Review Summary: Merry Christmas!
'Tis the season once again, and if your community is anything like mine, Christmas lights are already sprouting up well before Thanksgiving. Last night was the coldest night of the year thus far, and earlier in the day there was even a few minutes of snow. To accompany these signs of the holidays, the traditional bunch of Christmas albums have started coming out, notable of which is Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue's second solo album This Good Night Is Still Everywhere, comprised of eight covers/traditional holiday songs and two originals.
Kensrue's first solo album Please Come Home was enjoyable, but it probably would have had a greater impact if it had been released after the release of Thrice's Earth disc; some of the tracks felt like they could have been interchangeable, notably "Digging My Own Grave" and "Moving Mountains." It's interesting then to see how Kensrue fares on an album full of covers completely removed from Thrice's material, unlike Please Come Home. The two original tracks, "This Good Night Is Still Everywhere" and "This Is War" are immensely charming and delightful, not to mention incredibly impressive considering how challenging it must be to write a standout Christmas song when thousands have already been written. The title track's full-sounding chords and reverb-laden vocals create a very fitting mood for a Christmas song; Kensrue really nailed the 'feel' that a good Christmas song should have, and lyrically he fits the bill as well. "This Is War" is even better, seeming completely out of left field for a holiday tune, dominated by percussion and fuzzed-out electric interludes. Vocally Kensrue has proven himself to have an amazing balance between restraint and letting loose, unlike a certain Underoath drummer who recently butchered "Little Drummer Boy" with his penchant for belting out every single word with the most ridiculous enunciations. The end of the track (which is also the end of the album) comes rather abruptly, which is a nice surprise considering that while Kensrue's solo material has always been good, it has never truly been unexpected.
The cover that will most likely draw the most attention is "Fairytale Of New York," the classic Pogues track that tops just about every Christmas song list ever. Honestly, nothing will ever live up to the original, and everyone probably knows that already, but his cover is still admirable despite its flaws. He has always clung to conservatism, avoiding swear words and anything similarly offensive and as such he omits the popular verse which includes the words "faggot," "slut," and "arse." His cover also lacks the atmosphere of the original, but he does a decent job of making the track his own, which is more than most have been able to do over the years. "Christmas Blues" is the album's only lackluster track; its plodding pace is too similar to that of Please Come Home's "I Believe," and Kensrue's white-man-got-the-blues drawl is off-putting. He redeems himself with the rest of the covers though, especially "O Holy Night," which has always been my favorite Christmas song. He recreates the swells and falls of the song perfectly, with just the right amount of power and atmosphere behind his voice, while he picks the most immaculate Christmas chord progression ever with a clean-toned electric guitar. "God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen" features an interesting arrangement - bouncy, staccato'd vocals that wouldn't sound out of place in a Tom Waits song - and the fast tempo of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" gives the song a different feel than it traditionally has. The album's strongest point is its lack of cheesiness; there's no choirs or bells or anything similar that is usually found on holiday albums, but it also means that the flaws in arrangement are much more apparent.
This Good Night Is Still Everywhere is a nice outing from Kensrue. It has its flaws though, and honestly no one will probably listen to this much after the holidays are over, but you won't be listening to Bring Me The Horizon in a few months either, so enjoy this record while the season is still here to enhance it.