Scott McCaughey doesn't seem like a Christmas-y kind of guy -- he seems to believe in music and liquor above all else -- but it's a safe bet that he enjoys a good party, and if you're going to have a yuletide gathering, of course you need the right tunes for the occasion. With this in mind, and just in time for the holidays, McCaughey and his floating band of compatriots in the Minus 5 have brought us a holiday miracle. 2017's Dear December is that rarest of birds, a rock & roll Christmas album that features all original songs that will still merit a listen in January and beyond. Dear December sounds more like a Minus 5 album than a yuletide effort, which is to say it's filled with upbeat rockers and skewed pop gems, all sprinkled with wit in the trademark McCaughey manner. (And like most Minus 5 albums, it also featured guest spots from Scott's many talented friends, including Peter Buck, Corin Tucker, M. Ward, Colin Meloy, and Ben Gibbard.) But McCaughey and company have certainly done their best to give this a warm seasonal feel, with just the right amount of sleigh bells and arrangements that pay homage to Christmas past as interpreted by Brian Wilson and Phil Spector. McCaughey is also inclusive enough to include two numbers for Hanukkah, "Festival of Lights" and "Johnny Tannenbaum," the former featuring a solid lead vocal from Mike Mills, the latter with stellar harmonies from Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor. For those with the holiday blues, McCaughey gives us "When Christmas Hurts You This Way," and if you enjoy a good strong drink, cue up "Your Christmas Whiskey" and "Merry Christmas Mr. Gulp-Gulp." If you need a taste of country twang, "Yule Tide Me Over" will fill the bill, and if you want a bit of a rave-up, "See You in December" and "I Still Believe in New Year's Eve" will get the room moving. For-real rock & roll Christmas albums are few and far between, especially those that consist of all original material, but McCaughey and the Minus 5 have brought us a doozy with Dear December, and like mistletoe and spiked egg nog, it's just the thing you need for your big holiday bash.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming