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The New Standards and Friends Holiday Show CD: A Review

6 Dec

First off, I have to admit that I’ve never actually been to a New Standards Holiday Show. Usually there’s always some other event that I’m taking photos at the same weekend. I do get to hear all the praise bestowed upon it from friends that attend and I admit a bit of jealousy. Sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get into the holiday mode, and it seems this annual show does the trick for most people.

This year 89.3 The Current put out a CD of some of the live tracks that have made up these prior shows. In lieu of attending, I thought I’d check this out and give you a taste before you run out and pick it up at The Electric Fetus.

Side Note: This year I missed the shows due to Beirut at First Avenue and Phantom Riot at the Triple Rock. Both were excellent decisions.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – The personification of what I expect from The New Standards. Horns, jazzy swing renditions for the vocals, piano, etc.

You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch – Of course, I still love the holiday classic version of this tune the best. This one has a sort of oddly creepy intro to get you in the mood, but with the mix of male and female vocals I’m not sure I can get behind it – not that it’s not well done, but I hold onto the past tightly here.

River – A gorgeous rendition of Joni Mitchell’s tune by Haley Bonar. The band sounds tight and lend a nice airy attitude to this tune.

Miracles – The vibes on this one really get me. The musical blend here is perfect on this Jeremy Messersmith tune. Jeremy’s vocals along with the soft vibes and slide guitar work smoothly together and gives me some goose bumps.

Silver BellsDan Wilson. A no-brainer on my end. He sings, I swoon, the end.

Father Christmas – With Gary Louris – a nice rockin’ song to pick up the mood and the pace on the album. Sort of depressing lyrics, but the bounce is really great.

Stealing Sugar from the Castle – Gotta tell you I’m not a fan of Robert Bly, who reads on this track, BUT I really enjoy this one. The sounds accompanying his reading are beautiful and carry a wintery vibe with them, enhancing the words emitted.

Snow Days – Well, it’s Matt Wilson this go round and one of my go-to winter songs. Too biased here again.

Toxic – If it was just the music, that’d be one thing, but I can’t get behind vocals on this rendition. I much prefer the James Buckley Trio‘s instrumental version.

I Want You To Want Me – Huh. I love John Munson‘s vocals here, but really miss the guitar. It’s just soooo mellow. I need some rock and roll to kick it out. However, the vibe solo about 2/3 of the way through is AMAZING. Makes this track totally worth it. Well, that and Prudence Johnson‘s guest vocals.

Walking in the Air – A more traditional seeming winter song with Chris Koza. It really puts me in a solitary mood. I can see listening to this on repeat while curled in a blanket or walking down the street in a drifting snow.

Love is the Law – A much more relaxed and acoustic-y version of this Suburbs classic. The Brothers Frantzich guest on this one, adding some nice harmonies and keeping things tight and toned.

Lullaby – Gary Louris and Dan Wilson singing one of my ultimate favorite Dan Wilson songs. I am now curled in a ball under my desk swaying in time and almost crying. “How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough?”

Do You Realize? – I actually heard this on The Current as I was waking up this morning and it made me confused. This song is one which I cherish for its sentiment, and I don’t know how to feel about it remade with vibes and piano… and then I listened to the entire song and figured out I really enjoyed it. Not that I’d necessarily choose this version over The Flaming Lips, but there’s a time and a place for this one too. Also, those trumpets around the 2 minute mark? Swoon.

Rattle My Bones – The intro whistle made me wait for the marching band to join in… and there are the drums! Batucada do Norte is credited on this track and I admit I had to do a search to find out who that was. Apparently it’s a super rad Brazilian percussion band from the Twin Cities. This track is full of life and give another needed kick to the CD. The drum performance at the end of the track is brilliant.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Kind of the sing along last song… classic New Standards with the crowd adoringly singing along a bit.

So, is it worth picking up? Yes. If you like your Christmas music without a lot of Christmas music, or if you like reworkings of old favorites, it’ll definitely be your bag. Mom and dad will enjoy it too with it’s throwback sounds.

Lullaby from The New Standards on Vimeo.

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