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HO HO WHO: The off-kilter D.C. band The Caribbean (primarily drummer/bassist/vocalist Matthew Byars) and D.C. experimentalist Jeff Barsky, aka Insect Factory.
ALTERED BOYS: “Be Thou My Vision” is a sixth-century Irish text that was turned into an English-language hymn early in the 20th century. These thoughtful indie dudes set it within cathedral-sized sonics (the drones by Barsky) while maintaining some guy-in-a-pub ruggedness (the ever-so-slightly-weird vocals by Byars). It’s out there yet humble. It could easily be used in a movie trailer.
A SUCKER FOR THE SEASON: This isn’t the first time Byars has posted a Caribbean-branded holiday tune on his Soundcloud page. Last year it was a dramatic “What Child Is This,” and a few years ago it was an unpredictable but respectful remake of Vince Guaraldi‘s “Christmas Time Is Here.” All three are unconventionally pretty.
CHEER FACTOR: 8/10. The tune is an all-purpose meditation, not a neglected carol or a triumphant “baby in a manger” song, but Byars and Barsky give it credible seasonal spirit nonetheless.
Note: The original version of this post attributed the Caribbean’s contributions strictly to Byars. He says band members Michael Kentoff and Dave Jones had roles in making the song, too.