Pop Addict: Gruff Rhys’ Atheist Xmas EP

Gruff Rhys

Every other Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Gruff Rhys: Atheist Xmas EP Gruff Rhys: Atheist Xmas EP (Wichita, 12/20/11)

Gruff Rhys: “Slashed Wrists This Christmas”

Around this time of year, before the reality and harshness of winter set in, December is usually a time of good cheer and holiday festiveness. And now, thanks to Gruff Rhys, atheists can enjoy the season too. The Super Furry Animals front-man has just released a new EP called Atheist Xmas — a three-song offering featuring hook-heavy, head-bobbing catchiness — that is sure to help get you through to the coldest days this winter (or at least a few minutes of them at a time).

And don’t worry — this one isn’t sung in Welsh.

Though the EP’s title — as well as ominous song titles like “Post-Apocalypse Christmas,” “At the End of the Line,” and “Slashed Wrists this Christmas” — might toy with some new, deep, dark territory for Rhys’ lyrics, the music itself is the exact opposite. Instead, the songs are what you might expect a Super Furry Animals tune to sound like nowadays, as each track here is injected with melodic hooks, jubilant instrumentation, and sonic explorations (bells, upbeat bass and drums, hand claps, piano, ballpark organ, trumpets, tambourine, etc.).

With this paradoxically titled recording, Rhys has become a master of juxtaposition — setting dark, twisted lyrics (addressing things like suicide, manic depression, the end of the world, and so forth) to a backdrop of easy-listening, poppy arrangements, saturated with elements of Super Furry Animals’ signature style: space-alien guitars, harmonized vocals, fuzzed-out synths, and more.

But even though Rhys slips into familiar territory in a musical sense, the end product is anything but simplistic or routine. Rhys tackles big issues here, illustrating the utter sadness and loneliness that can permeate the holidays. These aren’t joke songs so much as meditations on raw human emotions during a season that is supposed to be filled with goodness and peace on earth — qualities that are absent in Rhys’ Christmas season.

With these misanthropic lyrics, the prolific musician/singer has provided us with an alternate take on holiday merriment. Athiest Xmas takes the joyfulness of Christmastime and turns it on its head, all the while maintaining the approachable qualities of holiday music. It’ll make you scratch and nod your head at the same time, wondering how such a troubled, haunting concept could sound so damn happy.

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