Another Gray Christmas 4
($5 donation to P:ear at anothergraychristmas.bandcamp.com)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Holiday music sucks. And yet, for the fourth consecutive year, I've helped create Willamette Week's compilation of local holiday music and found the process immensely rewarding. Because when you ask awesome Portland musicians for "holiday" music, they define it in a myriad of ways. This year is no exception: The fireside guitar strums of Gabe Hascall's "Instead of Cold" are a far cry from the synth honks of Key Losers' "Good King Wenceslas"; Jason Simms' educational story-song, "Luminarias," is in a different musical universe from Neal Morgan's abstract and loose "Will It Snow?" And yet they all sound like the season. I love watching all these visions snowballing into one strange concoction.
Duover, Christmas Volume 1
($5 at duover.bandcamp.com)
Duover, a recently formed Portland duo featuring main squeezes Nathan Junior (M. Ward, Highway) and singer/multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Rasmussen, is no joke—even if the idea of a brand-new band releasing a 12-song album of original Christmas songs (and ambitiously labeling it Volume 1) seems like a stretch. But Duover's Christmas Volume I uses the holidays as a thematic and stylistic launching point, then crafts some really striking tunes (and a couple ridiculous ones for good measure) that would fly just fine without the "Christmas" tag attached.
Pink Martini, Joy to the World
($15 at pinkmartini.com or $9.99 on iTunes)
Most Portlanders probably know, instinctively, whether this is their thing or not. The local avant-pop institution offers classy Christmas standards and all-inclusive holiday fare ("Elohai, N'Tzor" is an operatic album standout) that sounds as if it were pulled from the four corners of the globe. The frenetic Afro-pop/Hawaiian version of New Year's Eve staple "Auld Lang Syne" is kind of how I imagine the end of the world sounding, but it also single-handedly gives the disc enough staying power to actually be given as a Christmas gift.
A PDXmas, Volume 2
(free at apdxmas.com)
I never considered the Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" to be a holiday tune, but it is one of the great pop songs ever written, and Oh Captain My Captain does a nice rendition. That's one of 23 songs on this jam-packed digital compilation (other standouts include Typhoon's characteristically amazing "Merry Xmas Anyways" and the made-for-Hosannas "We Three Kings"), highlighted by both straightforward standards and irreverent originals like Aan's "Christmas Brats" and Ghosties' "I Will Be Hating You for Christmas." Lovely. And free.
It's Dan Halsted's Christmas tradition: 1983 coeds show us their chestnuts, as it were, then are stabbed by a psychopath.
In all likelihood your office is closed Friday, which means you can celebrate the holidays Thursday by getting wasted and dancing to Portland's best funk band.
No PDX holiday is complete without the saccharine spectacle of thousands of blazing, multicolored lights on one Southeast Portland street.
[DISH] NED LUDD DICKENS-INSPIRED CHRISTMAS EVE FEAST
Ned Ludd will pay tribute to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with a five-course tasting menu based on its wood-fired stove. God bless us, every glutton. Ned Ludd, 3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 288-6900. Seatings at 6 and 8:30 pm. $45 for five-course dinner. An additional $20 for wine pairings. Call for reservations (required).
Hopefully, Santa will bring you a tape player this year (how retro!), because some of the most exciting music coming out of Portland is being released via cassette by the dudes at Apes Tapes.
[SCREEN] TRUE GRIT
In this Coen Brothers oater, Jeff Bridges is more than the Dude on a horse. But even if he were just the Dude on a horse, you'd really want to see it, wouldn't you? St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, 8704 N Lombard St., 286-1768, and other locations. Multiple showtimes. $4-$6.
The Public Theatre's Tony-winning revival of the 1967 free-love musical comes to town via Broadway Across America.