Music

Various Artists: Maybe This Christmas, Too

Andrew Gilstrap

Various Artists

Maybe This Christmas, Too

Label: Nettwerk
US Release Date: 2003-11-04
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Maybe This Christmas, Too marks the second entry in Nettwerk's series of Christmas compilations, and like its predecessor, it's a nice little package. For the most part, it naturally consists of Nettwerk artists, but that's a pretty strong stable of talent to choose from. Some of the bigger names like Sarah MacLachlan don't make an appearance, but there's enough quality here that her absence isn't really a problem.

Rufus Wainwright kicks things off with "Spotlight on Christmas", a perfect example of his meticulous toyshop brand of pop. Spry and acoustic-based, it's a clever piece of class-conscious commentary that, in the end, simply advises everyone to "put the measuring away 'cause it's Christmas". Newcomers Eisley follow up with "The Winter Song", which does a fairly good job of evoking a quiet walk on a winter evening (sister Sherri and Stacy Dupree can oversing at times, but it'll be interesting to see what they do in the future with their soaring harmonies.

One of the stranger tracks is the rendition of "O Holy Night" by Avril Lavigne and Chantal Kreviazuk. To be honest, I listened to this one just waiting for Lavigne to screw things up; apart from a couple of bum notes, though, she acquits herself fairly well. She's not in the same league vocally as Kreviazuk, but she's not Cartman from South Park, either.

Maybe This Christmas, Too takes a bit of a downer turn with the lovely "Silent Night" courtesy of Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan. This moody rewrite graced Rice's O as a hidden track and it's a far cry from the uplifting carol that we all know. "Silent night, broken night . . . I've found some hate for you", sings Hannigan a cappella, concluding "I should be stronger than weeping alone / You should be weaker than sending me home". At just under two minutes, it's short but incredibly potent, and a good lead-in to Rilo Kiley's "Xmas Cake", which uses jazzy guitar chords and a piano-led wintery feel to tell a frosty tale of poverty and interpersonal conflict ("the cold war is on between you and me").

Guster provide a bit of respite in the form of "Donde Esta Santa Claus", complete with castanets, bouncing rhythm, and silky backing vocals. The song's goofy charm provides a light-hearted breather before the Be Good Tanyas trill their way through "Rudy", a pretty tale of "Rudolf the red-nosed wino" and his struggles to survive. By now, you're probably thinking that Maybe This Christmas, Too comes cloaked in a black cover to match anything Spinal Tap ever imagined; to be sure, the subject matter is a far cry from tales of sugarplums and presents under the tree. Part of the holiday season, though, is reflecting on not only your own fortunes, but the relative misfortunes that might have befallen others. To that end, Maybe This Christmas, Too does a fine job of representing the less than stellar aspects of a wintry, commercialized holiday like Christmas.

The compilation takes a turn, though, with the Dave Matthews Band's "Christmas Song". Delicately played, this gentle apocryphal tale of Jesus's life seems to center on one message: "love, love, love". It's a nice lead-in to Oh Susanna's organ-tinged, gospel rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain". Suzie Ungerleider, the one-woman force behind Oh Susanna, is criminally obscure despite several records of incredibly strong songs, but her clear, strong voice is a perfect match for this song.

Barenaked Ladies, as they're known to do, bring humor back to the record with "Green Christmas", a tongue-in-cheek cut about experiencing Christmas from a location that never receives any snow. From here, the disc doesn't become a comedy showcase, but things do close out on a relatively lighthearted note. Martina Sorbara's "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" possesses a vampish, bluesy feel, while Badly Drawn Boy's "Donna & Blitzen" features bouncy vintage rock piano and backing vocals straight out of an Eels song. Personal preference probably dictates whether the Flaming Lips' rendition of "White Christmas" is funny or depressing, but it's definitely unique. The disc's final cut, a rendition by Sixpence None the Richer of "It Came upon a Midnight Clear" that is surprisingly insistent and inspiring, closes out a Christmas compilation that's more enjoyable than most records of its type. It doesn't get too schmaltzy (it's even irreverent in spots) and it doesn't lean too much in the direction of either candy-coated glee or icy depression. This mix feels just about right.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image