The Soundtrack to Your Melancholy Holidays: “Growing Pains” by Courtney Swain

For most people, the holidays are a season for celebration: a loud, bright, joyful time to jingle-bell-rock around the Christmas tree and watch a blackout Ryan Seacrest ring in another ball drop.

For others, the unforgiving winter nights usher in a time of deep reflection — long winter walks, hot baths on cold nights, and time spent escaping the family you’ve come a long way to visit.

Courtney Swain’s latest EP, “Growing Pains” is for those who welcome 3pm sunsets, brood in seasonal existential angst — or just need a reprieve from “Santa Baby.”

Swain, of Bent Knee and the Ben Levin Group, presents a gorgeous reflection on 2017: a year of female pain — and female power.

This past year will go down as a year of growing pains; as men woke up to the knowledge of women’s trauma, as politics became personal, and as our new leaders began to disrupt a minefield of issues that bubbled their way up to the surface.

Swain presents both power, pain and a cadre of raw talent in the five-track EP, written and performed by Swain and backed by Abby Swidler and Abigale Reisman on violin, Anna Stromer on viola, Valerie Thompson on cello, with backing vocals from all four.

“Growing Pains” combines humor and melancholy in the spirit of other strong female voices, an homage to Fiona Apple’s 2012 album, ‘The Idler Wheel.’ On ‘Snow Globe,’ Swain conjures up lyrics reminiscent of indie-pop icon Regina Spektor crooning, “hey remember that time…”

“Remember that one Christmas stocking
A whole year’s worth of thought
And all I got was a crappy card
With a donation in my name to save the ducks
Well I don’t give a fuck about the ducks
‘Cause I just burned every bridge I got
And I never thought I’d be alone”

Swain’s lyrics hold a hidden humor, both in the occasional over-dramatics and in the inherent relatable quality to them — something that brings the listener deeper, settling in with their demons. On “Glitter Bomb,” Swain sings,

“Swimming in a snow angel
Of fresh white lies
Steeping my words in a glass of champagne
So, where to cold-hearted people go for the holidays”

Swain is raw and open throughout, and in that vulnerability a permission is given: even “cold-hearted people” are given the chance to exhume their emotions and enjoy a nice end-of-2017 wallow.

Download “Growing Pains” here.