Los Campesinos!

A Los Campesinos! Christmas

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There are some bands you'd invite to a holiday party; there are some you'd want to make sure their invites got lost in the mail so they wouldn't show up and wreck the cheer with desperate shows of misplaced emotion, wracked sobs over sloshing mugs of eggnog, and loads of weary sighs and shrugs. Los Campesinos! seem like they'd fall firmly into the latter category, but here they are crashing the affair with a Christmas-themed album, A Los Campesinos! Christmas. The question is what kind of guests do they turn out to be -- the answer is far less grinchy than expected. Sure, Gareth and his crew of carolers splash emotions around like tinsel, and by covering Mud's "Lonely This Christmas" they kind of give the game away, but for the most part Los Campesinos! manage to come closer to a tidily wrapped gift than a messy lump of coal. The acoustic "The Holly & the Ivy" is pretty and restrained; "A Doe to a Deer" is a sprightly tramp through newly fallen snow, with Gareth pledging his devotion in holiday terms ("I'll be anything you want of me/A carrot nose encased in snow"); and "The Trains Don't Run (It's Christmas Day)" transmits just the right amount of sadness without being all drippy about it. Only the Mud cover goes a little too far over the top and ends up sounding like a bit of a joke, something nobody could say about the rest of the EP. The bandmembers obviously don't see A Los Campesinos! Christmas as a cash-in or trifle; they give these tracks the same emotional push they give to those on their "real" songs, and that means their fans should lap it up like hot chocolate on a freezing cold night.

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