t make you want to bang your head against a wall until it bleeds, and a perfectly majestic original called “Peace Is Here”, which sounds like something Lennon might have written were he still around. The crowning achievement here is an electronic take on the standard “O Little Town of Bethlehem” which changes the melody entirely, in the process re-establishing the solemnity and quiet majesty of the song. It’s hard to say that Christmas Songs will be remembered for years from now, but for right now, it’s refuge from the bombast of the season, a perfectly subtle slice of Heaven.
// Notes from the Road
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