Hello readers, the few I have left 🙂 Just wanted to apologize for being so darn quiet for the past week. I’ve celebrated Christmas with my family, bought a car (always fun….), traveled 6.5 hours, hung out with my parents, sister, nephews and family, and played in the snow with my son. It has kept me from even looking at what came out from Dec. 24 until today. I’m going to be way, way behind. Hopefully everything doesn’t disappear over the next few days…
I write about this extremely niche subject all year long, with unexplainable bursts of content followed by weeks of radio silence, so check back in here and there and make me feel like folks are out there. It always feels better when someone actually stops by.
Happy New Year. Hope that this year is better than the last.
“Two jews can still appreciate a good Christmas jingle.” LA’s Street Joy are indeed this – two jewish dudes who just released a fantastic cover of “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?.” In my brief research, this track doesn’t appear to be covered very often, and thus this may be your first experience hearing the song (unless you watch Narcos). The original was sung by a 12-year-old Augie Rios, backed by the Mark Jeffrey Orchestra, and actually sounds better than you’d imagine a child singing a novelty song might. In their version, Street Joy keep some basic melodies, but the dance beat, the synthesizers, and the fuzzy bass line completely transform this song; they have managed to perfectly modernize this novelty song from 1958, and make the song cooler than I ever thought it could be.
Bottom Line: Who knew “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” could sound this awesome?
Kevin Basko (aka Rubber Band Gun), who happens to be Foxygen’s touring guitarist, just released a fascinating Christmas album, Festive as Hell. Six original songs, with production by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, this EP was recorded in the middle of the night over the past few weeks… and it sounds like it. The production is ghostly, other-worldly at times, the result of which I would challenge anyone to imagine them creating at noon on Thursday. The record has a great sound, while the songs are at times challenging, oddly catchy, and never expected. “Christmas is Killin Me Off” is a dirty-bass romp spoken-word about how Christmas and New Years are “breaking us apart.,” and it is damn fun. “If You Want Us for Christmas” will get your head bobbing as it guides you to the most poppy (and quite fun) chorus on the album. “Yule Smog” has UFO sounds fluttering in and out, with a drowsy, beautiful piano melody carrying us through a song about not wanting to go to a Christmas party. “Divorced Xmas Dad” has programmed beats underpinning slinky synths as we learn about what dad’s going to make himself for dinner in front of the TV. “So American” pops into a 1960s garage rock style for what I can’t quite read as a Christmas song, if only for the “Christmas bridge.” “I Got Myself a Present,” has the formula of an old country ditty, clip-clopping beat and all, setting up a fantastic song about being alone on Christmas eve; It has some damn clever lyrics that you really need to check out for yourself. Truly one of the more out-there and enjoyable records I’ve come across.
Bottom Line: This is by no means the most accessible record you are going to hear this Christmas season, but dammit, it is fucking interesting.
Taken by Trees‘ Victoria Bergsman penned one of the best almost-Christmas songs I’ve ever heard; the Concretes’ “Lady December” remains one of my absolute favorite seasonal (almost-Christmas) songs of all-time. So I was delighted to see she dropped yet another almost-Christmas song today with “Holiday.” The song is less about this seasonal holiday, and more about being able to take your friends and family, shut off the outside world and take a personal holiday from reality. A very nice sentiment, indeed, which only becomes more vital when she describes the reason why she wrote this song (from The Line of Best Fit):
“I felt that I had been quiet for far too long and wanted to say something -that you can flee away for a moment with your loved ones and shut your eyes so you don’t have to see that freak who is leading the US, where I am living currently,” Bergsman adds.
“Just give yourself some rest from all the crazy news that has been spitting you in the face for that last year. Take a moment and be kind to yourself and the people you love, focus on what is beautiful and important in life.”
A-f*ing-men Victoria. This song not only has the kind of sentiment that I appreciate, it also highlights the dreamy indiepop that I’ve come to love from Victoria. As she readies her new record for 2018, pop on “Holiday” and take solace in the quiet comfort of those you love… if for just one moment… as the dumpster fire waits for you on the other side.
Bottom Line: Victoria has taken a moment to remind us that we all deserve a break, cloaked in a dream-pop prayer.
Greetings readers. Our dear blogger-friends Lieinthesound.de have a Christmas wish this season. For years they have been active refugee supporters, and have recently found themselves even more personally involved. I will let Brigitte and Christoph tell the story:
Late September 2016 whilst browsing through Facebook Brigitte found the urgent scream for help of a young African refugee. He had gotten his deportation note with a fix date, time and already booked flight. A year later he is still living in Berlin (Germany). It’s been quite a task but we managed to stop the deportation. Adam has grown to be family for us. We are still fighting to get him a full legal status. At the moment he only has a “ban of deportation” (German: Duldung). He’s not allowed to work nor go to school. He’s going to a school run by volunteers though. Adam is part of a group which is under special protection from the protestant church. This doesn’t keep him safe from harm but gives us hope and some support to build a future for him. At the moment we are paying for a room in a shared flat and there’s other expenses for things like meds, tickets for public transportation. We also help his mother and sister, who live in a refugee camp in Darfur (Sudan). Adam’s father died while fighting against the army of the dictator of Chad. Neither Adam nor his mother and sister can go back to Chad as their family is well known for being part of the political opposition.
This fall Adam introduced us to Ali + Fatima and their seven beautiful children. Their situation is difficult to say the least. We are still busy doing all the research to fully understand the legal aspects. At the moment they are put up in a refugee shelter outside of Berlin. The whole family of nine people has only two rooms. We are trying to find a flat for them. This means we have tons of appointments at different public offices, that’s why we need money to buy train tickets. We also need money to fund a good lawyer for them.
So, I just donated to help Adam, Ali + Fatima, so that they might have a better future for their families, themselves, and those yet to come. Brigitte and Christoph help light up your Christmas season every year, I hope if you find yourself with a couple of bucks, you’ll consider doing the same. Please help spread the word if you can. I’m sure there’s a tastemaker out there with more followers than all of our little Christmas blogs combined… I’m looking at you @awesomeperson.
The mysterious Hanemoon contacted me today, which I noticed just seconds after noticing that my Soundcloud feed contained a new song… so he is real! And is a member of the band featured here, Berlin’s Man Behind Tree! Does the name sound familiar? Well, if you bought the fantastic Twaague Records compilation I recommended back in the day, then you just might (because they are on there too!). The song includes help from Mincer Ray and Sailo, and features the same qualities I mentioned of their earlier Twaague track, “I Was Santa Claus” – RIYL-Superchunk jangly guitars and dark lyrics, but this track is “about country life from a basement perspective,” rather than a depressed man who used to be Santa Claus. This band can really put together a cool indie rock Christmas tune – one with fantastic hooks and unexpected imagery.
Bottom Line: Hanemoon pops up from under the veil of mystery to reveal himself part of a fantastic band I already loved – with another great Christmas song to boot!
In 2013, Oklahoma City’s Husbands released an absolutely incredible, full-length indie rock Christmas album (XMAS), and they are back once again with yet another! XMAS 2 is made in the same spirit as the original, with originals and wholly-reimagined covers living side-by-side in a completely cohesive collage of chillwave/indie rock/Boards of Canada/Animal Collective goodness. Honestly, I am a bit more than halfway through listening to the record (I just got back from a family function) and have been gnawing at the bit to do so… so this is a half-review as I wait to conclude what promises to be another incredible record by Husbands.
Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Winter Song” is slowly becoming a modern classic, as more and more high-profile artists have begun to cover it in recent years. The song has a signature emotional quality that has landed frequent appearance in television and movies as well, further entrenching it in our consciousness. NYC’s The Heart Of is the latest to tackle the song, as he found kinship with the emotional core of the song:
“For lots of people, the winter can be a difficult time to face alone, calling into question whether love is waiting for them at all, hiding in the cold. I identified with those sentiments and felt moved by their manifestations in my own life. Not everyone is rocking around the Christmas tree, and I thought it was nice that there’s a song for those people who aren’t. Of course, the arrangement and performance in the original is really beautiful, so I just tried to do it justice.”
The Heart Of certainly does the song justice, and IMHO, improves upon it. The subtle changes in instrumentation, the addition of banjo as a featured instrument, as well as further developing the percussive possibilities of the song wonderfully fleshes out what is a generally sparse, piano-centric original. These choices highlight the excellent taste level of The Heart Of, and their ability to create a modern, interesting approach to a burgeoning classic bodes well for spring 2018, when we’ll get to check out their debut EP.
Bottom Line: The Heart Of find a subtle, new approach that breathes new possibilities into an increasingly high-profile modern classic.
Shy Nature are back for the fifth year in a row (!) with yet another excellent Christmas song. “What I Want (For Christmas)” flashes a number scenes of Christmas, from many perspectives – children waiting for presents, slightly creepy office parties, watching television commercials, and even a Santa full of self-doubt. This interesting approach is exactly what one should expect from Shy Nature, whose previous Christmas singles have proven them to be one of the strongest in the game. So click that “Shy Nature” tag on the side of this post, dive into their back catalogue, and follow that rabbit hole out to their non-Christmas music, especially their debut full-length from earlier this year, Ten Times Around the Sun.”
Bottom Line: Back with our Christmas present for 2017, Shy Nature’s flexing their songwriting chops once again with this brilliant collection of holiday scenes.
Illinois’ la-goons have dropped a tight, two-track single that is absolutely worth your time. The garage/punk energy of “Krampus” and “(Mid)westy” have a understated quality that I haven’t quite heard all season. Each song has a midwestern bitterness that is given some levity by the fast beat and lo-fi production. Or more simply, it’s a punk rock aesthetic – some angry shit that puts a smile on your face. Truly enjoyed both tracks, and I think you might too.
Bottom Line: These Illinois goons strike a win for those who hate the cold, which is everyone at some point, no matter how much you like snow.