Happy first weekend of December, you guys! Not to sound like the oldest man alive but can you believe it’s December already?!? This time of year is always an action-packed exciting time for me, but this year has felt a bit stuck in overdrive. I’m looking forward to slamming it into park somewhere around the week of Christmas and I hope you all have equally chilled plans to look forward to as well. Until then, soldier on with me, won’t you? Last week’s recommendations were overflowing with Christmasy goodness, so this week I cut the yule log in half just to keep things on the up and up for any potential naysayers in the bunch. So, if you can’t get enough of the holiday harmonies, Smalltown Poets and Fiction Family have got you covered. However, if you’ve already had enough of both the holly and the jolly, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors’ Good Light is calling your name. Just for kicks, I also threw some classic American Renaissance literature from Melville into the mix because we keep it classy like that around these parts.
With the generous offering of Good Light in its entirety, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors are giving away a stunning stocking stuffer that’s only available through Christmas. On its own merits, Good Light was unquestionably one of the best roots-based rock records released last year. However, for those not familiar with the band, it also functions as a perfect introduction in the lead-up to their next album, Medicine (out January 27, 2015). Sample the Americana slink of the title track, the slow burn build of “Another Man’s Shoes,” or the wistful yearning of “Tennessee” and you’ll hear why Good Light has been buzzed about so much and why so many fans are excitedly awaiting the release of Medicine.
The season so nice they released an album about it twice… Last month Smalltown Poets followed up on their 2011 Smalltown Poets Christmas album with the release of their second holiday offering, Christmas Time Again. While I highly recommend adding both albums to your collection, their amped-up version of “The Wassail Song” available here on NoiseTrade also does the job of showcasing their tasteful mix of nostalgia and now, as they add their own unique sonic layers to the familiar song foundations you’ve known for years. For me, this specific song will forever and always bring to mind claymation dinosaurs arguing about waffling, waddling, and wallowing, but Smalltown Poets certainly do a great job of making this version their own and they (thankfully) steer clear of the trap of yuletide sameness.
While the Holiday EP initially functioned as a bit of a sneak preview for Fiction Family Reunion (the sophomore album from the side project of Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek), it also contained a fantastic Christmas original that has found its way onto many of my holiday playlists over the last year or two. “I Don’t Need No Santa Clause” is a fun, sentimental ditty, landing somewhere between a jaunty bluegrass number and a nostalgic classic Christmas song of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Plus, the lyrics are jam-packed with holiday references of mistletoe, jingle bells, sugar plums, off-key carolers, Rudolph, Ebenezer, Bing, and Elvis. Along with the seasonal song and the album previews, Holiday also contains two exclusive tracks: “Don’t Say You Love Me” and “My Forgetful Baby.”
If you’re one of those folks who always says “I need a good book to read over the holidays,” then have I got a keeper for you! While Herman Melville is mostly known for writing a little book titled Moby Dick, he also had a few other stories-at-sea tucked away in his storytelling pen. Billy Budd is not only Melville’s return to lengthy novel-writing after a three-decades long hiatus of only poetry and short stories, but it was also what he was working on at the time of his death. Although never given the author’s “final approval,” enough of the enthralling story was completed for it to have been posthumously published 30 years after Melville’s death. Billy Budd is an adventurous and emotional read without a pretty bow ending, a combination that usually makes for the best kind of reading experience.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t wondering what can you get a Wookiee for Christmas when he already owns a comb, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack