Courtney Collins and Jeremy Ylvisaker with J.T. Bates and Michael Lewis | Welcome To Christmastown

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Rock: Modern Rock Holiday: Pop Moods: Mood: Christmas
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Welcome To Christmastown

by Courtney Collins and Jeremy Ylvisaker with J.T. Bates and Michael Lewis

A dreamy recording that's both wistful and playful. Covers of songs from Rankin/Bass holiday specials and some lesser known winter songs. Ylvisaker plays guitar with Andrew Bird; Collins contributes music to and produces the online series Chad Vader.
Genre: Rock: Modern Rock
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. A Marshmallow World
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3:02 album only
2. Just Like Christmas
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2:46 album only
3. Maybe This Christmas
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2:32 album only
4. Welcome Christmas
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3:26 album only
5. Come On-A My House
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4:16 album only
6. I\'ll Be Home For Christmas
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3:31 album only
7. The Peace Carol
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2:55 album only
8. Song Of Mary
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3:39 album only
9. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
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2:35 album only
10. The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year
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3:24 album only
11. I Believe In Father Christmas
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2:40 album only
12. Christmas Time Is Here
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2:46 album only
13. Neither Snow Nor Gloom Of Night
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2:24 album only
14. Winterlong
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4:06 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Vocalist Courtney Collins and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Ylvisaker have teamed up with drummer J.T. Bates and bassist Michael Lewis to make "Welcome To Christmastown," a collection of lesser-known holiday songs with a dreamy, indie rock/modern pop sound. The disc includes covers of seasonal songs by Neil Young, Low, and Vince Guaraldi, and songs from Rankin/Bass and Dr. Seuss holiday television specials. Standards such as "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" round out the recording.

Ylvisaker plays guitar with Andrew Bird and fronts his own rock outfit Alpha Consumer. Bates and Lewis, also of Alpha Consumer, are part of the Minneapolis-based jazz trio Fat Kid Wednesdays. Bates plays with The Pines and sometimes drums for "A Prairie Home Companion." Lewis is a multi-instrumentalist who plays with Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Gayngs, Dosh, and Happy Apple. Collins has released a solo album and albums with her previous bands, all recorded by Ylvisaker. She has contributed music to the comedy series "Chad Vader," which she also produces.
"Welcome To Christmastown" was recorded by Micheal Larsen (Eyedea) of the hip hop duo Eyedea & Abilities.

"Violet Night" (solo CD by Courtney Collins, featuring Jeremy Ylvisaker and Michael Lewis) available at:
http://cdbaby.com/all/arenavenus

And also visit www.CourtneyCollins.com and www.MySpace.com/Alpha Consumer for more music from Courtney, Jeremy, J.T., and Michael.


Reviews


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Carol Swanson, ChristmasReviews.com

ChristmasReviews.com
Review by Carol Swanson:
I first had the good fortune of hearing Courtney Collins when she performed with Arena Venus on Yuletide Swank in 2004. Collins' husky, dusky alto stole the show. And so it is with her 2008 holiday entry, Welcome to Christmastown. One look at the cover art, and you know something special is coming down the pike. That funky red cardinal, clipped to the frosted artificial tree, welcomes the audience to Christmastown with a glassy-eyed, beaded stare. Creepy, cute, and cool, all in the same moment!

Welcome to Christmastown is an ultra-modern exercise with retro pizazz. This is pop/rock pleasure, presented like a dream sequence on an old-time radio program. Seriously. Steer clear if you are hoping for classic renditions of well-loved carols. Collins and her excellent colleagues (primarily Jeremy Ylvisaker, with J.T. Bates & Michael Lewis) offer up one or two popular nuggets, but for the most part, generate creative heat with some new pieces and ingenious covers of less-familiar fare. I adore Collins' voice, which is nicely showcased here (although the orchestration crowds her vocals on occasion--e.g., Just Like Christmas).

The opening A Marshmallow World is brilliant. The day-dreamy island vibe suits the song in every respect, and Collins' full-bodied voice exudes sensuality and comfort. Nice! Maybe This Christmas displays Collins' haunted yearnings over a whimsical ratcheting backdrop. Her super-slow I'll Be Home for Christmas is oh-so languid, and she embraces Come On-A My House with just the right blend of gauzy naughty and nice (leaning more heavily on the naughty end). The campy The Most Wonderful Day of the Year is the anthem sung on the Island of Misfit Toys--weirdly wonderful.

The album includes three instrumentals. Although Ylvisaker's techno Song of Mary is a bit too industrial for my tastes, his Neither Snow Nor Gloom of Night is more accessible, painting synth-charged scenes of darkness and light. And the minimalist, discordant Welcome Christmas is a gentle gem.

The final cut is Neil Young's Winterlong. I'm a huge fan of Young (having seen him in concert just last month), and Collins does the melancholy piece sweet justice. It's a satisfying finish to a rewarding release.

Welcome to Christmas is definitely not for everyone, and I mean that in a very good way. This fascinating and fantastical electro-synth pop-rock is edgy and often sublime. Much of it floats my boat, and the more challenging tracks make the album even more interesting. If you are looking for a holiday adventure, experience the Christmastown cruise. Enjoy the ride!

Terry Jones

A True Gift!
One of the few cds that gets better as it unfolds.The sequencing of songs is superlative,the production is varied in setting the moods,the playing Magical.A singularly well-crafted piece of sonic-wonder...VERY rare,these days,done with True Love...Wondrous!

Tara C.


A great mix of songs, some familiar, others new to me. Courtney Collins' angelic, yet powerful voice combined with Jeremy Ylvisaker's obvious talents -- and great backing by rhythm section J. T. Bates and Michael Lewis - make this a C.D. that you could really listen to all year, as it avoids a lot of the Xmas cliches that so many Xmas C.D.s have. Was looking for a gift, but ended up getting this gift for myself.

Rob Thomas, The Capital Times

The Capital Times
Collins and Ylvisaker bring both an indie rock and a retro, cool feel to the holiday songbook. Collins' take on Ron Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas" is appealingly sincere, while the duo opts for a Pixies-like sound on "Just Like Christmas" and a feedback-drenched "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Buying local for the holidays never sounded so good.

Jessica Steinhoff, Isthmus

Isthmus
With the overabundance of cheesy, over-the-top Christmas songs in discount bins every December, it’s easy to skip over the entire genre. But then you hear a one like Courtney Collins and Jeremy Ylvisaker’s cover of “Maybe This Christmas,” a wonderfully understated tune by Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, and kick yourself for being such a knob.

The song is featured in a new album called Welcome To Christmastown, on which the Madison singer and Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist have teamed up with their friends J.T. Bates (drummer for Carbon Carousel, Fat Kid Wednesdays and the public radio mainstay A Prairie Home Companion), Mike Lewis (upright bass and clarinet player for Fat Kid Wednesdays and Happy Apple) and Micheal Larsen (recording engineer, former Atmosphere emcee and one half of rap duo Eyedea & Abilities). The team took a wide survey of holiday songs, from the Dr. Seuss classic “Welcome Christmas” to Neil Young’s “Winterlong,” stripped them down, and rebuilt them using a different palette of styles, instruments and influences, plus a healthy dose of cheek.

For “Maybe This Christmas,” the group took a somewhat optimistic and upbeat original and teased out its darker side.

“I think we added some extra melancholy to this song,” says Collins, noting that Ylvisaker “thinks this song probably most represents what we were trying to do: mix the light and dark and the happiness and sentimentality of the season.”

The Christmastown crew slowed down the song’s tempo, changed the key and added a subtle percussion track and a lonely, watery guitar line reminiscent of The Handsome Family and Andrew Bird. (Wait, it is Andrew Bird: Ylvisaker plays guitar and bass in his band.) Combined with Collins’ voice -- part lounge singer, part Marianne Faithfull -- it sounds like an old country ballad drifting through Elvis Costello’s dreams.