Rubber Band Gun - Festive As Hell

Rubber Band Gun – Festive as Hell (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

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.

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Husbands - Xmas 2

Husbands – XMAS 2 (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

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.

Bottom Line: It is early, but I am loving this.

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Anni Rossi - Yuletide X Rossi

Anni Rossi – YULETIDE X ROSSI (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

New York-based multi-instrumentalist Anni Rossi returned to recording in March 2017, after a 6 year recording hiatus, with a new single and the following mixtape, HER. The mixtape was expansive, spanning 18 tracks and signaling that she was back to stay. Come December, Anni Rossi has now released a second mixtape, the wonderfully eclectic YULETIDE X ROSSI. The album contains some sparse covers (“The Christmas Song”, “Mele Kalikimaka”), some fascinating interpretations (“Silent Night”), and wonderful originals (“Even on Christmas Day”). The only track that I believe may have been previously released is Rossi’s fantastic cover of “Last Christmas,” which she released a version of on Soundcloud back in 2014. Believe me, the slow jam treatment of “Last Christmas” is absolutely worth your time and attention; Rossi’s version is unique and refreshing. Simply said, there are some wonderful songs on here, and even where a track might not be your cup of tea, Rossi still keeps it interesting. Hat tip to fellow underground Christmas aficionado No Love for Ned for the heads up!

Bottom Line: Anni Rossi’s return yields wonderful results, with an eclectic Christmas record that happily keeps you guessing.

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a POP ETC Christmas

POP ETC – A POP ETC Christmas (2017)

Pop Etc Records
Buy: iTunes | Amazon MP3Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

POP ETC have been thinking about recording a Christmas songs for years, but kept getting too busy around the holidays and would eventually let the idea fall away. That was then, and this is now… when POP ETC is releasing not one, but three Christmas songs! The EP contains two covers, which bookend the release, leading off with the classic Vince Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time is Here.” Their version is very faithful to the original in most aspects – pacing, emphasis, etc. – with Christopher’s vocals floating on top of their minimal orchestration. This leadoff is quite nice, and nicely tees up their original tune, “All I Want for Xmas (Just My Baby).” The pace picks up a bit as Christopher kicks into the song that he’s been singing around the house since the day after Thanksgiving; This is not surprising, as the track is a subtle earworm. It’s a classic “I just want you for Christmas” jam, wrapped wonderfully with POP ETC’s excellent pop taste. Finally, POP ETC tackle the McCartney classic, “Wonderful Christmastime,” and their drummer Julian takes over vocal duties. Thankfully, they don’t go full Macca, and tone down those sugary-sweet moments to create a perfectly nice version. Believe me, that last sentence was a high compliment. In fact, there are some excellent vocals, as well as backing vocal harmonies on this track, and the ending is genuinely beautiful. Had I not heard Slow Dancer’s dramatic reinterpretation from the Amazon Indie for the Holidays playlist, I would likely be adding in even more flowery language in trying to describe this strong cover of a (IMHO) bad song. With three strong tracks on this EP, POP ETC’s first foray into Christmas tunes was worth the wait.

Bottom Line: POP ETC’s Christmas EP is strong throughout, with touches of true brilliance and beauty, and most certainly worth your time.

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Lullabier - 2512

Lullabier featuring Faro “Natale A Ceneda (Just Like Christmas)” (2017)

Silber Records / VeniVersus
Buy: Bandcamp

Did you wake up, as I did, wanting a super chill version of Low’s “Just Like Christmas,” sung in Italian? You did? Well, that works out well for all of us, as Vittorio Veneto’s Lullabier has realized our dream with the leadoff track on his wonderful new EP, 2512. The novelty of hearing this classic song in Italian is not the only draw to the song – the laid-back indiepop orchestration is absolutely beautiful. However, it is the small, but significant, addition of the cabasa (at least that’s what I think they are using – the hand percussion), that evokes a crackling fire and draws out a warmth in this song that I don’t think I have heard before. The other tracks are also excellent – I enjoy the layered spoken word of “Natale A Serravalle (Silent Night),” and the English-language “White Dizziness” is understated and gorgeous. Lullabier has made some wonderful choices, and is very much on my radar now, and I hope yours as well.

Bottom Line: Italy is on the board with this stellar cover by Lullabier, whose warm, beautiful orchestration and production has extracted new qualities from an already beloved song.

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Fascinations Grand Chorus - Merry, Merry Christmas

Fascinations Grand Chorus – Merry, Merry Christmas (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

The classic, retro sounds from Brooklyn duo Fascinations Grand Chorus will no doubt be a favorite of my fellow xmas bloggers-in-arms (We all seem to like that sound). The three-track EP features two extremely strong originals, as well as a faithful cover of “Christmas Waltz.” My favorite of the the two originals is “This Christmas (Underneath The Christmas Tree),” whose girl-group harmonies and twangy guitar truly create a timeless feel. A hat tip to alternative Christmas music impresario Gareth Jones, one of the masterminds behind the A Very Cherry Christmas series, as it was his ears that sent me here. So, why not thank him by picking up Vol. 12 while you’ve got this tasty little EP in your cart as well?

Bottom Line: Fascinations Grand Chorus’ time capsule is a beautiful addition to an increasingly stellar Christmas season.

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the Christmas Cards

The Christmas Cards “Christmastime is Here” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

To what do my indiepop ears hear shuffling through my Soundcloud feed? Could that be a band formed by the members of “indie-pop darlings The Postcards and lo-fi teenage sensations Father?” Why by golly, it is! The Christmas Cards combined these two bands for a South London, basement recording session this past November and ran through 14 indiepop Christmas tunes! For those who love raw indiepop, this will be right up your alley. Being that it is a Saturday, and I have 3 different birthday/Hanukkah/Christmas parties to go to, I’m only going to single out one, “Christmastime is Here.” The Christmas Cards do it well – speeding up this classic in a jovial indiepop fashion.  It really was the handclaps that got me over the hump on this one being the track to highlight, as I then noticed that I was sincerely grooving and tapping my foot to their lovely cover. Of note, there are some solid, real deep cut covers in there too – but I think they’ll require multiple listens to really get into… so perhaps in a future post or two!

Bottom Line: A truly enjoyable cover for you indiepoppers out there! Check out the other tracks too if you like – some are great, others are good, and only one or two I wouldn’t press play on again (but Little Drummer Boy is pretty much my least favorite song ever). I threw all of them in a playlist below, for your perusing pleasure.

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Forest Creatures - Was That Christmas?

Forest Creatures – Was That Christmas? (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I don’t have much time, as I have to work this Saturday, and I’ve just got a few minutes to get this down. Forest Creatures are a Vancouver band of folkies who have put together two (yes, TWO) whole records of RIYL Sufjan Stevens Christmas folk music. When I say “RIYL Sufjan Stevens,” it is both a compliment to the taste level, as well as a hint that this record is going to have a dash of Jesus for sure, but not heavy-handedly so. The production is outstanding, warm and layered. They mix it up with covers (“I Heard the Bells”) and excellent originals (“Christmas Like I’ve Never Felt”), each one done beautifully. This is a cohesive, beautiful record that you could put on and enjoy all the way through, which can be VERY hard for a Christmas album to achieve.

Bottom Line: Forest Creatures have come in from the cold, Canadian winter to warm our hearts with lush, indie folk.

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Matt Pond PA More Winter Lives

matt pond PA “In Winter” (feat. Laura Burhenn and Steady Holiday) (2017)

131 Records
Buy: Bandcamp

While not exactly Christmas tunes, matt pond PA‘s More Winter Lives continues the winter themes of 2016’s Winter Lives. The warm textures of mpPA’s orchestration keep us cozy, as Matt sings about the season that no doubt dominates his upstate New York life. The song I would like to particularly highlight on this 5-track EP is the beautiful “In Winter,” which features Laura Burhenn (of the Mynabirds) and LA’s Steady Holiday on background vocals. This is classic mpPA, featuring their expert use of strings and beautifully layered orchestration. Reminds me of my days in college obsessing about The Green Fury

There are also some beautiful instrumentals on More Winter Lives, along with the excellent “The Moon Rose.” Worth checking out for sure.

Bottom Line: Matt Pond PA often uses the seasons as his muse, and with “In Winter”, beautifully so.

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Four Eyes – 3XMAS EP (2013)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Athens’ Four Eyes already has my heart. I mean, come on. Her song from last year was phenomenal, and her songs from 2013… well, they are too. It all comes down to her voice. Four Eyes (Erin Lovett)’s voice is just beautiful. I think she could sing me a phone book and I’d happily sit there eating my Thai leftovers. These tracks from 2013 are stripped down, vocals and acoustic guitar, and they are perfect that way. The first track “Believe (In What Sounds Beautiful)” has her wondering if it is Christmas or family that has her feeling so wonderful… I mean COME ON. That is some damn poignant beautiful stuff. The second song, “I Don’t Remember (Christmas Eve)” has Four Eyes’ apologizing for a drunk Christmas Eve… which, is rather adorable. That, and I love a good Christmas drinking song, and rarely do those contain apologies. The last song, “In a Diner,” is a beautiful story of an interaction in a diner: “Her laugh reminds you of someone / who showed you to believe / in what you cannot see.” This song, when listened to after 2 gimlets on a Tuesday night… makes you nostalgic for an experience you never had.

Bottom line: Simple, short, beautiful songs. What else is there to say?

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