Christmas music. It’s kind of a divisive topic among music critics and fans. There are those who enjoy the seasonal novelty and those who are disgusted by the saccharine commerciality of it all. And then, of course, there’s everyone who falls somewhere in the middle (i.e. most reasonable people). So if you’re one of those folks who does not enjoy Christmas music, you’re not likely to enjoy what I’m about to recommend. But if you do enjoy Christmas music – and you’re not yet burned out from hearing songs about pine trees, snowstorms and chimneys sung by a gaggle of boozy minstrels – then Dustin Kensrue’s This Good Night Is Still Everywhere might be for you.
A background in Kenrue’s work as the lead singer of Thrice might help you enjoy This Good Night although a knowledge of his solo work – primarily Please Come Home – is probably more beneficial. As a Christmas album, This Good Night is a folksy, acoustic affair so if you’re looking for ‘Deadbolt’-meets-‘Little Saint Nick’ you’re in the wrong spot. It’s worth noting, though, that Kensrue’s vocals are gravelly and heartfelt and generally fantastic throughout, as Thrice fans have come to expect.
The bulk of the album is built from cover versions of holiday standards, but Kensrue also contributes two original tracks to the LP which tends on the more morose side of the Christmas spectrum. Of the two originals, the album’s title track is delicate and beautiful, appropriate for the season. Meanwhile ‘This Is War’ is probably one of the darkest tracks ever to be released on an album celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.
The album’s central pillar, though, is Kensrue’s take on the Pogues’ classic ‘Fairytale of New York’ (although if you’re from my generation you might associate the song more closely with No Use For A Name). Kensrue has replaced the song’s darkest drug-addled lyrics with a set of lines that trade out the drugs for a sinking sense of loneliness that is somehow even more depressing than the original content. There are a lot of sad Christmas songs in the world, and Kensrue makes this maybe the saddest. And yet it works. Not all of This Good Night is so dark; the album still has some festive bounce to it, but it’s that darkness that sets it apart from its peers.
This Good Night didn’t reinvent the Christmas song when it was released in 2008, but it did settle neatly into my annual seasonal-listening catalog and – darkness and all – could prove to be a worthy addition to yours. Unless you’re one of those Christmas-song haters. Then God help you in surviving these next few weeks.