Mark Kozelek sings Favorites cover

Mark Kozelek “O Holy Night” (2016)

Caldo Verde
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | iTunes | Amazon UK MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

I consider myself a Mark Kozelek fan, and despite the challenges he continues to send my way, I still maintain this status. Thus, when a new Koz Christmas tune sneaks out, I feel obligated to make at the very least, a small mention of it. Mark gave us an entire Christmas record only 2 years ago, has snuck Christmas tunes on multiple live records, and he thankfully seems determined to continue to churn out little Christmas baubles for us to enjoy. “O Holy Night” appears on Koz’s latest, Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites, and simply said, it is quite lovely. The cover is certainly not a reinvention of the song (as I could somehow imagine Jose Gonzalez doing while not veering far from Koz’s guitar style), more so a faithful and lovely, traditional cover of this traditional song. The female vocal harmony provided by Mimi Parker (of the equally Christmas-loving Low) is that little bit of nutmeg that makes this eggnog tasty. Without Mimi, it might have been just a tiny bit… bland? Glad she is there.

Bottom Line: A tasty glass of eggnog, thanks to Mimi Parker of Low. Certainly not my standard fare – doesn’t hate on Christmas, doesn’t have any swear words – this one’s for you traditionalists out there.

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Totally Righteous Holiday Special (2015)

Chill Mega Chill / Very Jazzed Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Chill Mega Chill’s comp from last year, Tape Deck the Halls, had some real solid Christmas tunes, and largely originals! This past year was more of the same… WHICH IS AWESOME. This (hopefully) Christmas tradition is turning into one of the most interesting, original comps out there.

Totally Righteous kicks off with an extremely beautiful, somber song by Guess Genes that, had it been sung by Ryan Adams, would have turned Stereogum on fire. The collaged audio layer adds texture to the shimmering guitar and fluttering piano, and the vocals have a sincerity to them that makes you BELIEVE. Simply wonderful.

The Last Astronaut‘s “Street Lights” may not be as timeless as the Guess Genes track, but its modernity makes it a welcome addition to the Christmas cannon. The chorus is what makes this song really swing… but it makes me wish the whole song was like that!

Deep Cuts return for back-to-back Christmas Christmas classics with “Comatose Come Christmas.” This 80’s jam has the biting lyrics and sense of humor that I’ve come to love from Deep Cuts. I’m also partial to a nice drunken Christmas tune… and this song may get you contact drunk.

Grandwolves‘ “‘Zat You, Son Of God” is my first exposure to this great Houston band, and I’m going to need more. A great layering of male/female vocals amongst killer drums and some shrieking guitars provide the basis for some awesome turns of phrase: ‘Zat You, Son of God? / Asleep in the evergreen, / Next to an old tv. / Sharing your branch, with gold garland, / And a Charlie Brown ornament.” Indie rock Christmas at its finest.

Gangplans break out the drum machines and synthesizers to create their own warm cup of Christmas bitters with “Skipping Christmas.” Peppered with samples from It’s a Wonderful Life, this production duo have succeeded in making me feel warm and happy, nestled amongst their warm beats and dark lyrics.

Benjamin Andrew’s “For a Moment” for some reason makes me think of a stripped down Low – the layered vocals, the fingers squeaking on the metal strings. Bleak, beautiful and wrapped in a sweater.

LA’s Seaweed Salad scored a f*ing slam dunk with “You Won’t See Me.” Fuzzed out vocals surrounded by a cacophony of indie pop orchestration. I can barely hear what they are saying, but I don’t care at all; I loved the music too much to give a shit.

There are a few more tracks on the comp that I haven’t covered. Music is such a personal thing – what is one’s treasure is another’s trash. While none of the remaining tracks were trash whatsoever, they did not grab me nearly as much, despite some very intriguing titles.

Bottom Line: Well hot damn. There could be more than one track from this release finding its way onto my mix this year. Two years in a row, this label has just knocked it out of the muthaf**ing park. Please, while it is a free, name-your-price download, all proceeds go to Make-a-Wish. 

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Mont - Snow in the New Year

Mont “Snow in the New Year” (2013)

Self Released
Buy: Soundcloud

Bath, UK’s Mont have been on my radar ever since randomly searching the term “snow” in the Hype Machine many moons ago. There, I discovered the brilliant, etherial, musical collage that is “Snow in the New Year.” The vocals float in on a breeze of warm beats, leading up to a cacophony of sound that, given the right mood, can give you goosebumps. It is truly a beautiful song. Of particular note, Mont also has a new EP out November 4th, If You Got it Wrong, and after checking out that first track… damn… I love this band.

Bottom Line: “Snow in the New Year” was certainly a highlight from my 2014 mix, Jolly Snow Sculptor Santa, and remains one of my favorite winter-season/new years songs. They just flipped the switch to allow downloads too – so grab it while you can (and buy their new EP too!)

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The Fools / The Fools

The Fools “Dear Santa” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

How about some lo-fi indiepop for your earholes? Perhaps some barking and a dash of saxophone? Does that sound nice? Well, have I got the Christmas song for you. Seattle’s The Fools released their self-titled debut earlier this year, and it has a lovely, goofy little Christmas song nestled within its tracks. “Dear Santa” is whimsical and precious, but look out… there’s a dark side. Keep listening.

Bottom Line: The Fools have been petting a little bunny… and you know what happens when you pet the bunny too much. Fun! Hot top: it’s a name-your-price for the entire record.

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Cerise

Cerise “St. Nick” (2016)

Self-Released
Buy: Stream | Bandcamp?

Well hi there. Nice to see you all. Stubby’s been telling me about this other awesome dream pop tune, so I thought I’d send another one back.

Chicago-based Cerise is the tip of what promises to be a healthy schedule of Christmas in July June tunes. I’ve had this on my radar for a good while, and could have posted about it a month ago, but then you might have expected too much from me, such as additional posts (shame on you!). Cerise dabbles in what I would equate as the dark edges of Beach House-meets-Cure-meets-Mazzy Star. That’s just a quick, off-the-cuff comparison, one which I may tweak as the heat leaves my brain and I can think once more. Did I mention it is hot out? I don’t have the same access that Consequence of Sound has, and while the lyrics aren’t completely disguised, they can be tough to make out at times. Obviously, she name-checks St. Nick, as well as snowflakes, and jingle bells feature prominently. However, it will likely come as no surprise that this is not a Christmas song.

From the Consequence of Sound article:

“I was thinking about a relationship once that turns into a deal, so that each will get what they want but only to sell the relationship off with it,” Cerise tells Consequence of Sound of the song. She captures this by playing with lyrical opposites of joy (“Awaiting St. Nick/ And family glory”) and despair (“Run away to abandon/ Snowflakes and soirees”).

 

I’m in. I love this kind of ambiguous stuff. The record will released real soon – June 24th! It’s just a matter of time until there are tracks on her Bandcamp page… but I’ll be buying the vinyl!

Bottom Line: Dark, beautiful dream pop that will cool down your hot summer nights.

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Gloss - Gifts Received

Gloss “Gifts Received” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Minneapolis’ Gloss have made the best Joy Division/New Order Christmas song of the year all time! From the baseline, to the vocals, to the lyrics, Gloss have hit the nail on the head when it comes to writing a dark, pulsing, disturbing Christmas song. Sonically, this song is most certainly a departure from the Captured Tracks-esque indie rock of their Front Porch debut, which I loved. Team this track up with the MONEY track, and you are looking at a very gloomy, awesome, Christmas mix.

Bottom Line: Jingle bells, deep synth lines and clashing guitars… Merry Christmas!

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Sol Cat & Kansas Bible Company - Father Christmas

Sol Cat & Kansas Bible Company “Father Christmas” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

I have a title in mind for my blog this season: The year Jim wrote about the same bands he wrote about last year. Don’t fret though… I’m actually pretty pumped about it. Apparently, I’ve stumbled across a bunch of bands that want to put out great Christmas music every year! So my happy hunting this morning ended quickly, with yet another fantastic cover by Sol Cat & Kansas Bible Company, the Kinks’ “Father Christmas.” This is the third time these two bands have gotten together for a seasonal hit, beginning with 2013’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” and 2014’s “This Christmas,” which you may have learned about here! Once again, they have infused a modern Christmas classic with youthful energy and fantastic production. They make small, but wonderful choices, both their phrasing and instrumentation to make this a particularly great version. I also appreciate the fact that they don’t want a machine gun

Bottom Line: Perhaps my favorite version of “Father Christmas” from the past 5 years. Realllllly digging this.

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