Kimberly Junod

It's a mistletoe milestone! After 25 years of bringing cheers to our ears, the alt-country rockers of the Old 97's have released their first album of holiday jams. Love the Holidays is packed with delightful originals, including songs inspired by the Ramones, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer's love life and the social significance of snow angels.

Explaining Christmas to someone who's never heard of it is a strange proposition. As our guest and old friend JD McPherson puts it, there's a tree in your living room, a strange man's walking around your house at midnight eating cookies, and then you get clothes.

I imagine it's an even stranger proposition to write an album of modern Christmas originals. Christmas means so many different things to so many people, and the differences matter: Is your audience children or adults, religious or not? Are they jaded? Feeling humorous? Maybe sentimental? You've got a lot of options.

"Odds are the people that love you are just dying for you to tell the truth." When Kiley Lotz, who records as Petal, says this, you believe her.

The first thing I remarked after finishing my conversation with Marcus King: "This guy doesn't act or sound like a 22-year-old at all." He's incredibly perceptive, and thoughtful, and the music he's making sounds like it's coming from someone who's been working at it for decades.

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