The Lothars

Happy Holidays 2: Electric Boogaloo

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The first Happy Holidays disc from the Lothars had only a brief snippet of a Christmas song amidst the band's usual exploratory murkiness, so the group made up for it after some fan questions with this full-length effort. Tackling four Christmas standards and one Hanukkah one to boot, the snarkily titled collection makes for a fascinating and darkly beautiful take on a holiday album -- this isn't something to be played at an office party, or while opening gifts, per se. With each song sliding into the next like a mysterious dream, this album could almost be the soundtrack to -- if not quite a nightmare -- a Yuletide when dark ice rather than snow is on the ground, and the clear winter stars are shrouded in heavy clouds. Hearing the familiar strains of "Carol of the Bells" turned into a droning blend of what sounds like treated guitar for the main melody, and Theremin for the vocal part -- all while backed with wailing feedback moans like lost ghosts -- makes that much clear. The soaring rise of "Oh Holy Night"'s main melody provides a surge of power amid reflective desolation, while "Oh Tannenbaum" has a crackly midsection that sounds like icicles constantly shattering against solid earth. However, the most surprising track is at once humorous, as well as spooky -- the combined medley of "Jingle Bells" and "The Dreidel Song." The melody of the former is picked out on a deep squelching keyboard line, raising a smile even while other instruments echo and reverb darkly in the distance; when it switches to the merry melody of the latter song, both the chill and fun intensify -- a dance on the edge of an abyss.

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