Makin' a List...

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Tue, 10/06/2009 - 15:05

album promo image for Makin' a List...

Rock band Downhere releases a mix of originals and traditional tunes this Christmas.

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

While it may seem that artists should wait until December to unleash their Yuletide spirit, record labels actually roll out holiday releases right around now, since after all, some folks like to get a headstart on shopping. But no matter if you're an early bird or procrastinator, be sure to add rockin' releases from Downhere and Family Force 5 to this year's list, and read on to hear what each act has to say about applying its sounds to the season.

Downhere delivers traditional tunes
With more than four studio albums and just as many coast-to-coast tours to match, Downhere has steadily evolved into one of modern rock's most moving acts. Between hypnotic guitar lines, a robust rhythm section and the dueling but still remarkably cohesive vocals of Marc Martel and Jason Germain, the Canadian foursome is just as catchy as it is critically acclaimed. It's no wonder fans and industry insiders alike are waiting with bated breath for the brand-new How Many Kings: Songs for Christmas (Centricity), which applies that unique sound to Yuletide cheer for the first time in the band's decade-long run.

"Although we had never planned on releasing a Christmas project, a couple of things gave us the idea to do it," co-singer Martel reveals to GospelMusicChannel.com. "We've always toured around Christmas time, and had a few Christmas tunes under our belt, but always thought it would stay that way – a small, organic thing, so that we could keep working during the Christmas season.

Then, with the combination of the success of their song "How Many Kings," and last year's Bethlehem Skyline Tour with their label mates, people started asking the band if they were going to put out a full-length Christmas album. Since Centricity was planning on repeating the tour for 2009, they decided to give it a go.

Downhere followers can look forward to hearing a mixture of traditional tunes and original recordings, sans any cheesy sing-a-longs or predictable covers. It was a decision birthed out of the band's desire to skip the obligatory tunes tackled by literally thousands of others and find some more obscure songs, in keeping with the group's already innovative and artistic mindset.

"I drew up a large list of all the Christmas songs I knew and loved and noticed that my top 20–30 were at least 100 years old," Martel continues. "So we picked out a few of our favorite carols, wrote a couple of our own, revamped another, and threw in some fun, more laid-back moments...and voila!"

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In addition to the timeless message of tunes like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "What Child Is This," "Angels From the Realms" and "How Many Kings," the group hopes the collection will truly usher listeners into the holiday spirit, rather than getting lost in its commercial connotations.

"My favorite thing about the Christmas season is that it's a time of year where it's still culturally acceptable to proclaim the Gospel of Christ," Martel muses. "It's the same message that the angel proclaimed to Joseph when he said that the child's name was to be Emmanuel, God with us."

All out fun with Family Force 5
Let's admit, one reason we love Christmas is for the fun of it all. And who's better in touch with the festive side of things than Family Force 5, the dance/rock roustabouts who take a tongue-in-cheek approach to some tried-and-true Christmas tunes with Christmas Pageant (Transparent Media Group). It's an over-the-top extravaganza sure to fill the stocking of any teen or 20-something with sheer joy.

"The ghost of Christmas past visited [keytarist/percussionist] Nadaddy and flew him to a bunch of old-timey houses in which children were ripping open gifts on Christmas morning while listening to Bing Crosby's Christmas special," lead guitarist Chap Stique (Derek Mount) says of the album's inspiration with his signature sense of humor. "Although the experience was exciting, Nadaddy realized that the kids did not get the funky, ghetto Christmas-tingles that they would have gotten if they had been listening to Family Force 5's versions of the same songs. He returned and shared his visions of sugarplums with us, so we realized that it was important to make some material for these young souls before the ghost of Christmas future caught up with us. We're still awaiting its visit, so we'll let you know whether or not we did a good job!"

In all seriousness, or in as serious a spirit as the contagiously comedic Family Force 5 can muster, the selection process came as a result of each member throwing their top tunes into a hat ("Christmastime Is Here," "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "Wonderful Christmastime" to name a few) and then re-imagining them under the guise of the group's dance-derived sounds. Add in recording sessions across a series of unconventional locations (a rental van while it was moving, the airport and a dressing room in the Netherlands) and it's amongst the group's most impulsively satisfying efforts to date.

"This spontaneous, loose approach to making an album contributed to the laid-back, party vibe that is tremendously apparent throughout the record," Chap Stique continues before calling out the album's main message. "Hope has come to the earth. Let's rejoice in the good news of great joy that is for all. Make it rain on the baby Jesus!"

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About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).


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