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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Grapes & Friends "Wishlist"

Premiere: The Grapes & Friends “Wishlist” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Let me quickly introduce you to the Grapes and Friends, as there is the slight possibility that some of you have not been reading my blog all year. (FYI, I write about Christmas music all year… because I have problems, obviously).   an Austin, TX indie rock band created by smashing together members of DangeresqueThe Gorgeous Hands and Genuine Leather; they are an Austin version of our friends the Sunturns and Christmas Aguilera, a specifically indie-rock-christmas supergroup. TOMORROW NIGHT (Dec. 9) is their annual Xmas Extravaganza, and they just released their annual seasonal jam! “Wishlist” is exploding with cheeky funk, that special kind that will both get your ass moving and put a big smile on your face. When they bust this out at their xmas party – shit is going down. The song pairs perfectly with last year’s “Can I Come Home with You (For Christmas)?,” tickling those Midnight Vultures-era-Beck feelings of carefree youth. And those vocals…  that delivery suggests something naughty is going down, and you know what? It just might. The day is just beginning… the possibilities are endless, and this is your holiday soundtrack.

Bottom Line: Slam your beer and start jumping around… or start evaluating whether you have any life left inside you – you choose. (Shit got deep there for a second.)

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Pauline Andrès "Christmas in Paris, TN"

Pauline Andrès “Christmas from Paris, TN” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Stream | Bandcamp

Originally “born in France a coal miner’s daughter,” then a Berlin-based country artist, Pauline Andrès has found a new home in Nashville to record her latest album, due in 2018. In the meantime, she has recorded this excellent new Christmas tune, “Christmas in Paris, TN.” The song begins as a intriguing title, and quickly expands into a melancholy, country-rock standout of this Christmas season. One would think that a track about Christmas in Paris would be a song of beauty, lights and romance – but add that Tennessee onto the end and you’ve got a wholly different scene. This song is about being extremely lonely on Christmas, where every reminder of Christmas makes it worse. So, she writes her family a postcard, “Alone for Christmas, Alone in Paris.” It takes a round or two of that line before she adds “Tennessee,” and that delay is so clever and effective – just wonderfully crafted. Her voice shares qualities with Lucinda Williams, and as with Lucinda, the rough edges compliment the lyrics beautifully. The production is wonderful, and the addition of country organ is the icing on the cake. I’m sure this song will find a place on someone’s mix out there, no doubt.

Bottom Line: Pauline has a very dark approach toward Christmas songs (check out her 2015, A Happy Christmas Song EP), and with “Christmas in Paris, TN,” she’s delivered her strongest song yet. Beautifully crafted, on all fronts.

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The Wild Raspberries

The Wild Raspberries “Snow” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: iTunes!

The Wild Raspberries, who already put out two absolutely beautiful Christmas songs the past two season, are back once more. Continuing what is already an incredible day of releases, “Snow” is the leadoff single to a mini-Christmas album, Be Merry Be Bright, slated to be released next week. So, consider this to the first of two December 2017 posts about the Wild Raspberries, because you’re gonna hear about them again. With “Snow,” the Wild Raspberries pull out the big guns, a beautiful overlay of Keez and Hannah’s vocals throughout the entire song. In their earlier single, “A Christmas Song,” the meeting of their voices was the part that just destroyed me. Now, it is as they decided to just give me the straight dope, from start to finish. With “Snow”, the Wild Raspberries maintain their gorgeous melodies, floating vocals, and taste level that can only be described as impeccable. I cannot wait for next week to see what else is in store – even if it is just a proper download of all three (known) season tracks, I’m pumped.

EDIT: 5 tracks! Looks to be four originals and one cover! WAHOO! Link above!

Bottom Line: The Wild Raspberries are the dessert on what has become the best day for Christmas tunes (and poetic justice) so far this year.

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Bjéar Christmas

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

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"

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

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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Fast Romantics from 2010

Fast Romantics “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (2010)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Originally released as a Youtube video back in 2010, the Fast Romantics managed to put together a wonderfully upbeat, profane (my mix is gonna have lots of swearin!) version of the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” which I had been trying to hunt down for a good while – even messaging the band at one point. How I never found this Soundcloud stream from Aporia Records, is beyond me. But alas! It is now mine! The Fast Romantics, for those unfamiliar, are a wonderful indie rock/pop band from Toronto. The early lineup you hear in this delightful Christmas song is clearly fantastic – the groove, the keyboard melodies, the driving bass – it is so damn good. The latest lineup retains two original members, and the recent additions (and the new record, American Love) are fantastic. (Also check out FR member Kirty’s self-titled solo record, it is beautiful.) I would love to hear the new version of Fast Romantics tackle a Christmas song… just sayin…

Bottom Line: The Fast Romantics’ version of this classic Grinch tune is the best one I’ve heard – resurrected from the past for your listening pleasure.

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Justin Kennedy Christmas

Justin Kennedy (of Army Navy) “What I Don’t Want for Christmas” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Justin Kennedy is the lead singer of the LA indie rock band Army Navy, and while Army Navy have their own solid duo of Christmas tunes, I’m really here to talk about this golden nugget of a song that Justin released under his own name back in 2014, “What I Don’t Want for Christmas.” The song begins by saying all the wonderful things he’d like for Christmas this year… but you realize that things are not quite right. The relationship is strained… they are sitting apart, glaring daggers. But then, “I still you love you, you know its true / and yes we’ve both been so cruel / make a wish on this Christmas night / hold me close and lets never fight.” The turn is made, and the love spills out of it. “Yeah I think that I know what I really want for Christmas this year / just hug me so close and I’ll love you, you know till next Christmas eve.” The story is clever and poignant, the music feels contemporary yet classically Christmas, and the production is top notch. Check out the other Army Navy tracks too, and if you are a glutton for punishment, Justin’s version of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” because, while I truly enjoy Justin and Army Navy, nothing will let me enjoy this song… because I’m not 6 anymore… I also loved poop jokes and morning radio DJ parody songs. Of note – the song is not available for download right now, but it had been in the past… so perhaps that will change?

Bottom Line: Well that review got a little old man shaking his fist at the kids there didn’t it? That ending should not dissuade you from listening to the fantastic Christmas songs of Justin Kennedy and Army Navy. Go. Enjoy. And follow Christmas Chaos on Facebook, because Bob reminded me about these guys!

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Mellow Fellow and Floor Cry - New Year's Eve

Mellow Fellow and Floor Cry “New Year’s Eve” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Stream | Bandcamp (soon?) |

Mellow Fellow, a bedroom-pop genius from the Philippines (who it appears, Soundcloud was invented for), teamed up with Manitoba’s wonderful Floor Cry for a lush tale of a sad, sad New Year’s Eve. The chill vibe, and the beautifully layered instrumentation nearly lets you forget that this song is pretty devastating. The fractured relationship plays out as both parties have a full realization of their roles – she knows that she loves him, but only shows it when convenient, and he won’t take the emotional strain anymore. A late night call that remains unanswered on New Year’s Eve, dressed up with some beautiful performances and production. Highly recommended.

Of note, Floor Cry is no stranger to holiday tunes – I’ve attached her covers of “White Christmas” and “Wonderful Christmastime” (please, everyone, stop covering this) to a playlist. Both are available on her Bandcamp as well.

Bottom Line: A beautiful downer – right up my alley.

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