HO HO WHO: The Both is the collaborative project of downtempo folksy chanteuse Aimee Mann and sociopolitical punk stalwart Ted Leo. It seems an unlikely pairing, but Leo and Mann toured together in 2012 and their debut self-titled release that arrived earlier this year was a true mind-meld that mixed Leo’s upbeat riffs and Mann’s Americana for some pleasant palate cleansers.
BLUE, BLUE CHRISTMAS: Dear sweet baby Jesus, “Nothing Left To Do (Let’s Make This Christmas Blue)” is depressing. Take the spirit of that ever-jolly standard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and subtract the schmaltz that makes the casual listener forget that it was reportedly written from the point of view of an overseas soldier and you’ll land somewhere in the neighborhood of this bluesy duet about missing someone over the holidays. Mann and Leo trade off verses, separately lamenting the signs of the season (“It’s awful lonely listening to all that joy and mistletoe”). Then they join their voices in a truly beautiful harmony that somehow further emphasizes the downtrodden message: that hollow Christmas standards on the radio are the only solace for the heartbroken in December. This sadness continues for nearly five minutes and ends with only the faintest hopeful glimmer.
I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING: A sad-sack Christmas carol makes total sense coming from Aimee Mann, except that she appears to truly revel in the tinsel-laden holiday. She brought back her annual holiday show after a hiatus of several years and the entire premise is light and hilarious. During the two sold-out shows at the Birchmere, she and Leo kept up the delightfully silly conceit of being buddy detectives, funny folks John Hodgman and Jon Wurster brought additional levity to the evening and the entire night ended with a deserved skewering of Wings‘ “Wonderful Christmastime.” Still, when Mann commented that she’d like to revamp holiday standards like “Deck the Halls” and “Holly Jolly Christmas” to fit her less cheery temperament (and admittedly, she’s already done this for one Christmas album), Leo quipped, “Well, these people did come to see an Aimee Mann Christmas show.” Indeed.
CHEER FACTOR: 2/10. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very well-written, well-executed tune and fans of Mann’s brand of forlorn fare will certainly find comfort in repeat listens. However, this song is about as cheerful as the final Laura Linney scene in Love, Actually, and even the Grinch wouldn’t be able to hold back tears.
Stream the track after the jump.