Cassie Ramone

Christmas in Reno

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Former vocalist/guitarist/co-songwriter for noise pop outfit Vivian Girls, Cassie Ramone's solo debut was more sullen and bedroom-oriented than the works of her band. Her follow-up continues in kind stylistically, though -- in a surprise move for a sophomore solo release -- in the form of a Christmas album, one that offers a reverb-heavy, lo-fi take on ten seasonal classics. A gloomy cloud of echo, minor-chord transpositions, and ironic vocal delivery add a blanket of melancholy not often heard in the song selection, including an almost sarcastic-sounding version of Paul McCartney's chipper "Wonderful Christmastime" that rewrites the melody and adds warbled effects and sustained minor chords. Another downcast version is her "Rockin Around the Xmas Tree," which gives new context to "You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear." The most spirited, straightforward covers include "Run Run Rudolph," a galloping spiral of jangly electric guitar with a brief duo-guitar break, and a notes-loyal "Little Saint Nick" that's still an ocean away from the Beach Boys. On an album of warped, nonconformist interpretations, the most inspired is her "Sleigh Ride," a rough-cut, cathartic escape from the ubiquitous Leroy Anderson pops arrangement. A fine closer to any Christmas album, "The Christmas Song" is unexpectedly enlivened with ukulele stylings and tambourine because, as with Christmas every year, nothing here goes quite as expected. Christmas in Reno will not likely be welcomed in most extended-family, five-CD holiday shuffles, so enjoy it as intended, alone in a basement apartment with some stockpiled wine on Christmas Eve.

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