Singer Courtney Collins, one-half of the local trip-hop group Voltress and lead singer of the defunct power-pop foursome Arena Venus, has got quite a few tricks up her sleeve. The best of 'em might just be Jeremy Ylvisaker, a friend from Minneapolis she teamed up with to make Welcome to Christmastown, a holiday album filled with echoing lo-fi guitars, sultry vocals and creative vision.
Ylvisaker, who plays guitar and bass for Andrew Bird and belongs to a plethora of Twin Cities bands (Alpha Consumer, Dosh and Fog), added a number of the fantastically spacey effects, while additional Minnesotan friends J.T. Bates and Michael Lewis provided the sounds of drums, upright bass, saxophone and clarinet. Collins lent her voice and a '60s lounge-pop esthetic to the effort. The result is an album that covers a wide swath of musical territory - from Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" to more modern seasonal offerings by Low and Ron Sexsmith, plus two original tracks by Ylvisaker - as an exercise in genre bending and blending.
The album opens with a psychedelic version of the 1949 classic "A Marshmallow World." Brushed drums and upright bass create the atmosphere of a jazz club while strangely vibrating electronic sounds and xylophone riffs seem to rain in from Mars. "Just Like Christmas," an indie favorite by Low, gets a garage-rock makeover, and "Welcome Christmas," the carol the Whoville Whos sing in How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, becomes a slow-sliding guitar lullaby. Even Neil Young's "Winterlong" gets disassembled and rebuilt as a cocktail of '50s doo-wop, '60s Velvet Underground and '70s outlaw country that's both warm and wintry.