Independent alternative rocker Aimee Mann has created an eclectic and satisfying Christmas album in One More Drifter in the Snow. Best known for her work with the '80s band 'Til Tuesday and her Oscar-nominated score for the movie Magnolia, Mann's work is psychologically aware and often melancholic. Many of the songs on Drifter are no exception, but her music never loses the beat and she turns in some interesting takes on several classics.
The mood starts out jazzy with the rueful "Whatever Happened to Christmas" and the classic "The Christmas Song." "Christmastime," the third entry, is a medium-tempo rock tune enlivened by the accompaniment of the mandola. She gives the country-guitar-tinged "Ill Be Home for Christmas" a little twist by changing the lyrics to "I'll be home for Christmas / where the love light light blinks / I'll be home for Christmas / if only in my drinks."
The fifth song is a pretty straight-up version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," from the animated TV show How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I hadn't realized how much speaking occurred in this song, but guest Grant Lee Phillips gives a spirited performance worthy of the original. It is a really fun entry.
I love what Mann does with the sixth selection, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." A strong drumbeat drives the song in a way that gives the piece an intense, resonant undertone. The bass theme continues in "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," whose spare initial accompaniment gives it a 19th century air.
Rounding out the album is the classic "White Christmas" and the original "Calling on Mary." "White Christmas" is dominated by bass and strummed electric guitar, which gives the song a deeper sound than Bing Crosby's version. "Calling on Mary," the one song in the collection that Mann wrote, is an alone-at-Christmas tune very much in keeping with her rock sound and themes.
If you like light or cheery holiday music, then you probably won't care for Aimee Mann's entry into the Christmas album market. If you like music sung by a woman with a gorgeous voice that is sometimes pensive, sometimes playful, and always interesting, then you should give Aimee Mann's One More Drifter in the Snow a listen. It's quickly becoming a favorite of mine.