This one came in too late to post prior to year’s end, but it’s also too good to let slip by. Download, tuck it away, and be pleasantly surprised to find it when you go looking for under-played holiday songs next time Christmas rolls around.
A newly-minted instrumental with an old-school air, “Free Christmas” offers a stately, lower-register electric guitar melody over a lilting acoustic guitar setting. Without any words beyond Marr’s whispered introduction, and without either blatant lifts from well-known tunes or sonic cliches, the music, almost magically, feels like Christmas. You can just about hear the sleigh bells, even as there aren’t any in the mix. I think what does the Noël-ish trick here is how the melody culminates in that five-note, choir-tinged descent (first heard at 0:58). Coming down the scale like that evokes Christmas music in the gentlest way, even as the song otherwise seems to operate with its own vibe. While there’s nothing here to directly recall Vince Guaraldi’s famous “Charlie Brown Christmas” music, what “Free Christmas” has in common with Guaraldi’s marvelous compositions is a willingness to be its own aural world first and foremost. It’s less “I’m writing Christmas music” and more “I’m writing music and I’m inviting Christmas into it.”
In any case, I’d definitely invite this one into your 2012 Christmas mix. You’ve got plenty of advance notice. As for Marr, this free and legal MP3 appears to be a sign that his reunion with the Healers, a band he fronted in the early ’00s, will remain a going concern. He had reassembled the group, with personnel changes, this past fall, for two shows in the UK and one in NYC. (Smiths songs were played, it should be noted.) Here’s hoping for some more Marr this year, as he seems to have left the other bands he was part of and perhaps aims, at last, for a bit of front man glory.
Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up on this.