A Christmas gift from Said the Whale

Said the Whale
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a holiday EP from Said the Whale. Each year since forming in 2007, the Vancouver band has released a new installment in its West Coast Christmas series, featuring songs that dwell on the gloom and rain of December in Vancouver. This year is no exception, as the band has issued two new songs that draw on the usual anti-Christmas themes of greed, cold and darkness.

“Wanting Like Veruca” exhibits more of the stylistic breadth that the band showed off on this year’s Islands Disappear, making a foray into dramatic emo pop. A thundering, distorted waltz, it sounds nothing like the band has ever done before. Halfway through, it suddenly changes time signatures, transforming into a moody, syncopated dance groove with harmonized guitar leads. Next, it briefly shifts into a barn-burning country stomp before returning to the original rhythm. The lyrics are similarly difficult to pin down, mixing complaints about the weather (“It’s cold as fuck,” “The chappedest lips”) with comforting nostalgia (“My mother’s meals”). It’s a strange and ambitious song, but it still offers the usual hooks you expect from Said the Whale, especially during the “They want, they want, they want” refrain.

Impressive as it is, the real treat here is “The Weight of the Season,” a Ben Worcester-fronted ballad about the bleak loneliness of December. It’s familiar territory for Worcester (he also penned the single “This Winter I Retire”), and this home recording is haunting in its sparse reverence. Featuring nothing other than layered vocals and chilly guitars, its gentle melody makes the sombre lyrics seem almost hopeful.

MP3: “The Weight of the Season”

Download West Coast Christmas 2009 from the band’s website, complete with digital liner notes and lyrics. Also be sure to check out the 2007 and 2008 installments.
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