Nothing beats new Christmas music, especially when it's Northwest-based. Harvey Danger's "Sometimes You Have to Work On Christmas (Sometimes)" has become a staple for my holiday ears, and The Sea Navy's rousing "The Truth About Christmas" is sure to make next year's compilation. I was therefore delighted to receive Some By Sea's holiday-imbibed EP, The Saddest Christmas. Extra holiday cheer: it came wrapped like a beautiful present, with the CD slipped inside an envelope of muted red and green paperstock, charmingly illustrated with a bottle of holiday cheer and a glued-on silver star to boot. It showcased Some By Sea's creative flair and lent an intimate home-made touch to the six-song effort.
Much like the packaging, the six-song EP is pleasing and organic, with a definite "home-grown" appeal. Yet this same homespun flavor also leaves the recording a bit under-done, unfinished, as if the music hasn't fully ripened to the potential it could achieve.
The title track is a nice addition to the local foray into holiday tunes. Comparisons to Death Cab for Cutie are inevitable — and have often been made in reviews of this budding band — and the Gibbard-eque qualities of Chris DuBray's voice are particularly evident on the title track. Of course, this translates to resonant, sonorous vocals, certainly an asset for poignant pop songs like these. The jingle bells add a nice dose of cheer, but at nearly six minutes, the song winds into weary territory, like a sleepless youngster staring at his clock in the pre-dawn Christmas hours.
Tracks "Never Climb a Mountain Backwards" and "A Book and No Disasters" are uplifting, upbeat numbers and hit jaunty high-points on the EP, offering excellent examples of this young band's potential. Other tracks such as "Engraved Invitation," however, lament more than they shine, longing for more development.
The band recently signed to Sidecho Records (home of The Pale Pacific and Stars of Track and Field). With SideCho in their corner, Some By Sea hopefully can mature artistically without losing the charms of their gentle DIY aesthetic. Or to continue our Christmas metaphor, their future releases will simmer a little longer in the kettle like a yummy mug of mulled wine.