By Sam Larson
On December 16th, the critically acclaimed indie musician Michael Angelakos released a Christmas album. Some may be familiar with his band Passion Pit, which has been around since 2008, and has had a few well known hits. Angelakos’s music is usually known as ‘indie electronica’, however Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields, takes a different path from his usual music style. The album was released alongside a forty five minute long music video that features the whole album chronologically.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields, strays from your typical cheesy christmas tunes, however still carries the traditional Christmas spirit within each song. The album definitely is unique, and stands apart from most christmas music. Singles like ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Permission to Audition’ are cheery, and both accompanied by bells and Angelakos’s airy vocals. Singles like ‘Meet Me at Daphne’s’ and ‘Answer Me, Harry’ are mainly instrumental with feathery harps and delicate pianos.
In many indie albums, there is a song towards the middle that acts almost like a break in the monotony. Sometimes, the song catches you off guard like Glass Animals’ single ‘Premade Sandwiches’, or sometimes it provide a certain missing aspect of the album, like Foster The People’s ‘The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones’.
In Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields, that song is ‘O Holy Night’. It features voices, distorted by radio static, that quickly becomes a hushed lullaby-like song with an angelic choir and light piano. Quickly, the quiet tune is overtaken by a foreboding rumbling that eventually ends the whole track, leaving the listener almost unsettled. ‘O Holy Night’, is short, only a minute long, but it adds a haunting aspect to the album that it originally lacked- and it supports the WWII set music video the coincides with the album. In the video, ‘O Holy Night’ is the moment where hope glimmers though the characters’ situation.
Sure, Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields, has tracks that are cheery and festive, but it also carries a few singles that make you want to curl up by the fire and sip a mug of hot cocoa. ‘Footprints in the Snow’, ‘Stained Glass Windows’, ‘December To Remember, and ‘Weather the Storm’ are all songs that make you want to slow down, and truly indulge yourself in the Christmas spirit. Each of these songs vary enough the set themselves apart from one another, but they all hold the common, soothing chill that gives them a quiet vibe. Normally, Christmas music doesn't exactly make you want to cuddle up to the fireplace, but Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields sure can have that effect.
The true beauty of the album, is how it manages to take all these different themes, mash them into one record, and still turn out strong. You can surely see Angelakos’s genius in how he managed to capture indie, Christmas, orchestra, and even a 1940’s vibe into one album without creating a chaotic mess. Each song blends perfectly into one another, and each song stands strong on it’s own.
I’ve been listening to Angelakos’s music since I was ten years old. I’ve pored over all of Passion Pit, and sought out all Angelakos’s unreleased music. It’s interesting to hear this side of his creations- for normally it reflects a manic feel of sharp synths and high vocals. Merry Christmas, Mr Fields, shows another face to Angelakos’s music. Sure, Passion Pit has happy-go-lucky tracks like ‘All I Want’ and ‘Lifted Up (1985)’, but Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields has a wholesome side to it that appeals to the general public. The album’s “christmas cheer” is attractive, and I feel sure that with time, the album will get the publicity it deserves.