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by Luke Baumgarten & r &

Various Artists

Now That It's Christmas Time

4 stars

Last week at Caterina, a group of Spokane musicians released a damn good album that almost no one is going to hear. Christmas having left as quickly as it came, these eight tracks (nine if you count the completely horrible one-take reworking of "The Twelve Days of Christmas") will be shuttered up with the rest of the Christmas effluvia sooner than later. That's a shame because these seven artists have created something alternately austere and profane, laying bare a good chunk of the hope and depravity of the season.

Adam David's original "Born to Die" aptly demonstrates the former, while Joel Smith's cover of Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family," with lyrics like "Little sister brought her new boyfriend / He was a Mexican / We didn't know what to think of him until he sang / Felis Navidad, Felis Navidad," is a song about alienation amidst coming together.

Together, though, it's a fairly jubilant celebration of a time of year so pregnant with blind expectation, it would have been cheapened with any more reverence than they give it.


DOWNLOAD: "Now that it's Christmas


Horse Feathers

Words are Dead

4 stars

Justin Ringle's voice annoys me. The scene is partly to blame. We've been doused, utterly submerged for so long now in vocal idiosyncrasies that I for one don't know how to swim to shore. Worse, Ringle doesn't even sound original. He comes off like a twangy Chris Martin, not the most creative stretch, and one that, unfortunately, plays poorly against my personal tastes.

But keep listening, because slowly Ringle's voice becomes just another instrument, one of the few not played by Peter Broderick, a teen multi-instrumentalist with the odd gift for making folk sound a little like chamber music. And then -- understanding the relationship between Broderick's opulence and Ringle's world-weary delivery -- the duo's work moves from adolescent douchebaggery to something more closely approximating baroque decay.

This is a young duo that hasn't figured itself out completely, but what they've got here is beautiful and wise for its innocence and candor. When Ringle's words and Broderick's banjo plinking merge like they do on "Walking & amp; Talking," it's worth the wait.


DOWNLOAD: "Finch on Saturday"

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