Wyvern Lingo “Snow II” (2017), “Snow” (2014)

Wyvern Lingo - Snow II

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Well hot damn. This was too good to keep me from writing. Bray, Ireland’s Wyvern Lingo, a trio of singer/instrumentalists has just dropped an indie R&B jam “Snow II,” that is totally worth your attention. Their voices are beautiful, as are the minimal electronic beats and flourishes of color that support them. However, if that groove is not your bag, how about an acoustic version, with no percussion, mainly guitars and keyboards to provide the bassline? (Stubby found this one back in the day, of course) Then their 2014 version, “Snow” is your jam. Either way you slice it, this is a pretty beautiful song, and I think you might dig it too.

Bottom Line: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Both taste great!

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Bjéar “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World” (2015)

Bjéar Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Things are getting weird around these parts. We’re all about to get nuked, and I’m sitting here writing the second post in threee days about an instrumental Christmas song. Adelaide, Australia’s Bjéar has a Soundcloud stream full of solid, RIYL Bon Iver/Sufjan Stevens indie folk/rock. I initially heard his excellent Sufjan-esque “Big Sky” and really loved it; I think it was one of those “Soundcloud chooses another song” situations. So I click through to the profile, and discover these two Christmas songs – “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” These are two songs that rarely make appearances on this, very secular Christmas blog. However, there is a quality to them that leads me to this moment. Bjéar’s arrangements are the obvious strength of these songs. “Joy to the World” has subtle variations on the melodies you’d expect, and yet it sounds fresh to my bitter ears. “Silent Night” is extremely simple – pretty much a solo piano effort for the first minute. Then, more colors enter, and it opens up. Neither track reinvents these classic songs, but Bjéar’s choices have a sensibility that indie rock fans such as myself will certainly appreciate.

Bottom Line: I find myself in uneasy, instrumental and religious Christmas song waters, but Bjéar helps me swim.

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Rostam “Fairytale of New York” (2017)

Nonesuch
Buy: Stream 😦

Rostam (Rostam Batmanglij), the genius behind the production on those early Vampire Weekend records, put out a phenomenal album of his own this year, Half Light. Couple that with him being the main collaborator on the last two Hamilton Leithauser solo records (with equal billing on the last LP, the absolutely stellar I Had a Dream that You Were Mine), and you are pretty much looking at one of my favorite artists of the moment. That said, Rostam does not have a powerful voice, and I feared this song might just need a some more oomph behind it. I was most certainly wrong. The qualities of Rostam’s voice actually bring a new depth to the song. Rostam has a fragility to his delivery that makes this version unique from those I’ve heard before. The orchestration is beautiful, and has some slight variations to the norm, certainly not the re-imagination that was Daniel Woolhouse’s last year. However, there is a lovely part around 2:45 where the guitar lines lead into a what feels the most like a Rostam-like arrangement, which is lovely. Surprising and wonderful, this version just needs the ability to purchase/download/etc to make me one happy camper. (Thanks Larry for the tip!)

Bottom Line: My fears were unfounded – Rostam continues to impress.

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Cold Fins “It’s Christmas Time” (2017)

Cold Fins "It's Christmas Time"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

London’s Cold Fins specialize in reverb/organ pop, and while they are short on social media presence, they are long on musical taste. The classic, yet contemporary feel of “It’s Christmas Time” takes some basic “it won’t be Christmas without you” tropes and dresses them up in some interesting, fashionably worn new clothes. Cold Fins feel like a kind of band that could play Christmas hits at your favorite bar, and you would suddenly look up from your drink and realize you are at the fucking hippest Christmas party ever. Their organ, the guitar licks, and the steady beat will keep your head bobbing and feet tapping for many seasons to come.

Bottom Line: Soundcloud feeds you a winner every so often, and thankfully tonight, they were serving Cold Fins.

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Jean-Pierre Masseria “Bonne année 1969” (1968/2017)

Bonne Annee by Jean-Pierre Masseria

Finders Keepers Records
Buy: Bandcamp

I can’t even begin to explain who Argentinian-born, France-recorded, UK-reissued Jean-Pierre Bernard Massiera is, but I can say that this track from 1968, recently digitally reissued by London’s Finders Keepers Records, is pretty badass. The release, Bonne Année, technically contains two tracks, “Bonne année” and “Bonne année 1969,” but the first is so much slower and less interesting, and I really just wanted to yell about how much damn fun “Bonne année 1969” is. It is funky, it is trippy, it has off-mic screaming, a driving beat, one hell of a brass section, cackling and ho ho hos – so pretty much everything. It is, simply said, FUN.

Bottom Line: Would you drink water from the kitchen sink? Well no, but this kitchen sink, why yes I would.

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Lab Coast “Yule See” (2016/2017)

Lab Coast "Yule See"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Originally released last year on Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada VII, Calgary’s Lab Coast have generously re-released this killer track on Bandcamp for our FLAC-downloading fun! This is one of the most interesting approaches to a Christmas song I’ve heard in the past few years. There are no cliches, no “baby, please come home,” rather, the narrator is wondering why they are still loved. Many of you have likely felt inadequate, when faced with someone who loves you more than you think you deserve. “How did I become the apple of your eye? / I don’t know now.” So he walks around, thinking, “Would you still love me as I am / It’s not 1993 / I’m so broke I might as well / wrap myself under your tree.” It’s a powerful song, wrapped up in 2:06 of RIYL Real Estate-indie rock. This is pretty much written for my sensibilities, and thus, here we are. Enjoy.

Bottom Line: This is short enough, interesting enough, and rocking enough to (spoiler alert) make my mix. Maybe yours too! Now with extra FLAC-goodness!

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Color TV “This Christmas” (2016)

Color TV - This Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp | Vinyl

The other day while checking out what my fellow Bandcamp enthusiasts are buying… I came across this powerpop gem from LA’s Color TV. The production is great, the lyrics are clever, but it’s the attitude that really sells this song. This band has a polite snarl (yeah, wrap your head around that description) that just works so well. This song could get WAY more eyes, had it only had the “christmas” tag in Bandcamp! Quick side note… BANDCAMP, get your act together and give us a better keyword search! OK, got that out of my system – but THERE IS MORE TO THIS SONG THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. This track is part of a new, vinyl (or digital download card) compilation on Gearhead Records, Rodney On the Rock Presents: Santa’s Got a GTO Vol. 2 LP, which is available (with no additional track list) at the Gearhead Records website. So, throw some money at them – either $1 at Bandcamp, or $22 if you’ve got money to burn and collect Christmas vinyl! I know there are some crazy folks out there… go now, it has got to be pretty limited.

Bottom Line: Power-pop with attitude that bleeds through the speakers. Brilliant.

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A Very Cherry Christmas – Volume 12 (2017)

A Very Cherry Christmas - Volume 12

Cherryade Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Cherryade Records and DJ, music promoter and fellow alternative Christmas music fan Gareth Jones have done it again, for the twelfth time to be exact! Which, might I say, only makes them one year behind me (I’m coming on 13 this year!). This latest collection of indie Christmas tunes is only available to 200 lucky souls, as they only license the tracks to sell physical copies, and when they are gone, they are gone. And while you can often hunt down many of the tracks on Bandcamp if you miss out, think of all the work you are going to have to do hunting down 25 songs just to preview them. THEN, on top of that, paying about $25 do download each one, instead of the killer £6 price tag on this nice little package. Some highlights (for me) include Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (whose 2017 Christmas EP, Christmas Revisited, reimagines some tracks off his 2016 Xmas record), Marble Gods (also featured here on CU), and that leadoff single from Shrill Fit, “It’s Been A Shitty Year (So Give Me All Your Presents).” I’m all for bitter Christmas songs – and Shrill Fit’s indie rock jam certainly scratches that itch.

Bottom Line: Well, not a real review, as I have yet to receive my record yet – but you can’t beat the price, and I’m pretty excited that I barely know any of the bands on there. Discovery is why I do this gig…

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Crying Day Care Choir “Cosas Caras” (2017)

Crying Day Care Choir

Warner Music Sweden
Buy: Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

What a 1-2 punch… first Sunturns, now Crying Day Care Choir! In the past, CDCC has released two stone-cold classics, Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and while we are not getting a full EP this year, we are getting an amazing new single, “Cosas Caras.” This translates from Spanish to English as “expensive things,” and the song’s simple premise is that Christmas is about everything but cosas caras. The melody is infectious, and the infusion of Spanish is both unexpected and beautiful. Crying Day Care Choir can pretty much do no wrong in my book… and if you dig their Christmas tunes, you are going to love their non-seasonal faire as well – so please dig further into their discography. This single, as with all their previous Christmas releases, benefits Musikhjälpen, a Swedish radio campaign that raises money for charity. So, purchase the track from the links above and throw it on your mix, because this track is 100% mix-ready. (Hopefully they’ll add their Bandcamp link soon!)

Bottom Line: Crying Day Care Choir continue to amaze with “Cosas Caras.” What a way to start the season.

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Sunturns – Colibri Heart / I Do (2017)

Arch Records
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

The Sunturns are one of the preeminent Christmas indie-supergroups out there. Comprised of members of Monzano, Making Marks, Little Hands of Asphalt, Moddi, and Einar Stray Orchestra, they get together every year or so to record some beautiful, original Christmas music. This year, we are once again blessed with the new music, and I’ve been refreshing Facebook for what seems like days (even though I knew it was coming out today). “Colibri Heart” is a beautiful, banjo accented song about being in love at Christmas. “My heart is stashed under the tree there / hoping you won’t return it for now… tonight.” His heart beats like a colibri, like a hummingbird, keeping up the neighbors awake…. some beautiful imagery here. The B-side, sung by (if I am not mistaken), Little Hands of Asphalt’s Sjur Lyseid, is the kind of narrative song that I would expect from the writer of “Looks Like Styrofoam.” It is slow-burning and beautiful, melancholy and poetic, heartbreaking and hopeful all wrapped up in one, smart package. Yet another beautiful addition to the Sunturns ever-expanding Christmas catalogue.

Bottom Line: Two beautiful singles to slap you out of your jingle-belled Christmas music rut.

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