The Ornaments – What A Merry Christmastime It Was 7″ (2014)

The Ornaments - What A Merry Christmastime It Was 7"

Folkmonger Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Hailing from the snowy cheese-fields (right? hehe) of Madison, Wisconsin, The Ornaments intend to be an annual Christmas music project that will “release one 7″ and play one show each December from now until the end of time.” Sounds promising! Comprised of Mike Behrends & Lance Owens, the Ornaments are the kind of Yuletide band I look for – nonreligious! I know, I know… but if you want religious Christmas music, look up… look down… you’re swimming in it already. These guys were just looking for a reason to get together, as I look to my Christmas mix as a means to keep in touch with those in my life. So far, so good. On to the songs.

The songwriting is certainly original. The A-side, “Santa’s Existential Crisis,” captures a conflicted Santa Claus who isn’t quite sure he wants to work anymore. He’s worn-out, he’s sick of all the stuff, and he really just needs to take a break. I dig the music too, perhaps more than the lyrics. Everything rests easily on the bed of Hammond organ and drums, with guitar and bell flourishes nicely sprinkled throughout. A very solid start.

The B-side, “Christmas Dinner,” does not go where you think it is going to go. The song is essentially about a glorious Christmas feast for a mother and her children… and what a bloody mauling it was. Ha! Great stuff – I’ll be on the lookout for 2015’s release, no doubt!

Bottom Line: Unique songwriting, great production and EXTREMELY limited (10 copies!), clear, square, 7″ lathe-cut vinyl. (4.4/5)


Chris Farren (feat Evan Weiss and Into It. Over It.) “Cold Front” (2015)

Chris Farren "Cold Front"

Soft Speak Records
Buy: Limited Vinyl | Bandcamp | Limited Vinyl Repress

Chris Farren released the absolutely wonderful Like a Gift from God or Whatever digitally last year, and its unique songwriting and fantastic production made it a quick favorite in the CU household. This year, Chris and Soft Speak Records decided to wrap a bow on the record and give it to us again. But… what a bow! A limited vinyl release! 100 on gold vinyl, 270 on red vinyl, and 30 handmade editions (only to be sold at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida this upcoming weekend). However, the story does not end there. There is a wonderful vinyl-only bonus track, “Cold Front,” featuring Pet Symmetry‘s Evan Weiss and Into It. Over It. Melancholy seeps out the of every crack in this Christmastime memory. For new readers… Christmas melancholy is something that I’m most certainly a sucker for. The song builds slowly, setting the stage – “The dead of winter, / the streets covered with salt. / I’m in the front yard, / wondering where you are. / The lights shine brighter / when you’re around. / The snow stops mid-fall / and avoids the ground. / The congregation ends the prayer. / Somebody told me it was not my fault / Somebody was wrong.” The music lifts and we go back to a time that was filled with love. The emotional roller coaster that is Christmas, wonderfully reflected in a song.

Oh, and all proceeds benefit NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So buy a record, support a good cause, and get this awesome bonus track.

I have been so, so, so busy lately. I really wanted to write about this earlier, when there were more versions of the vinyl available, but alas… there is only red left. But take heart! At least there is SOMETHING left.

EDIT: Just announced today (November 6, 2017) – Randomly-colored vinyl repress of 500 copies!

Bottom Line: Chris Farren can write a bonus track for me any day… just make it available for those who can’t grab one of the 400 copies and I’ll give back that .1.  4.9/5 5/5 (I keep my promises – available for download now!)