The Love Language

The Love Language “White Christmas,” “Gsus,” “Christmas in Toyland” (2008-2011)

Bladen County Records/Merge Records/Self-Released
Buy:
See below

The Love Language make some fine indie rock in Raleigh, NC… and in the proud tradition of their fellow Raleigh-ites, The Rosebuds, have some incredible Christmas tunes.

In 2008, the Love Language released “White Christmas” on a (now long-lost) download-only comp put out by Bladen County Records. However, this is not your parents’ “White Christmas.” You can’t get much darker than “Santa bring my baby to me / I’m gonna hang myself from a Christmas Tree / But all the ones that I’ve bought / They’re only six feet tall.” So… be prepared… and also be ready for some fantastic music. This song sounds amazing. — EDIT: This was also released as “White Christmas/Black Fetus” by the Light Language, a meeting of the Love Language and the Light Pines! I don’t know how I just discovered this link!!

2010 saw the Love Language move on from Bladen County Records, and head for the bright lights of indie-rock powerhouse Merge. It also marks the first year of (what I really hope is) a yearly tradition of last-minute Christmas songs released to the Raleigh-centric (duh) blog NewRaleigh.com. “Gsus” is a fantastic groove, one that made its way onto my 2011 mix and remains a personal favorite. It was recorded by Stu and BJ, with voicemails from the band members who were out of town – which sounds odd, but totally works. YOU NEED THIS.

The Love Language released “Christmas in Toyland” to NewRaleigh.com last year… also in the nick of time (Dec. 23). Another great song… a bit of a slow-burner, but very well worth it. Check it out.

My fingers are crossed… and I’ve been checking The Love Language’s FB and NewRaleigh.com for the past few days, hoping for another late Christmas gift from one of the great composers of indie rock Christmas classics.

Bottom Line: Free downloads of fantastic original songs. 5/5 

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Stones Throw vs. Serato 2

Jonti “Christmas Worm” (2012)

Stones Throw
Buy: LP

I am officially obsessed. This is 100% guaranteed to be on my mix next year. Jonti’s “Christmas Worm” appears on Stones Throw’s new Stones Throw vs. Serato II LP, and while I really don’t quite have a clue what the Serato II tone accomplishes, the b-sides are a compilation of Stones Throw artists… including this fantastic gem. I am considering the $40 simply to get a high bitrate version of this song. Fight it Jim, fight it.

Bottom Line: Hot damn! 5/5 (for the track… not a review of the actual album… which is crazy $$$)

The Aislers Set

The Aislers Set “Cold Christmas” (2010)

Self-Released/Suicide Squeeze?
Buy: Free!

I wanted a quick post today, just to keep things rolling. So, I thought I’d dip my toes into the generally excellent back catalogue of Christmas tunes that The Aislers Set have amassed. Their most recent xmas release was 2010’s “Cold Christmas,” released too late for most to enjoy during that year. However, if you were lucky enough to come across it in early 2011, then you are in your second season of grooving to this indie-pop classic. “Cold Christmas” is good enough to be on anybody’s Christmas mix – I only wish that they would release it properly… on a site such as Bandcamp, so that I might have a FLAC. Hear me Aislers Set? I will pay for this… my $1+ is at the ready.

Bottom Line: Free and FANTASTIC. 5/5

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Christmas Vol. 1 cover

Duover – Christmas Volume 1 (2010)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Portland’s Duover recorded one of the best original Christmas tunes (Grandma’s House) I’ve heard in years. For that fact alone, you should buy this record. And when I say buy this record, I mean it. Send them some money. Presently, Christmas Volume 1 is name-your-price, but come on… throw AT LEAST a buck or two their way.

Originals!!! ORIGINALS!! Yes, you heard it right… there are a whole bunch of originals on this one. 8/9 tracks if I count correctly… beginning with the absolutely stellar “Grandma’s House,” which really highlight Duover’s ear for a hook and subtle groove. This is followed by my second favorite track, “Trivial Pursuit,” which brings their harmonies to the front, while spinning a tale with some wonderfully clever wordplay (Nerds, this one’s for you).

“Home for the Holidays” slows things down a bit, and while still a solid song (I normally love a good Christmas dirge), Duover really excel when employing a faster tempo. Though… I must say, this may be the first song that name-checks “The Bud Bowl.” Certainly, bonus points for that one.

“Under Mistletoe” looks to either be their single, or simply the song that a friend wanted to make a video of. The music really creates a level of drama that I would not expect from a Christmas song. Though this drama is tongue-in-cheek… which makes the rapping much more palatable. Its a lot of fun.

“Coyote Christmas” is a great example of the power of simplicity. The lyrics are short and oft repeated; the vocals are subdued, as is the music. These elements combine into a beautifully constructed song that has no fat left to trim.

“Fruitcake” and “Old Soles” are the two slowest songs on the record, and as I mentioned earlier, Duover are at their best when they up the pace a bit. That said, they are still strong songs. There is not a single song on this album that I dislike, which is saying quite a lot for a Christmas record. The two instrumental tracks, “Ice Cycle” and the lone cover “Auld Lang Syne” are also quite nice and enjoyable. Though I have to wonder… had they not hooked me with that first track, would my lenses still be so rose colored? Yeah, probably.

Bottom Line: A wonderful collection of originals – quite a feat in the Christmas music genre. I look forward to Volume 2 (which they have *somewhat* confirmed in a response on Facebook). 4.7/5

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Under Mistletoe by Duover from Noel Taylor on Vimeo.

Kitty Kitten Kristmas Update

Hey folks – I’ve updated my review of Kitty Kitten Kristmas – the Stars in Coma have re-recorded the standout “The Frozen Spectacle” for their new record, and I’ve posted it there. An added bonus… they have it available for free on their Soundcloud!

DOUBLE BONUS: There is a new Christmas tune from the whole Kingem Records crew – “RELEVANT Christmas 2012” (Stars In Coma, Tiny Tide, A Nice Person). Its a solid tune… check it out.

Christmas Hits from Adventure Club Records cover

Christmas Hits from Adventure Club Records (2010)

Adventure Club Records
Buy: Bandcamp

This compilation from Adventure Club Records used to cost a few bucks… but for the moment, it is FREE! How about that??!! Well, first off, you can’t beat free. Secondly, there is some great stuff on here.

The EP starts off with Bear Driver‘s cover of “Walking in the Air” from the classic animated Christmas special, The Snowman. This is truly a wonderful version, floating and beautiful, and I was compelled to add it to my personal mix this year. The mix has not been in my friends’ hands for very long, but so far, 2 of 3 of the mentions of their favorite song have been this one.

Ian Williams and the Dead Flowers‘ cover of “Little Donkey” is actually LISTENABLE. I’m not a big fan of this song, but their slow, dark folk version makes it not only listenable, but genuinely good. This will be on the short list for next year.

Lee Schofield covers “In the Bleak Midwinter,” another song that I have a tough time really getting into – Rue Royale has been the only version I truly enjoyed. Lee Schofield has not surpassed Rue Royale, but he has created a simple, folky version with excellent vocal layers and nice instrumentation… a very solid effort.

Glaciers‘ “Happy Christmas” has this compilation batting 4/4 so far, with this truly wonderful song. Ragged, but beautiful, this song is very very much also on a shortlist for next year. This song has it all – interesting vocals, compelling lyrics, mention of whiskey, great music… knocked it out of the park.

Nir Graham rounds out the release with a (I feel like a broken record) listenable(!) version of Blue Christmas! I normally… really dislike this song. But he has made a messy version, that is pretty damn good. I still don’t like the song enough, but his use of the banjo to, basically, just make noise, makes this ramshackle version of Blue Christmas a compelling listen.

Bottom Line: I find no fault whatsoever with this release. One of the strongest Christmas comps I’ve come across. AND FREE (for a limited time no doubt). 4.9/5

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Parenthetical Girls Save Christmas cover

Parenthetical Girls – Save Christmas (2011)

Slender Means Society
Buy: Bandcamp

So, we are in an off year here in Christmasland. Why an off year you ask? Because the Parenthetical Girls only release a Christmas single/EP every other year, and they blessed us with this 3-track gem last year. So, alas, we will all have to make do with listing to the wealth that is their back catalog (which I shall review on another date). EDIT: They have thrown me for a loop… and are releasing a new EP this year!

Save Christmas is their second Christmas release in a row that is stellar from top to bottom – 3 tracks of gold. I could have put any of these tracks on my personal mix and been completely happy. The leadoff track, “Christmas Past,” sets the tone for the rest of the release with dark lyrics, surrounded by a shimmering bass line and jingle bells. This ending relationship is a tragic and beautiful song, one that finds my soft spot for sad Christmas tunes and pokes it repeatedly.

“Post-Christmas Time”… from what I understand, being that there are no lyrics, and it can be, at times, a little tough to discern, is about a post-apocalyptic time that no longer celebrates Christmas. Lines like: “Run for your life, its post-christmas time,” have led me to that assumption. Its interesting listening, even outside of the season. And the music is fantastic.

It ends with an absolutely lovely “There’s Always Tomorrow,” from the holiday classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Both sad and hopeful at the same time, this version conveys the requisite emotion that the song demands… if you ever wanted a sweet Christmas song out of the Parenthetical Girls, this might just be your dance partner.

Bottom Line: Three great songs, a name-your-own price (pay them!), what have you got to lose?! 4.8/5

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Christmas Aguilera cover

Christmas Aguilera – S/T EP (2012)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

So… to post or not to post. Is it truly selfish to want to keep this to myself, so that I might impress my Christmas music loving friends upon receipt of their mix CD? If it were not for the good cause this EP is supporting… I might have kept it in my back pocket.

The mysterious “supergroup” that claims to be the “greatest band since Wizzard,” has put out a truly excellent 4-song Christmas EP that will be one of the highlights of my personal mix. Four original songs that really push my buttons, be it a love of the melancholy, the political, or the secular… this EP has it all.

The leadoff track, “I Wanna Give You a Present,” is… for lack of a better word… dirty. And awesome. Its dirtiness not only comes from the playful lyrics, but specifically from the singer’s voice, which just sounds like he’s got something in mind for you, and you’re going to like it.

The second song is my personal favorite – “I Want a Car” revisits that classic idea of just wanting your significant other for Christmas… and damn I love that chorus. The vocals are a little rough-around-the-edges at points, but perfectly so. This is no way a knock on the performance; he has a way of making the vocals seem more sincere than a pretty voice ever could.

“Lennon, Oh” is the kind of political Christmas song that I knew I could get behind – “Lennon, Oh, where are you when we need you – Cause War’s Not Over.” Fantastic chorus – man this band can swing a chorus.

The final track, “Red Nose, Red Dress,” has a great groove – and would benefit from offering up the lyrics… because I don’t believe I understand it… “One longstanding misunderstanding, I am Rudolph, I am no man?” Who cares if I understand. It’s fantastic.

Really, this thing is so good that you will wish that it was 8 tracks long – because I do believe they have 4 more! The group will be performing 8 originals at the “Jolly Santa Social Club” benefit show on Saturday December 10 at The Victoria in London. All proceeds of both the EP and the show benefit Crisis, the national charity for the homeless.

Bottom Line: Buy it. It’s only ₤3 – its very enjoyable all the way through, and often quite brilliant. 5/5

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