Arts Desk

The Sleigher: Camera Obscura’s “The Blizzard” b/w “Swans”

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Ho Ho Who? This double A-side from the twee Glaswegians tip-toes between jingle bells and jangle pop. It’s Christmas in the Sleigher’s favorite keys: sweet and sad.

The Red Ryder rifle: The group covers cowboy crooner Jim Reeves' “The Blizzard,” which follows a man with no name and a horse called Dan as they brave a snowstorm. “Listen to that northern sigh/If we don't get home we'll die/But it's only seven miles to Mary Anne,” sings Tracyanne Campbell. Spoiler alert: They don’t make it. But Campbell’s "Ally Bally" vocals and the band’s quiet, shimmery arrangement make a lovely wrapping for vicarious misery (or "Season of Greeting" in Scots, per the group's MySpace blog.)

The tongue stuck to the flagpole: “Swans” isn’t about the holidays (there’s something about dodging deer, just not a reindeer), but it sure sounds like Christmas. Well, more like Christmas kitsch, complete with loungey organ bursts, a slick guitar lead, and lots and lots of sleigh bells. Once the song ended, though, the Sleigher couldn’t remember a thing about it.  In fact, “Swans” may be the least memorable song on the group’s recent, quite good album My Maudlin Career.  So what’s it doing repackaged as a Christmas single? Can you say “regifting?”

Cheer factor: 4 out of 10, more for the reading than the lyrics; 7 out of 10 if you’re packing Zoloft.

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