If you've tuned into the Current at all this week, there's a good chance you've heard about this weekend's back-to-back New Standards Holiday Shows at the Fitzgerald Theater, the group's annual star-studded performances of jazz-inspired covers and holiday sing-alongs. This year, in honor of their fifth anniversary of hosting gigs, they're also releasing a New Standards & Friends Holiday Show album featuring an array of special guests.
I'm probably alone in this assessment -- especially given the fact that the record store shelves seem to be flooded with them at this time of year -- but I usually find holiday-themed albums to be pretty tedious affairs. With only a few exceptions (Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart
, Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas
, and, yes, the Charlie Brown Christmas
soundtrack), I generally find these collections to be hastily glued-together marketing maneuvers meant to be listened to once or twice and then stowed away for the rest of the year.
But the New Standards disc is different. Not only is it light on actual Christmas carols, instead favoring a lot covers made wintry-sounding by vibraphonist Steve Roehm's twinkling accompaniments. The slew of special guest singers, too, helps the disc from sounding stale or repetitive over its 16 tracks; Haley Bonar's cover of Joni Mitchell's "River," though ostensibly a Christmas-themed song, is poignant and sorrowful enough to make me want to get sad to it all year round. Gary Louris, Dan and Matt Wilson, Jeremy Messersmith, and Chris Koza are just some of the additional singers that make appearances.
A cover of Britney Spear's "Toxic" midway through the disc also helps to lend it some levity -- though I really don't mind getting a little watery-eyed and nostalgic at this time of year, so the more bittersweet "Love is the Law" (a classic from pianist Chan Poling's band the Suburbs) and "Snow Days" (by bassist John Munson's band Trip Shakespeare) end up being among my favorites. And then there's the Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" Oh! To be a little bit introspective and melancholy at this time of year is a wonderful thing.
Snow Days from The New Standards on Vimeo.