Listening Booth: Ranlom, “Going on Holiday”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

Ranlom – Going on Holiday (Quirky Bird, 2008)
purchase this album (Amazon)

With the amount of shit I’ve given Christmas music over the last few years, and the obvious relish with which it’s been applied, I never would have expected any sane independent artist to willingly send me a copy of his or her holiday album — but lo and behold, here I am listening to Going on Holiday, the latest Ranlom release, an EP consisting of five Christmas covers and two originals.

What is Ranlom? I’m not entirely sure. I know Ranlom has released a handful of albums, including The Red Eye, A Rest Stop and a Snooze, and Ravens and Doves, and I know it’s some sort of musical collective led by a man named Matt Molnar, who says his passions include “his lovely wife, inexpensive road trips, good eats, lazy fishing trips, and libraries.” Also, I know Matt Molnar has terrible taste in band names. Beyond that, I cued up Going on Holiday without knowing what was getting myself into.

Molnar — er, Ranlom — calls Going on Holiday “a truly unique Christmas album with quirky, clever arrangements of classics and carols coupled with contemporary, witty originals,” and that’s more or less on the mark, but don’t listen to it expecting a Dr. Demento Christmas or anything. This album’s quirk is gentle, and not evenly applied; although some tracks, like the Richard Cheese-meets-Perry Como “Little Drummer Boy” (download), are slightly (and, I have to say, awesomely) off-kilter, others are given a straight reading. (“Do You Hear What I Hear,” for instance, is suitable for any church gathering.)

One area where Ranlom doesn’t screw around is in the arrangements. Even at their most deadpan, the songs are impeccably performed, with shifting layers of pop and jazz beneath the clean, smooth production. For what seems to have been a lark, Going on Holiday was assembled with admirable craft and skill. Having said that, I’m not sure where the audience for an album like this is, particularly given how crowded the holiday music marketplace has become — but if you’re looking to fatten your Christmas music collection with the work of some off-the-beaten-path artists, this isn’t a bad place to start.