Once upon a time, there was a band from Topeka, Kansas called The Billions. Formed by brothers Sam and Dan Billen, the band wrote many a lovely pop song. I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert several times, and even had them come play in my basement, which was really awesome. (Afterwards, we hung out in my kitchen until the wee hours of the morning, and they told me embarrassing and juicy stories about some of your favorite indie artists… but that’s neither here nor there.) Sadly, a lot of people overlooked them — maybe because they were from Kansas? — and the band eventually called it quits in 2009.
However, Sam Billen has continued to release music under his own name. His latest, A Word of Encouragement, is a Christmas album that he recorded with his friend Josh Atkinson. It’s a delightful little holiday gem that’s along the same lines as Sufjan’s Christmas releases, i.e., a collection of charming, soulful holiday numbers that, in this case, contains shades of the Beach Boys and Ryuichi Sakamoto/David Sylvian.
Naturally, in keeping with the holiday spirit, the entire album can be downloaded for free.