I must admit that I’d never heard of The Rocket Summer before I came across this new Christmas EP on iTunes. But I’m always on the market for new Christmas songs, being quite the Christmas music junkie, so I checked out the previews of these tracks and had to download the EP.
While the name would give you the impression that The Rocket Summer is a band, it’s actually a solo project. The artist’s name is Bryce Avary and he’s based out of Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to being a singer/songwriter, he’s also a multi-instrumentalist and producer who usually plays every instrument on his songs. And it would seem that he actually has quite the following, as his 2010 album Of Men and Angels held the number 1 spot on iTunes upon its release.
While most artists would give themselves a bad case of writer’s block if they told their fans that they were releasing something in a few weeks when they hadn’t even written a single note of it yet, that’s exactly how Christmas Madness came to be. Bryce woke up on November 7th and decided to announce that he would be releasing an original Christmas EP within a few weeks even though he hadn’t written anything yet. He gave himself three days to write three songs and ten days to learn how to engineer a record entirely by himself even though he’d never done that before. “It was in fact madness,” he told AP.
The EP opens with the title track, “Christmas Madness,” which Bryce wrote “about the financial pressures that come with Christmas.” He played every instrument on the energetic tune himself except for the roaring — and contagious — saxophone, which was performed by Clay Pritchard, a long lost buddy of his from high school. While you might expect a song about unfortunate financial aspect of Christmas to be downtrodden, Bryce’s rockin’ tune sounds entirely upbeat and brings the positive message that you don’t need money to be with the one you love. “I’ll be the one that sings you to sleep / Stands by your side / Believe in me,” Bryce sings with loads of sincerity. It’s the perfect anthem for those of us who always feel lousy about not having more money to buy people Christmas presents with.
“I pay the reindeer to keep it under the wraps,” Bryce sings during “Elf Creep.” “I’m not a stalker, I’m just a real big fan,” it continues. Alas, the elf that Bryce is singing from the perspective of actually *is* a stalker and the pop rock song is basically about how he obsesses over a certain woman all year. A woman he once revealed himself to only to find her horrified. “She screamed so loud she busted the drums in my pointy, spark ears,” he sings. Suffice to say that this is one song that actually lives up to its title; it’s quite creepy. That said, the piano-driven track is quite catchy and I’ve added it to my latest Christmas playlist accordingly. But you probably wouldn’t want to add it to a mix you’re going to play for your extended family come Christmas day, less anyone actually pay attention to the lyrics and start to question your sanity.
Bryce changes gears and delivers a downtempo electro-pop number with the EP’s final original song, “Grapevine Christmas Eve.” “Downtown it’s snowing / Christmas is coming / Everybody needs to be at home,” he sings during the nearly six minute song that paints the portrait of one person’s Christmas Eve full of “awkward nostalgia.” It’s not quite gloomy, but it isn’t nearly as lively or infectious as the previous two tracks. That said, it’s always nice to hear a Christmas song that tells a story instead of simply delivering a super cheery message. If you don’t like Christmas music because of its so full of rejoicing, you’d probably appreciate this somewhat melancholic track.
Finally, Bryce digs into the religious side of Christmas with his delicate, folk-style version of the classic “O Holy Night,” which he performs mostly just accompanied by acoustic guitar. We’ve all heard this song so many times that it tends to go in one ear and out the other, losing its meaning, but his passionate rendition delivers its words in a manner such that its message can’t be lost on you.
Christmas Madness might only be four songs long, but each of the tracks looks at Christmas from an entirely different perspective and that’s at least a couple more perspectives than you get from most full-length Christmas albums. It’s mandatory listening for hardcore Christmas music junkies (like myself) and I’d also recommend it for people who only kind of sort of like Christmas music a little bit.