All things being equal, I didn’t plan on doing any reviews on Christmas music. This is because a lot of the time when an artist releases a Christmas album it is predominantly covers of previously released songs. We all know the classics and we’ve all heard a million different versions of them. Not that I don’t love Christmas music, because I’m a bit of a Christmas fanatic, but there are only so many interesting things you can do with a version of ‘Jingle Bells’. So when I got the notification that I Don’t Know How But They Found Me had released a Christmas EP I was excited, and I expected to like it, but I also expected it to be cover songs. And here we are with original content this holiday season. And I have to talk about it because I adore this band so much that I want to express that admiration and maybe introduce some new people to the brilliance that is IDKHow.
A quick warning though: I do tend to get very emotional about Dallon Weekes‘ singing voice so if I crumble into a rambling mess just let it pass.
When listening to this band I always try to pick out the bass. For those who don’t know, Weekes is a fantastic bass player and because of that I’m always drawn to that part of the song. He usually writes songs so that the base has a little bit more focus than it usually would and I think that comes from him playing the bass for so long. This first track has a wonderful, buzzy bass that goes throughout the song and it really helps to pull the song along.
There are a lot of instruments being layered-up in this track and they’re all slightly offbeat to each other (I’m not sure that’s exactly what’s happening but it feels slightly less harmonious than it should). All the pieces are there and yet there’s a kind of chaos to the way that they’re arranged together. In this case, I see this as intentional given the content of the song. It’s a really interesting way of amplifying the subject matter–to feel this cluster of sound.
I really love the use of keys in this track especially when it gets to the end of the chorus and they’re kind of hammer down on–with this clattering, aggressive sound–because it really goes back to the idea of this song relying on the chaos.
It’s a wonderful contrast two Weekes’ vocals (don’t worry, I’m not going to go into fangirl mode at this particular moment_. He doesn’t sound overly dramatic; there isn’t a ton of overt emotion coming out in the way that he’s singing and it contrasts really well with the very energetic instrumentation.
The story is being conveyed In this very matter-of-fact way but then we get these brakes in the vocals where the instrumentation really picks up and gets louder and they’re more layers to it and there’s a whole other dynamic to what’s being talked about. Add to that these little vocal moments where Weekes does incorporate emotion. He has these little moments when he goes into his higher range and these cries that are layered into the back of the instrumentation that push the emotion of the song a little bit further.
Also if anyone knows where the audio clip that begins this track is from, I’d be really interested because I don’t have any context for it. Maybe it was meant to be that way.
Merry Christmas Everybody
I’m not going to actually talk about this song since this one is a cover of a Slade song. You can listen to it here!.
All right, this is the moment where I dissolve into a fangirl and you’re just going to have to bear with me for a second. I knew the moment this song started and it was piano and Weekes’ voice that I was in trouble. I knew right away that this song was going to give me shivers, was going to make me emotional, and in the end I cried a little bit. This is it partly because the song itself is very dark and has this kind of sorrowful beauty to it in-and-of itself.
I don’t want to take away from the fact that it’s beautifully written and that there’s this kind of bold honesty to the song that plays off of how the holiday season can be a very dark time for some. It makes them reflect on everything that’s happened in the previous year and–because it’s a season where you’re supposed to be happy and you’re supposed to be merry–it makes a lot of people wonder why they aren’t. This song really goes into that darker side of the holiday season that I think a lot of people would rather pretend didn’t exist, especially when it comes to Christmas music.
At the same time though, Weekes has a voice that makes me very emotional and usually makes me tear up anyway so to have a song where has a vocal focus and delivers this very melancholic content really hit me; I’ve listened to it multiple time and the final version always gets me. There are moments in this song in which Weekes sounds like he is just about to start crying and that what he’s talking about is difficult for him to say that, for me anyway, make my whole world stopped for a moment. There’s something so powerful about this song that it just pulls me in and makes me pay attention. It’s a beautiful piece of music.
(It is at this moment that I realize I have not talked about Ryan Seaman at any point in this review. I want it to be known that I think he’s super talented and I wish I knew more about percussion so I could have something intelligent to say about his contribution to this album. Maybe in the future.)
There’s something so melancholic about this EP. At first, I thought of it as relatively up-beat, at least run instrumental point of view, with a very tragic and sad final track. As I started to deconstruct it while writing this I came to realize that it’s really about this cheerful facade that gets put on the holiday season that hides a lot of darkness underneath of it. Even with the final track there is a beauty to the song and at the same time it’s devastating. I won’t say that this is my favourite piece of work from this band, nor will I claim it’s my favourite piece of holiday music, but I think it’s a very interesting piece holiday music. I think it brings something into Christmas music that rarely gets talked about, and I think it’s done in a very creative way.
Highly suggest then people give it a listen and make their own decision, with the warning that you might cry at the end.