The Grand Gestures – Happy Holidays
Close the curtains and light the fire – Christmas with The Grand Gestures is a chilly, downbeat business. Utterly devoid of sleigh bells and festive cheer, Happy Holidays’ sombre, ambient electronics are more likely to remind you of a budget This Mortal Coil than Slade or Darlene Love, particularly when guests Andrew Howie and Pauline Alexander cry hopelessly over Quiet’s grim, icy tundras.
It’s a genuine beauty that they concoct, however; a natural poignancy that lingers long after its throbbing electronics fade into Dundee, Scotland, 1998 – solemnly intoned by Ross Thompson, and one of several spoken word contributions that add to the album’s intimacy; a nostalgic sense of huddling together for storytime, which admittedly is rarely borne out by the seasonal but gloomy subject matter (loneliness, regret, the passage of time).
The brainchild of Jan Burnett (also of Dundonian lo-fi heroes Spare Snare), Happy Holidays is a subtle beast. Not an instant classic, for sure; its pull is softer but no less urgent than that, taking a few listens to reveal its intoxicating magic. As Burnett’s tonal pulses cushion the invited cast of vocalists – also including Idlewild’s Andrew Mitchell – this is the perfect accompaniment, rather than antidote, to the darkness of the winter nights. [Will Fitzpatrick]