It’s holiday music time, y’all! Time for Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey, and this chart. Here’s what’s made its way into the Independent Clauses inbox this year.
1. Every Mother’s Child – 3 Songs for Christmas – Jonny Rodgers. So, I’ve been in love with everything Jonny Rodgers has done this year, and this is no change. These two traditional hymns and one Christmas song are all arranged in Rodgers’ delicate, intricate style: acoustic guitar, tuned wine glasses, and gentle vocals. The tuned wine glasses give the songs a serene, ethereal feel, which is absolutely what I look for in a Christmas song. Money from this release is going to Project Night Night, a non-profit that gives gifts to homeless children. This is wonderful all around.
2. Canticles by Cardiphonia. Canticles is not exactly a Christmas album, but an album that fits perfectly at Christmas. Cardiphonia is also not a group, per se, but a collection of songwriters* that get together to write songs for Christian worship in a folky milieu. Their latest album Canticles focuses on songs that are sung by people in the Bible. Obviously the music is all-new, but the words are old. The quality is consistently high through these 26 songs; I’m confident in telling you to pick anywhere in the album to start. My favorites are the upbeat indie-pop of “Arise, Shine, For Your Light Has Come (Isaiah 60:1-19),” the soaring “Alas! The Lord My Life is Gone (Jonah 2:2-9),” the Sufjan-esque “Arise and Look to the Skies (Isaiah 60:1-19),” and the beautiful female vocals and neat dobro guitar of the country-fied “For You Alone (Revelation 15:3-4).”
*I personally know about a half-dozen people who worked on or performed on this album.
3. Advent to Christmas by Page CXVI. My favorite hymn rewrite project does its take on Christmas. The piano-based trio turns out smooth, melodious versions of songs familiar (“Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”) and not so common (“Awake My Soul, Awake My Tongue,” “Comfort, Comfort Now My People“). Those more recognizable hymns have been tweaked in ways that make the versions worthwhile but also faithful to the source material. The newer tunes are especially beautiful, as no work is needed to make them fresh in my mind. Lead vocalist Tifah’s alto/tenor voice fits absolutely beautifully above these arrangements, making this an outstanding project that I’m proud to have backed on IndieGoGo.
4. Island Holiday by Paper City. Totally delivers on its promises to be “listenable at Christmas, or any time of the year!” Fun, cheery pop heavily influenced by surf-rock and girl-pop. None of the tracks get over 3 minutes long; one is titled “Sing Me a Carpenters Christmas.” In short, you’re going to have fun.