Cassie Ramone (the Babies, Vivian Girls) Talks Train’s Christmas in Tahoe

Christmas in Tahoe is a new classic album. December it today!

Hi, guys! In case you haven’t heard, Train has a new Christmas album out right now called Christmas in Tahoe. I love the title, because Tahoe happens to be one of my favorite ski destinations.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, Train is a very popular American rock band, spawning such hits as 2001’s “Drops of Jupiter” and 2009’s “Hey Soul Sister.” The group’s frontman, Pat Monahan, happens to be a Pisces — just like me! (Side note: I love that Monahan, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine are all Pisces. Talk about a holy trinity!)

Christmas in Tahoe is an album encompassing many different emotions associated with the holiday season. The record is mainly an upbeat celebration of spending time with friends and family. (See: Train’s cover of Slade’s 1973 song “Merry Christmas Everybody” and original track “Christmas Island.”) It also has its introspective, solemn moments (a cover of Joni Mitchell’s 1971 track “River”) and traditional songs (“O Holy Night”) that remind us of the genesis of this holiday: Jesus’ birth. Happy Birthday, JC!

There are three originals on this album: the aforementioned “Christmas Island,” “Shake Up Christmas” and “Wait for Mary, Christmas.” The former two are particularly joyous odes to the holiday. “Christmas Island” is an escapist fantasy for a new generation. No more spending Christmastime shoveling snow with cold wind in your face — or being stuck inside with close family! “If someone told me it was Christmas Day/I would say no way/What kinda game you play?” are the first lines in the song. It seems like a dream to spend the holiday on an island so tropical that one could easily forget that it was Christmas at all. “Costa Rica, yo.” I hear ya! I also love the “ho ho ho ho ho” line interspersed throughout the song. Double entendre, maybe? Hehehe.

“Shake Up Christmas,” with its infectious “na-na-na-na-na-na, hey hey” chorus, is also totally fun. This song seems to be about all the people of the world shaking up their Christmas wishes until they come true — like a cross between a Magic 8-Ball and a margarita shaker. “I don’t remember it/so let’s December it/and reassemble it” is one of my favorite lyrics in the song. It’s such a feel-good tune. Now I want a margarita…eek!

The third original song, “Wait for Mary, Christmas,” reminds me a lot of the 1996 Train hit “Meet Virginia.” I think it’s about a sad girl in the middle of nowhere, kind of like Virginia, but…her name is the same as Jesus’ mom’s name. It’s more reflective than the other originals, offering a pleasing counterbalance.

Train also covered John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1971 “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” for Christmas in Tahoe. Excellent choice! The Beatles are my favorite band and John Lennon happens to be my favorite Beatle. I like the decision to include childlike backing vocals, à la the original. I still can’t figure out if they come from a children’s choir or female backup singers — but either way, very good. Throughout it all, Train stays true to its rock & roll roots.

The album’s closer, a cover of Robert Alex Anderson’s 1949 “Mele Kalikimaka,” was a smart choice. This ukulele- and slide guitar-laden rendition of a Hawaiian-themed Christmas classic is a fitting epilogue to “Christmas Island” — but now I’m confused. Lake Tahoe is in a northern desert region with a great deal of snowfall. Why didn’t they call the record Christmas in Honolulu? (That happens to be one of my favorite surfing destinations, TBH.) Anyway, Christmas in Tahoe is a new classic album. December it today!

Cassie Ramone (AKA Grzymkowski) is a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter and guitarist best known for her work in Vivian Girls and The Babies.