"Alternative" (in the loosest sense of the word) Christmas covers are usually brimming with positive holiday cheer, even if they have a slight humorous bent à la Yo La Tengo's "Toymageddon" or Ben Folds' "Bizarre Christmas Incident". Cassie Ramone's collection of covers, however, forgoes the usual Christmassy spectacle; the songs on here are dark and harrowing in their interpretation. As gusts of wind introduce both the record and Ramone's drawling take on "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", she immediately projects loneliness and isolation.
It's safe to say that in the less than two years since her old band Vivian Girls announced their official breakup, Cassie Ramone has been busy. Christmas in Reno, her first (yes) Christmas album and second solo album overall, follows last year's The Time Has Come and stylistically is quite similar. While The Time Has Come featured Ariel Pink, this one features a few contributions from Dylan White on guitar.
Former vocalist/guitarist/co-songwriter for noise pop outfit Vivian Girls, Cassie Ramone's solo debut was more sullen and bedroom-oriented than the works of her band. Her follow-up continues in kind stylistically, though -- in a surprise move for a sophomore solo release -- in the form of a Christmas album, one that offers a reverb-heavy, lo-fi take on ten seasonal classics. A gloomy cloud of echo, minor-chord transpositions, and ironic vocal delivery add a blanket of melancholy not often heard in the song selection, including an almost sarcastic-sounding version of Paul McCartney's chipper "Wonderful Christmastime" that rewrites the melody and adds warbled effects and sustained minor chords.
There's no shortage of indie Christmas music. For the twee, sparkly-sweater-wearing types, there's M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel's A Very She And Him Christmas. For mostly church-friendly tunes, there's Sufjan Stevens's massive 42-song collection, Songs For Christmas. And for those more likely to be ….