Last a little known bedroom musician released a Christmas EP. It was called A Winter’s Evening with John Whiles and consisted of four songs and lasted for eleven minutes. It was one of the most intriguing and interesting seasonal releases in recent years. No Whiles has returned with a follow up.
Originally titled The Second Christmas: Another Winter’s Evening with John Whiles: Were Our Hearts Ever so Cold?, it picked up where the first volume finished. In the past year Whiles has obviously been getting to grips with his equipment, as its far more diverse ambitious than volume one. First Snow is a mournful introduction that brings to mind Salvation Army Bands warming up on a cold high street. Just Like Chrtistmas isn’t a Christmas song per say, but it tells the story of a trip home form Stockholm, and when it starts to snow an unnamed character said it reminded them of Christmas, but actually it wasn’t anything like Christmas. Musically it’s a slow burner, melodic guitars and a 4/4 beat do most of the work, while Whiles’ vocals croon pleasantly along, then in the last thirty seconds when its goes all Flaming Lips on us and the mood changes and everything comes alive.
Wenceslass MKII’s intro sounds like Miike Snow, but instead of becoming an post-pop banner, skewed vocals start to get manipulated and layered until the beat subverts itself and everything goes a bit Warp circa 1997. Time signatures jump about, instruments start to sound like vocals and then back to instruments again, while a funky bass tethers everything together. After this produciton workout Blue Christmas is a much more standard affair. Guitar, vocals and what sounds like a Theremin. Due to its intimate nature, it is one of the stand out tracks on the album. Hey Santa is a lo-fi power pop gem, chocked full of ad hoc guitar lines and wonky rhythms. Streets if Rage sounds like a Prince demo. It oozes sleaze, but after a few listens it makes you question the sobriety of the main character. This could easily be thoughts going through a co-workers head at the Christmas party after an afternoon on the company in the pub. Queen of Ice closes the album as First Snow opened it, with mournful melodies and haunting memories from a Christmas long ago. Ultimately the album follows a slightly melancholic vibe, low tempo numbers with haunting vocals remind us that Christmas isn’t just about the good times. Its interspersed with rejection, heartache, hangovers and indigestion. Saying that let’s hope Whiles releases another instalment of this series next year, as it’s starting to feel like a tradition.