Listen, I know it’s hard for you to admit it but let’s face facts: Christmas is just around the corner. Sure, we’ve still got Thanksgiving to hit but in case you haven’t looked outside lately there’s lots of white stuff on the ground. School has been cancelled already due to icy roads and I’ve already pulled a back muscle shoveling snow. So whether you’re still pining for a couple more autumnal walks or not, old man winter has officially parked his Winnebago in the driveway and he’s looking for the next airing of Matlock on the dish.
So since we’re here we might as well enjoy ourselves and indulge in a holiday album or two. Vince Guaraldi, Sufjan Stevens, Flaming Lips, Beach Boys, and a brand new one you can add to this year’s playlist? Andrew Bird’s HARK!. Yes, the violin virtuoso and indie rock dandy has thrown his Santa hat into the holiday cheer mix this year with his first Christmas album. HARK! is a six-song EP that contains four classic Christmas tunes, as well as two Andrew Bird originals. The results are an upbeat and jazzy mix of Christmas songs that will surely be a favorite holiday spin for years to come.
I’m honestly surprised it’s taken Mr. Bird this long to make a Christmas album. Given that he came up being sort of a old time-y revivalist in the Squirrel Nut Zippers, then in his own band Bowl of Fire, the guy has been up to his eyeballs in the traditional American songbook. Christmas standards seem like the perfect spot for him to land. Well, better late than never, that’s what I say. HARK! is a most welcome addition to the stack of CDs that collect dust up in the cupboard 10 months out of the year.
HARK! opens with the Andrew Bird original “Alabaster”, and it has all the Bird hallmarks: a dream-like atmosphere thanks to plucked violin, delicate piano, and strummed acoustic. Of course his lilting vocals add a longing to the proceedings. It’s reminiscent of his earlier work on Oh! The Grandeur and The Swimming Hour. Bird also takes a shot at the classic Vince Guaraldi tracks “Skating” and “Christmas is Coming”, which he slides right into beautifully. Bird’s jazzy style melds beautifully with the now traditional Guaraldi-penned tunes for the Peanuts Christmas special. Between Bird’s virtuosic violin playing and eerie on-point whistling, it’s as if he was meant to play these songs all along.
Bird also covers the classics “White Christmas” and “Oh Holy Night” to perfection, with “White Christmas” given an old time country flavor while “Oh Holy Night” brings a tear to the eye with lilting strings and Bird’s theremin-like perfect whistling. “Night’s Falling” is the final track and another Andrew Bird original. It’s another future holiday classic done up in folks-y, sepia tones waiting to soundtrack a fireside family get-together.
If you’re looking for a new Christmas album to score a Christmas Eve get-together or just a quiet, snowy afternoon at home, then Andrew Bird has you covered. HARK! is a welcome addition to that stack of dusty CDs in the cupboard.
7.8 out of 10