In the new single “Alone on Christmas Day,” pop crew The High Plains Drifters brings classic winter harmonies together with the spirit of the season in a way that few other indie artists have this year. Critics have been abuzz with the holiday treat since its initial release this November, and it isn’t difficult to understand why when indulging in its crisp melodies, striking string play, and simplistic lyrical attack. Vocalist and creative leader Larry Studnicky isn’t changing the game for seasonal music in “Alone on Christmas Day,” but he’s knocking out one of the more accessible and cathartic Christmas tunes to see widespread release in 2023.
The master mix here is remarkably well-rounded, and I like that it puts as much emphasis on the main instrumental components as it does on the more subtle elements in the song. There’s nothing muffling the bassline or getting between us and the drums in the various twists and turns that we face in the composition; instead, everything is pretty much on an even playing field, allowing the audience to appreciate all of the depth in the harmony created between The High Plains Drifters and Larry Studnicky himself which, as I see it, is the most significant draw in this track.
The lead vocal is the main linchpin holding everything together in “Alone on Christmas Day,” and were it not as warm in tone and free of external influence as it is in this instance, I’m not convinced that this single would be as engaging as it ultimately is under Studnicky’s direction. He breathes a lot of life into every verse here, and though his approach is anything but aggressive, there’s a certain sense of urgency in his execution that lends agency to the emotionality of his words at each provocative juncture of the track. By playing it conservatively, he makes “Alone on Christmas Day” more palatable both cosmetically and compositionally.
These grooves could probably be reworked into a more balladic tempo and still be as charming as they are in this state, and to be frank, I think that this song could work just as well as a gutted, simple acoustic number as it does here. The High Plains Drifters’ continuity is always the undisputed star of this show, and even though Studnicky doesn’t seem to have a problem balancing out his contribution to a track with that of his counterparts in the backing band, his vocal never fails to steal the spotlight by the end of any given performance.
If you love both Christmas and casual, adult contemporary music, I would recommend checking out The High Plains Drifters’ “Alone on Christmas Day” the next time that you’re in the market for new tunes. There is a plethora of awesome holiday tracks coming out of the woodwork this year, but for those who have a discriminating ear for potent hooks, smooth harmonies, and memorable beats that will stay in your head long after the tree has been taken down, this is about as choice a song as you’re going to find on the left side of the dial.