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O Christmas Twee

The Boy Least Likely To - Christmas Special
(+1 Records)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 3rd, 2010
The Boy Least Likely To

Review by Tony Bonyata

The British indie duo The Boy Least Likely To are probably just as well-known for the cute stuffed animals that've graced both the covers of their first two albums (2005's The Best Party Ever and Law of the Playground from last year) and their promo videos, as they are for their own twee pop music stylings.

Unfortunately, this type of band branding (as adorable as it may seem at the time - no more so than in their 2005 video "Be Gentle With Me") has made them seem more like the opening act to the featured clown show at an eleven year-old girl's birthday party than a respected indie rock act; even with the likes of Rolling Stone and Pitchfork showering their earlier works with praise.

On their third full-length (digital-only) effort, The Boy Least Likely To's duo, Pete Hobbs and Jof Owen, have decided to shift from birthday party to holiday party with Christmas Special, a seasonal album that features eight new self-penned Christmas songs, along with three holiday covers. The lads add in folky elements, such as banjo and fiddle as well as glockenspiel, that lend a playful edge to many of the songs. While some of the numbers may have catchy melodies (most notably the rootsy opening track "Blue Spruce Needles") there's also a rather bland sameness to much of the album that seems to defy the color and spice of the holiday season. "The Christmas Waltz" bogs down with the sounds of wind-up toys clumsily shuffling over sleepy strings, while the acoustic and maudlin ballad "The First Snowflake" never really hits the heart - which I'm assuming was their target here. The instrumental "In The Bleak of Winter" finds a childlike glockenspiel dancing atop a breathy organ for a touch of bittersweet melancholy.

Even when the twosome pick-up the pace, as on the corny '80s ode to George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham on "George and Andrew," the saccharine-pop of "Happy Christmas Baby" and their closing cover of the 12th century carol "The Wassail Song," it, unfortunately, just isn't enough to impart the intended Christmas spirit and good cheer.

As much as I hate to play Scrooge (as I'm huge admirer of Christmas-themed music from virtually every genre) as far as this album is concerned... Bah, Humbug.

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