Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak Christmas

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If you're going to invite a hipster recording artist into your home for Christmas, it may as well be Chris Isaak -- he's cool but he's also well-mannered, and can act sly enough for your thinks-she's-bohemian sister without scaring your Grandmother in the process. Like no small number of veteran recording artists, Isaak has cut an album of holiday tunes, cleverly called Chris Isaak Christmas, and while like most similar projects you get the sense that Chris didn't put quite the same amount of work into this that would of gone into a "real" album, he thankfully didn't skimp on quality control along the way. Isaak wrote five new tunes for this project, and "Washington Square" and "Christmas on TV" are solid contributions to his catalog of bummed-out love songs, while "Gotta Be Good" is a likable nugget of blues-flavored growl. Elsewhere, Isaak has thrown in a solid selection of Christmas standards, which he and his band have given an easygoing but full-bodied treatment that's solidly in the style of his best work, favoring the playful over the cloying. On the cool scale, Chris Isaak Christmas sure won't replace your copy of the Phil Spector Christmas album, but as background music for your Christmas party it makes for a happening switch from treacle like Kenny G or Mannheim Steamroller, and you know you can count on a surfer to sing "Mele Kalikimaka" like he already knows what it means. Just don't let Chris get too close to the mistletoe. The guy has a reputation, you know.

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