Mike Behrends and Lance Owens’ seasonal project, The Ornaments, has entered its fifth, fascinating year. The Ornaments can not write a normal Christmas song. 2016’s “Flying Home for Christmas,” had the narrator thinking about Christmas songs as his plane went down – just try to find another band who will go down that road! 2018’s “Give Me All the Christmas You Got,” is much brighter in content (there is no imminent death), but Mike Behrends’ lyrics cannot help but be evocative. For most of the past year, Mike has been living in Turkey, a predominantly muslim country with a very different climate from his Wisconsin roots. His detachment from the Christmas he knows and loves leads to equal parts longing and loving, as Mike pinpoints and appreciates these small details of Christmas that often get lost in the buzz of the holidays – yet he can’t have them. Recorded into an iPhone and sent 9 hours back in time to Wisconsin, his partner Lance Owens has beautifully mixed Mike’s vocals, at first setting them far away, but bringing them close as the imagery begins to flow. The music compliments the lyrical tone, soft nostalgia with a hint of anxiety, and with that, another Ornaments’ classic. Word is that they might be planning something fun when they hit a decade – and that is great to hear, as The Ornaments are one of the distinctive pleasures of the alternative Christmas season.
Bottom Line: The Ornaments are like no other Christmas band, as they continue to make fascinating, wholly unique Christmas songs.
Last year’s track from the seasonal folk band The Ornaments, featured a passenger searching for Christmas music to listen to as his plane was going down. This year’s track, despite reassurances that both Mike and Lance (the Ornaments) are totally in the spirit this season, is even darker! The track is simply arranged, just guitar and Mike’s thoughtful vocals. The song follows a father and daughter as they watch some Christmas classics, each of which sparks either impossible, or uncomfortable questions.
What am I gonna tell my little one
when she says she wants a White Christmas?
“Not tonight. Go to sleep.”
What am I supposed to say when she asks my way,
“Why’d his parents leave him Home Alone? Do they not love him?”
“You’re good. You’re fine. I’ll never leave you behind.”
What’s a man to do as her tears roll down
as Frosty’s face melts into the ground?
“Why don’t we turn off the TV?”
What am I gonna tell my baby girl when she asks,
“Is Mom coming back?”
“How about we watch a Christmas movie.”
“Christmas Movie Marathon” is a brutal, evocative poem put to music, one which spares no expense when it comes to tearing at your heartstrings.
Bottom Line: The Ornaments continue to mine the darker side of Christmas with yet another fascinating approach to seasonal music.
Mike and Lance (The Ornaments) are back… and dammmmn. This shit is dark. Funny, and dark. The song is a story about crashing in a plane on Christmas Day. The sweet guitar picking doesn’t lull you to comfort for very long, shit gets dark quick. The cabin fills with smoke, he buys inflight wifi to tell his love goodbye. However, there is a nice balance, as with the gallows humor found in the line: “meanwhile i thumbed through my phone to find a song, a christmas song, a burl ives song / that’s good to die to.” The narrator goes through the entire crash, in a slow motion mix of bemusement and wry observations. I would love to know more about how this song came about…
Bottom Line: The Ornaments’ dark humor is a welcome break from the sugary sweet songs that dominate the holiday.
Yet another premiere! You may remember the Ornaments are the annual, non-religious Christmas music project of Mike Behrends and Lance Owens. They put out a fantastic square, lathe-cut 7″ & download last year, beginning a project specifically meant to get these two friends together. They swore to release a Christmas 7″ and play one show from now until to the end of time. Now… I have to warn everyone that time has indeed stopped, for the Ornaments are download-only this year, thus signaling the end of time to the rest of the world. However, I do not hold it against this fine band, for they have added yet another interesting Christmas song to their burgeoning Christmas portfolio. “The Ornaments Won’t Hang Themselves (Alone for the Holidays)” has lovely, simple orchestration – programmed beats, hammond organ, some guitar, bells and synths. I really, really enjoy the melody; it has certainly wormed its way in my head. The subject matter trades in, as the title suggests, the melancholy of Christmas. Let the Ornaments describe it…
Christmas isn’t as wonderfully fun and family-filled as we are all led to believe in old holiday movies and songs. Especially for our fictional protagonist from Cadott, Wisconsin, whose girl has left him alone with a car that can’t make it through the snow and a garage full of Christmas decorations they used to put up together. All he wants is one more Christmas dance. Is that too much to ask?
Sad, yet lovely. I think I like the ending the best.
Bottom Line: This is one of those songs to sit back with a glass of spiked eggnog, and sink into as if it were a short story. 4.5/5
Hailing from the snowy cheese-fields (right? hehe) of Madison, Wisconsin, The Ornaments intend to be an annual Christmas music project that will “release one 7″ and play one show each December from now until the end of time.” Sounds promising! Comprised of Mike Behrends & Lance Owens, the Ornaments are the kind of Yuletide band I look for – nonreligious! I know, I know… but if you want religious Christmas music, look up… look down… you’re swimming in it already. These guys were just looking for a reason to get together, as I look to my Christmas mix as a means to keep in touch with those in my life. So far, so good. On to the songs.
The songwriting is certainly original. The A-side, “Santa’s Existential Crisis,” captures a conflicted Santa Claus who isn’t quite sure he wants to work anymore. He’s worn-out, he’s sick of all the stuff, and he really just needs to take a break. I dig the music too, perhaps more than the lyrics. Everything rests easily on the bed of Hammond organ and drums, with guitar and bell flourishes nicely sprinkled throughout. A very solid start.
The B-side, “Christmas Dinner,” does not go where you think it is going to go. The song is essentially about a glorious Christmas feast for a mother and her children… and what a bloody mauling it was. Ha! Great stuff – I’ll be on the lookout for 2015’s release, no doubt!
Bottom Line: Unique songwriting, great production and EXTREMELY limited (10 copies!), clear, square, 7″ lathe-cut vinyl. (4.4/5)