Unlike my young friend Talitha, I would not say that I am a Phoebe Bridgers fan. Oh I love her guest appearances with The Killers and Marcus Mumford. I maybe need to work harder on Punisher but in the meantime I absolutely love her growing Christmas EP.
Yes, I did see growing. You see Bridgers does what The Killers did for some years. She brings an annual song out for Christmas. It’s usually a cover version and at this stage it has reached six and everyone is intoxicatingly good. Indeed this year’s is literally intoxicating, a version of The Handsome Family’s So Much Wine.
Bridgers doesn’t give us the hopeful side of Christmas. This is a collection of songs that is mainly about broken people.
So Much Wine throws a proverb into the drunkenness - : -
There's only so much wine you can drink in one life
And it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass
Day After Tomorrow makes a Tom Waits song into a near carol, a young person yearning for life and some relational connection asking questions about God and prayer and has a smudging of hopefulness:
I'll be 21 today
I been saving all my pay
And my plane will touch down
On the day after tomorrow
If We Make It Through December, Merle Haggard utter classic so well covered by Over the Rhine, gets another heart wrenching version. A father just laid off and unable to give Christmas to his little girl dreams of summer:
If we make it through December
Got plans to be in a warmer town come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December, we'll be fine
The we do actually get a carol. The beautiful Silent Night but in this cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s version has the radio news about war and death and all that the news feeds shouting out the carol. It reminds us, what all these songs do, that Jesus entered a very broken, lonely, violent world.
Christmas Song is McCarthy Trenching song and it is filled with even more Christmas sadness. Beautifully sad this one plays on the idea that everyone is on holiday and you can’t get anyone to fix anything, then it’s pointed to the heart. I guess those of us who believe in the baby Jesus Christmas are whispering that he indeed can do something about all of this alienation.
The EP ends with Bridgers doing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas with a deeply melancholic take on this invitation to some joy. Everything here is sad but the invitation itself.
This is Christmas with melancholy laid deep. It is a reminder that it is not all tinsel, stuffing, gifts and family for all.