Gryff Rhys - Athiest Xmas (Run)

Is this the true reality of christmas?

Released Dec 19th, 2011 via Run / By Richard Kemp
Gryff Rhys - Athiest Xmas (Run) Never one to disappoint in his solo efforts, Super Furry Animals frontman and sonic experimentalist Gruff Rhys brings us a holy trinity of Christmas songs for the not-so-cheery. With charm, vigour and more festive blues than you can shake a yuletide candy cane at, Atheist Xmas gives a voice to those who aren't necessarily looking forward to when Saint Nick comes to town.

If anyone else had released an EP around Jesus' birthday and called it Atheist Xmas, the end product may have resulted in painful disappointment. However, with Rhys' inspired cavalcade of available tangents, you know you're in for a treat. Listening to this EP feels a lot like taking a personal yuletide journey of discovery with an amalgamation of popular religious entities as your spirit guide. Record opener 'Post Apocalypse Christmas' offers the sort of thick, jaunty bass line you could trundle down a sun-dappled street to – allowing a more-than-merry backdrop to Rhys' yearnful vocals. By the end of things, however, you're left feeling uncomfortably empty in your heart.

Perhaps it's the subject matter: suicide and manic depression. This combined with sugar sweet melodies and innocent vocals serves to pack quite the festive punch. Regardless, it's exactly this use of tugged heartstrings, wintry chimes and seasonal pop merriment that makes for essential listening.

If this record succeeds anywhere it's getting you to stop dead in your tracks. With second number 'Slashed Wrists This Christmas', Rhys conjures the spirit of Elvis Presley belting 'Lonely This Christmas', evoking heart-rending visuals over organ-fuelled blues, while 'At The End Of The Line' could easily soundtrack a regretfully self-aware montage of Christmasses past – or even, perhaps, a Santa-themed road movie across middle America.

From early surf pop and music hall cabaret to arthouse movie montage – and generous helpings of yuletide discontent – Gruff Rhys' Atheist Xmas may not make your Christmas any more bearable, but it assures you that you're not alone.