When Kurt Vile sings, "All I want is to have some fun / Live my life like a son of a gun," I think we can all healthfully emulate his sentiment. You might not expect a song called "Pretty Pimpin" on an album titled b'lieve i'm goin down to have such deceptively wise (albeit playful) lyrics. Zen, even.
Don't get caught up in the holiday BS. Live your life like a son of a gun. I know I will.
We can take tips from our favorite indie rockers this holiday season. Here are some of my favorites to get you wielding your weirdo power in no time. Be loving, be the change, periodically retreat to your headphones like you've always done if you find you've gotten sucked into a political argument against your will. Even my therapist -- an actual mental health professional -- says she takes solitary walks when visiting family. Do that, too.
Once at a Les Savy Fav show I saw frontman Tim Harrington take a man's glasses off his face, put the entire thing -- frames, lenses and all -- in his own mouth, then remove them and place them back on the man's face. You could try that with your jerk uncle. Or just bask in the glow that is Les Savy Fav's entire catalogue and pray to the baby Jesus for a new album if you get dragged to midnight Mass. "Let's get out of here now / Let's get out of here" indeed.
Mary Timony and the women of Ex Hex will tell you in "New Kid," from their outstanding Rips: "You're a warrior, a warrior, a warrior." Damn straight. This song might be about the plight of a new kid in town but I think embodying that inner-knowing strength might defuse that dick uncle, too.
One of the nice things about the Internet -- and something we music lovers have exercised listening to records separately but forever connected -- is that you have a tether to likeminded people. You're just a click away, even if you're "home" with some humans who don't share your same shade of passion for social justice or, who believe you are representative of all commie pinkos and should burned on stacks of your own liberal paraphernalia.
Go look up Vertical Scratchers and dance it out. John Schmersal will lead the way without even knowing he's doing it. Which is more than you can say about that aunt who always questions what, exactly, it means that you're "an artist." Isn't she adorable? With kindness, tell her you'll show her, then choreograph a modern dance to perform together to Vertical Scratchers' "Wait No Longer" from Daughter of Everything.
Schmersal sings, "A liberty, a limber tongue / A family tree, a favorite son / The fever waits for you to break / You gotta wait no longer, take control / Wait no longer, help yourself / Wait no longer, take control."
Got it? Pull yourself together, (wo)man! The fever waits for you to break. Music is your real home. Take your aunt there.
I'll have a fast-drip IV going of my present favorite Schmersal joint: Crooks on Tape's Fingerprints. Get weird with me to the fat-bottomed "The Regiments" on repeat. Schmersal Schmersal Schmersal forever forever forever -- I'll always have his band Enon in my aorta.
If you're really having a tough go with, say, a Trump-loving Dad, it's time to pull out the Courtney Barnett -- both for her humor and the fact that someone who clearly has been just as misunderstood as you is so celebrated for her eccentricities. Also now is a good time to start getting to know music from other countries, like Australia, for when you're choosing which continent to move to if Trump is elected.
Melbourne-based Barnett sings in "Pedestrian at Best," from the must-have Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you / Tell me I'm exceptional and I promise to exploit you." I'm not suggesting you sing this ironically to your parents around the piano to make the yuletide gay (do it!), but you can take a walk around the block with your headphones, right?
You'll be ready for some pie after that.
After a long day with family you'll need an aural bubble bath, so I suggest settling in to Beach House'sDepression Cherry. "Space Song" should do it. Victoria Legrand enchants as she sings, "What makes this fragile world go 'round? / Were you ever lost / Was she ever found? / Somewhere in these eyes / Fall back into place / Fall back into place." Her keyboard shines celestial while Alex Scally's slide guitar takes you away more than Calgon ever could.
And then hit the road. Might I suggest Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Multi-Love? The second I hit I-84 the percussive wonder that is "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" queues up. Ruban Nielson sings, "Can't keep checking my phone (no) / We read the universe might be holographic / Traffic lights might reverse my love / Go ahead and traverse the winter (yeah)." And so forth.
When Nielson's father plays saxophone on this stellar Unknown Mortal Orchestra album about polyamory, you know those are relatives doing something right. Maybe there's hope for the rest of us. Call your family and tell them how beautiful it was to see them. Because you know you love them and this year you let music soothe the savage beast -- which is all of us.