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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aquatic-slime

Aquatic Slime “Winter” (2014/2015)

Self Released
Buy: Soundcloud

Aquatic Slime have awoke from their winter slumber… and released all the Christmas tracks they’ve had piling up since 2006! There is even this curious track… which they abandoned because it was deemed “too slow/terrible drums.” Well… lets think about this. I do not agree with it being too slow; It’s slower track, but Aquatic Slime have great instincts, and it works quite well. I’ve come to expect a certain sound from Aquatic Slime, and had someone played this track, with the plinking electronic flourishes, organ synths and beautiful female vocals, I probably would have been able to peg it. Granted, there is something that happened in the drums/production that appears to have caused some clipping, but fix that, and you’ve got a winner.

I look forward to checking out all the other tracks that Aquatic Slime dropped too! Some intriguing titles too: “A Rave in a Manger,” “God Rest Ye Badass Gentlemen” – Awesome!

Bottom Line: I hear ya Aquatic Slime, and I understand why you did what you did… but throw a new coat of paint on this baby and you’ve got a new car!

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MONEY “A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year” (2015)

Bella Union
Buy: Soundcloud (Live version is free!) | Band Site

So sometimes, while searching for Christmas songs, I stumble upon a band that transcends the holiday season, and enters into my everyday listening. I can think of many examples of this in fact, it’s a significant bonus to this particular obsession. So, while on a night of keyword searching on blogs I dig, I came across Manchester’s MONEY. They are raw emotion and the soaring music, channeled through Tom Waits (not necessarily literal voice, but the voice), all the while not feeling contrived and wholly genuine. I’m somewhat obsessed at the moment.

Their new album, Suicide Songs, comes out January 29th… and they have released some preview tracks. First came the spectacular “The Night,” which I cannot recommend enough. The most recent track is a live version of a deeper album cut, which I’ve been been particularly eyeing (and tweeting at the band about!), “A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year.” This is the track that really had me thinking Tom Waits – you can imagine Tom growling through this song beautifully.

and i’ve wasted all my time
on cocaine at christmas
and bottles of wine
and i’m as happy as a child
because you don’t have to ask me why

Darkness can sometimes bring you down, somehow MONEY’s travels in the darker corners of life can give you shivers – the good kind. I hope at least one or two of you agree… and preorder their new album. I do hope they have signed copies left after Christmas, when I might have some money!

Bottom Line: MONEY have channeled the very best of Tom Waits to create a new drunk, Christmas classic. They could not be kinder by releasing this beautiful live version for free on Soundcloud – even a WAV file!

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a Drift - Merry Christmas

a Drift “Merry Xmas (War Isn’t Over) (2015)

Jean Luc Tobine’s Offical Fan Club
Buy: Bandcamp

French indiepop band a Drift have just released what one might call a “response song” to John Lennon’s classic, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” While the original has a hopeful choir of children, this wonderfully acerbic new Christmas song resigns itself to reality, while wishing you to embrace your loved ones at Christmas, cause they’re all gonna die. This is a commentary on our current state, biting sarcasm dressed up in a beautiful indiepop robe.

War is not over but we’re not gonna fight,
so merry, merry Christmas.
Corporations won’t save us from the climate disaster,
so merry, merry Christmas.
Share your love with your friends,
cause sooner or later they’re all gonna die.
La lala la la lala la,
so merry, merry Christmas.

I think this song goes along quite well with the beautiful and poignant Sondre Lerche song from earlier in the season – for those who wish to add a bit of politics to their mix, as I often enjoy to do.

Bottom Line: Beneath the handclaps, a Drift highlights the reality, and one might argue, the futility of our current world situation. Love it.

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Shy Nature “Christmas Lullaby” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

North London’s Shy Nature have ALSO returned! This is an amazing week for underground Christmas music – damn! Now, Shy Nature loves a slow burner, such as last year’s “Sweet Winter Rain,” and I would put their 2015 track “Christmas Lullaby” in that same camp. The music is quite atmospheric, as each instrument rings into the cool air of this snowy song. But there is a tension, very much between the slow beat and the vibraphone (right?)… only in the chorus does it release, and that is quite lovely.

Where somewhere it’s snowing
And the rest of us sing

Christmas lullaby songs
The melody sings me to sleep
And the holiday’s on
But no rest for the wicked and me

EDIT: It appears that this track is going to be officially released either today (17th, which it states on their Soundcloud) or tomorrow (18th, which it states on their Bandcamp).

Bottom Line: This lullaby leaves me with complicated feelings about how truly sweet it is… and I like that.

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Bullion “Child’s Christmas In Wales” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

I’ve feeling the bug tonight – so here’s a third post for you night owls. London’s Bullion (aka producer Nathan Jenkins) has turned John Cale’s “Child’s Christmas in Wales” into a shimmering, electronic wave of synthesizers. This isn’t the only, somewhat drastic measure that Bullion employs. He only alludes to the first verse, as the melody replaces the vocals. Vocals do come in on verses 2-4, but again, he shaves off the fifth and final verse. However, I don’t mind a bit, as I believe brevity is always appreciated in a Christmas song. If only there were a download… but… I’m sure you kids can figure a way around that.

Bottom Line: Bullion has taken a great song, shaken it up a great deal, and thrown it on the table as a tasty treat. (and POOF – it’s gone)

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Charlie's Hand Movements - Secret Santa EP

Charlie’s Hand Movements – Secret Santa and Other Songs (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

What a day! First Christmas Aguilera! Now Charlie’s Hand Movements!! Two of the best Christmas writers out there! I was, at the very least, hoping for another Christmas song from the authors of one of my highlights from last year, “Baubles,” and what did they do??? A whole Christmas EP! The EP was apparently born out of the idea that they just weren’t going to be able to get it together like they did last year. “Last year we made a song and a video but couldn’t see ourselves pulling everything together this time around… so, instead we made four songs. Or three at least… one of them is an Elton John song. A proper Christmas banger.” Of course, these songs are pretty damn fantastic, like everything that Charlie’s Hand Movements does. Their songwriting, their production, their ability to create interesting melodies – this band can do it all. I’m gonna blow through some simple, succinct thoughts on the tracks, simply because I’m a bit too excited and want you all to listen as soon as possible. “Secret Santa” slinks down the hallway with a funky beat; it really makes secret Santa feel quite naughty. “It’s Christmas Time (And I Don’t Want to Wait)” is smooth melancholy indiepop with all the right musical flourishes to make it a damn brilliant song. “Step Into Christmas,” the only cover on the EP is an Elton John cover, done in a fantastic indiepop style reminiscent of the brilliant Pas/Cal. Finally, “Flambe,” it is a great spoken word piece with CHM playing underneath, which could make anything wonderful. It’s funny, thoughtful, pissed, odd, and fantastic. So happy to have Charlie’s Hand Movements back… pick up all their tunes, because they are phenomenal.

Of note, “Baubles,” their 2014 Christmas single and “Don’t You Love Christmas Time,” their 2013 Christmas single, are both back on their Bandcamp for free download! But hey! How about throw them a few bucks and buy their latest (non-Christmas) release??? They are kind enough to give you ALL this Christmas music for free, it’s the least you could do!

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements are back with a whole damn EP of wonderfulness. You need to listen to this record, then go to bed happy that there are people like Charlie’s Hand Movements making wonderful music.

EDIT: It appears that Charlie’s Hand Movements like to take down their Christmas tunes as one takes down a Christmas tree. I would follow them on Bandcamp to get alerted immediately when they have new stuff.

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Christmas Aguilera - The Snowman

Christmas Aguilera “The Snowmen” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Everything in the world will be perfect for at least three minutes and fifteen seconds today. Why? Because Christmas Aguilera is back! “The Snowmen” was released and I don’t think Bandcamp has even notified me yet; I just happened upon it this morning! Christmas Aguilera have written some of the best, for lack of a better term, saucy Christmas songs I know, and they have also written some of the sweetest. “The Snowmen” most certainly falls in the sweet camp, and in a year of such darkness, I’m perfectly fine with that. The song tells the story of a snowman who realizes he has feelings. He is treated as a real boy, and loves every moment. It has a wonderful ending that can be embraced by all people, snowpeople or otherwise.

Tear up the rules
Christmas doesn’t got to be
A kick in the snowballs

The track, as always, benefits their local east London homeless charity. Love these guys.

Bottom Line: Listen to every single Christmas Aguilera track – because they are as close to batting 1000 as any band I can possibly think of. “The Snowmen” continues their unprecedented run of absolutely killer Christmas songs.

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Kid Canaveral - Wasn't Really Listening

Kid Canaveral “Wasn’t Really Listening” (2015)

Lost Map Records
Buy: Cassette!

Edinburgh’s Kid Canaveral obviously love Christmas; they are in fact hosting their sixth-annual Christmas party… a party that I follow on twitter, wishing that I was not thousands of miles away, and could actually go to. IN FACT, if you are going to Baubles VI this year… you’ll get this new song in the form of a limited edition cassette tape! So, if you live anywhere nearby and are not going… for shame! If you are going, pick me up a tape! Either way, one of those tapes WILL BE MINE. Hear that internet? I will get one somehow, some way, if I have to crash their website next week, I will do it. Because this first song, if it remotely sets the quality level of what I am to expect, has me absolutely frothing at the mouth like a rabid badger.

I first became aware of “Wasn’t Really Listening” back when Lost Map posted an early version to their Youtube page, and I thought it was beautiful then. To my particular enjoyment, the song has been expanded, and Christmas has been brought into the mix. I really love the music – Kid Canaveral have an amazing sound. As each instrument enters the track, they fill their own little space that has been perfectly carved out for it. The song is big, emotional and beautiful.

I want to live in a house the light still reaches in winter
I know it sounds trite, but it’s easier when we face it together
So come on home.
to me.

Bottom Line: I have been waiting for this, a true Kid Canaveral Christmas song to be released… and boy is it good. Rock solid for next year’s mix in my book. Very limited cassette (and digital download) now available!!

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