Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Winter Music from Jason Beers

 Jason Beers is a Kansas City musician who has released 22(!)  (I think) records in the last two years.  In 2019 he set a goal to release an album a month.  Check.  Exhausted, he said something to the effect of "Never again!  Off to enjoy life to its fullest!  Ahoy!".  And then came 2020.  Stay at home.  Quarantine.  Not going anywhere.  No live music anywhere.  No Rural Grit Happy Hour.  So whaddya do - make some music.

Still, Jason, the man behind the curtain of the mirthful "Having a Marfy Christmas!!!" and "Still Having a Marfy Christmas!!!", pronounced that he was not doing another Christmas album this year.   Well, time goes by.   Then I hear though the grapevine that a Winter-themed album is in the works.  Cool!

And here it is:  "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder".

Artwork by Hank Tilbury

As you might expect from the album title, this is not a record of frollicking sleigh ride songs, apres-ski sing-alongs, and cozy sipping-hot-chocolate-by-the-fire melodies.  And if the album title didn't give away the theme of the record, the song titles do:

"Temperature Drop"
"Sleigh Ride To Hell"  (well, there is a sleigh ride song...)
"Lost in the Wilderness" (featuring great whistling)
"The Snowman Speaks"
"Angry Cold"
"Hope for Warmth"
"The Fool Waltz"
"Spiraling Towards Death"
"What Can One Do?"

Although the tenor and tone of "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder" may not be your typical Christmas-time fare, it absolutely has its place in a Winter music collection.  For one, it's a counterpoint and indeed an antidote for hearing Mariah Carey's "Al I Want for Christmas is You" or Kelly Clarkson's exploration of vocal volume "Underneath the Tree" one time too many.  But mainly, it's a normalizer, a balancer on the other end of the spectrum of wintertime music.  It serves as a reminder that Winter brings short days, long nights, and cold.

A few years back, I reviewed "The Longest Night: Christmas Songs of Lament and Longing" by Russ Hitt, which was a musical observation of the emotions that can take hold in the darkness of Winter.  While "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder" is quite different musically, in a way they are similar.  They both present the sounds of a different Winter season, a parallel that most, if not all, of us experience to some degree each year as the long dark nights come.  And, especially in this, our generation's plague year, "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder" images* this holiday season and is a perfect component of the soundtrack for December 2020.

Jason approaches his music with a wry sense of humor, a quick little wink to those who are paying attention (disclosure: I've never actually seen him wink).  Or sometimes with overt absurdity (take "Banjo Music from Schrodinger County" - a super-glued-shut CD case that might or might not contain a CD with music).  "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder" is no exception - the Jason Beers creativity and sense of humor is there, in the framework of a frowny cold winter season.  And it's just the exact right thing for this 2020 holiday season.  With exceptional banjo.

One more note: check out the amazing album art by Hank Tilbury.  I'd buy the album just for the cover.

I've had a whole lotta fun reviewing Jason's albums over the past couple of years, and no exception here, but this one is a bit less tongue-in-cheek than past efforts.  Love the record, and love the theme.

"Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder" on Bandcamp

Jason Beers Bandcamp home page - hours of great music lives here, including the Halloween-themed "Even More Ghoulish Songs for Cretins", featuring an Aztec Death Whistle.

*Yes, I used "images" as a verb.

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