It would be accurate to say that the Lylas cherish the holiday spirit. From Halloween to Christmas, it seems they treasure any day that takes away from the ordinary. The Nashville-based band is led by Kyle Hamlett, a distinct songwriter who inherits multi-instrumental skills along with a dashing display of classical fingerstyle guitar picking. The four primary members formed in 2003, releasing their debut EP, Lylas “…Makes A Friend”. Their early demonstration of lo-fi and softly spoken folk/rock was recognized by local radio stations and clubs, reaching places as far as Tokyo after the international Bomba Records decided to import the EP. Earlier this year, they released their debut full-length album, Lesons for Lovers, which also recieved a bit of national recognition. Normally, a band would follow up their debut with a tour before beginning to write their second album with anticipation. Indeed, Lylas did go on tour and they do have their second album slated for spring of 2007, but in between those two priorities they released something that is hard to despise… a Christmas album! Well, it’s only four tracks long with two instrumentals, but the content is original, providing a fresh of breath air in a season where we are already tired of most of the classics after a few days. Maybe it was the chocolates and candy canes that were packaged in with the album, or maybe it was the bells and ribbons wrapped over the jewel case. Either way, these four enjoyable tracks definitely came at the right time.
‘Swing Low, Sweet Mistletoe’ is led by a banjo and steel guitar, as Hamlett’s vocals sound influenced by the late Jerry Garica, who would always make any topic a trip. “All I want for Christmas is a kiss,” is a bittersweet line by Hamlett, providing disappointment or hope, depending on how optimistic you are. Unlike many of Phil Spector’s gems, Lylas tend to focus on the romantic aspect of Christmas, whether it’s love lost or gained. ‘Sara, Wear Your Sleighbells Home’ uses essentially the same formula as ‘Swing Low, Sweet Mistletoe’, being mellow and acidic touched by an acoustic guitar and obviously, bells. A glockenspiel is later added to the song, providing an unusual holiday flair. ‘Bit by a Witch’ wasn’t even on the Christmas album, but it’s just a reminder that Lylas aren’t downbeat every song. Even while less emotional, the song is one of their catchiest to date with a few slashes of an electric guitar and a few piano chords. The only depressing aspect of the song is that it makes me feel unfortunate that I forgot to put it on my Halloween compilation. If you know someone who feels lonely during the holidays, the Lylas’ Christmas mini-album, A Christmas Kiss, would be a fine gift indeed, wrapped in candies and bells or not.