The Clamplamp Parade, A Holiday Compilation
[Do Not Gather; Dec. 8]
If your first reaction, when hearing mention of a pandemic-themed holiday album, is skepticism, you’re not alone. But The Clamplamp Parade, A Holiday Compilation, which was spearheaded by Wilmington singer-songwriter Justin Lacy and brings together originals from 11 independent artists from across the state, is full of surprises and rich fissures.
Not always lyrically. The first song, Lacy’s “Newport Christmas Parade,” begins by mentioning a Clorox bottle, hinting that an album of coronavirus crossword search terms will follow. Thankfully, it doesn’t.
The track, which recalls family memories of Lacy’s grandfather sneaking gifts to families in need in Newport, North Carolina, is melancholic and opulent. The arrangement—idiosyncratic, intimate vocals crossed with chamber-pop pomp—is stunning, and would bring to mind Sufjan Stevens even if there weren’t a holiday theme at play.
Annie Jo Buchanan’s “In These Lights” is a sweet, crooning ode to gratitude and being able to come home for Christmas. Emma Nelson’s “Christmas Song,” meanwhile is a little less straightforward—narratively, it’s off the rails, with a lusty, meandering address to Santa and Mrs. Claus—but Nelson’s deep, confident delivery is charming and perfect for a year where everything is off the rails. The chorus of Billy Heathen’s “Is This Still…” anticipates holiday separation over Zoom, as Heathen’s deep, gleaming bass lines somehow conjure a communal feeling: a crowded concert in a sticky-floored venue.
At just under two minutes, Durham bedroom pop act Moon Racer’s “Maybe This Will Be the Year I Move” is equally charming, with Autumn Ehinger’s delicate, dreamy vocals meditating on empty streets and love gone wrong. Ehinger takes her band name from a supporting character (a winged lion) in the 1964 stop-animation film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
That warm, kitschy sentimentality makes for a perfect penultimate track on an album with lilting, lo-fi production that feels reminiscent of early-aughts holiday music, where all irony could be transformed into sincerity if you put enough tinsel on it.
While none of these songs may become caroling standards anytime soon, they sweetly capture the raw, uneven spirit of a raw, uneven year.
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