Friday Bridge “Coloured Lights Will Fall Like Bombs” (2012)

Friday Bridge

But Is It Art? Records/Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Friday Bridge is a (Can you guess the country? Do you read my blog?) Swedish pop duo comprised of Ylva Lindberg and Niklas Gustafsson (of the Higher Elevations). Back in 2012, they released a Christmas tune on Youtube, and a good one at that. I dig the atmosphere of the song – and while I can’t make out many of the lyrics, I don’t really care. Short, with a f*ing fantastic title… it might just sneak onto your mix.

Bottom Line: No way to download this song without getting creative… good tune, listenable, but may need to grow a tiny bit more to claw up into my favorites. 3.8/5

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Sing a Song of Christmas: Three New Tunes Exclusive to the Guardian (2013)

The Guardian Christmas

The Guardian
Buy: Stream

Last year, The Guardian newspaper asked three singer/songwriters to write an original Christmas song, with the only rule to include five provided phrases they felt “sum up the spirit of the holiday:”

“Do I have to wear this paper crown all day?”, “No really, sprouts do make me sick”, “The trains are pathetic on Boxing Day”, “I think you threw away the gift vouchers” and “Will someone turn the heating down?”

Their website provides the whole background on the songs, including interviews with the performers. I like the concept, and very much hope they do it again.

Dan Croll‘s “A Guardian Christmas,” is my favorite of the bunch. The sparse beats and R&B vocals are very much a sound-of-the-moment (and a sound which I like), and he does it well. I would certainly edit out the “Ho, ho, hos,” and everything after the second set of jolly laughs – and that 1:30 running time would be easy to squeeze into any mix. I really like the feeling of the final bit – that’s what sold me.

Gabrielle Alpin‘s “Untitled Christmas Song” also has some of the elements I like to look for – a sense of the melancholy of Christmas, and a bit of humor. She has a lovely voice, and the song is well done and quite short (bonus!). I suppose the only thing that would make it better would be a more fleshed-out production. Otherwise, really quite good.

Lewis Watson‘s “Home Alone (at, or before, Christmas) here” is my least favorite of the three, but it most certainly has some redeeming factors. The song is an ode the the McCallister family of the Home Alone movies – and tickles the bit in me that associates my own Christmas experience with Christmas TV and movies. However, it remains the least satisfying by having a low production value, and a part where he throws as many lyrics in as possible. Still good enough to be listenable, no doubt.

Bottom Line: All these songs are enjoyable enough to play in the background at a party – so perhaps consider adding them to your Soundcloud playlist, or use one of those fancy websites to download the MP3s. Most certainly an above-average collection, and had they offered easy, free downloads, may have scored higher. 3.8/5

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Wild Nothing “One Christmas Catalogue” (2013)

Wild Nothing - One Christmas Catalogue

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Well thank you so much Bob and the Christmas Chaos Radio Show! I have been buying Wild Nothing records ever since his first Summer Holiday 7″ , and boy am I happy to find this pop into my life. Wild Nothing takes this fantastic Captain Sensible song and really makes it their own. Their Empty Estate-era synth-heavy production definitely works for this tune. Certainly one that I would love to get ahold of someday… how about it Wild Nothing?? Add a download link of a WAV file? Yes… I ask for the moon.

Bottom Line: Wild Nothing needs to cover more Christmas tunes. 5/5

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The Hard Ground “Keep Me For Christmas Time” (2013/2014)

The Hard Ground

FIFA Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Well, why not keep the new stuff coming. Cork Ireland’s The Hard Ground (brought to me via 2 U I Bestow) bring another melancholy folk tune to the holiday table with “Keep Me for Christmas Time.” Beautiful female voice + grizzly male vocals + winter + longing = you’ve got a slow-burner that might just tear your heart out. As an added bonus, there are two versions for you to sample! I don’t see a place where you can purchase it yet. But likely, some resourceful reader will let me know where this can be accomplished. Free for download on Soundcloud!

EDIT: The Hard Ground has re-recorded this song for 2014, and put it up on their Bandcamp for €1, with the proceeds benefitting The Irish Cancer Society. Hey… Hard Ground… Why not add the other two recordings of this song you’ve made and make a good ol’ fashioned maxi-single!

Bottom Line: A very beautiful song deserving of your attention. 4/5

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Jens Lekman “I Don’t Know What to Do With This Information” (2011)

Jens Lekman

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Its been a whopping week or so since I’ve written about Jens Lekman. What can I say, he’s top-5 all-time for me. However, this may be my last post about Jens for a good while, in that I don’t know of any other Jens’ Christmas tunes. Please feel free to correct me, and subsequently, make me forever in your debt.

“I Don’t Know What to Do With This Information” has only been performed live so far, with a very high quality version coming from a Maida Vale Session back in 2011. Such a sad song, not in the sentimental way that “Christmas Shoes” (BARF) is, but with a realism that brings it a little close to home, even if you haven’t specifically lived through something like that. Its called empathy and Jens brings it out well.

Bottom Line: So, so very sad. I can’t bring it over 4 because I just can’t listen to such a sad song over and over again. 3.9/5

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Faye and The Scrooges “Fancy Postman” (2012) and “Terrible Presents” (2011)

Faye and the Scrooges

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Two excellent little songs from the rather mysterious Faye and The Scrooges have come across my Soundcloud searches of late. Before I inquired, very little could be found about them. Google searches led to nothing. I thought, perhaps, there was an odd Aluna George connection, since that is the only band they followed. They had 2 songs up, and by all measures, were quite obscure with two very modest play counts (as of now, 80/768). I took a moment and asked them who they heck they were, and learned that this is the product of a group of friends who get together and write/record a Christmas song with just enough time to give them to friends at the pub on Christmas eve. Judging by the production value, this group of friends knows their way around a recording – they sound great. Both songs are silly, but not too silly as to be annoying. They are simply quite clever, and extremely enjoyable. Jump on this bandwagon and add to their 4 followers, and while you’re at it, follow Pluto Rise on Facebook and Soundcloud – because two of the members of this trio have started a band, and its bound to be pretty damn good.

Bottom Line: Faye and The Scrooges have my vote. They are one year away from writing an indie classic. Perhaps set up a Bandcamp to allow FLAC downloads? 4/5

Another Grey Christmas 2 (2008)

Another Grey Christmas 2 cover

Willamette Week
Buy: CD OOP | Stream

The second in a series by Willamette Week’s Local Cut section – this is the first one that I’ve actually held in my hands. Only available in Portland and (briefly) online, the Another Grey Christmas series compiles local Portland bands doing both originals and covers… as so many other cities do. What Portland has in their favor though… is that its Portland. They’ve got a bunch of great bands just chilling out, waiting to record something amazing.

There are some solid tunes on this disc, with the perfectly passible indie folk rendition of “Winter Wonderland” by A Weather, a stripped down “Silver Bells” by Run on Sentence with Mike Midlo, and a delicate “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Laura Gibson. There are some good originals here too – Future Historians‘ “Family Tree” is a darker take on the holiday season, and the lyrics have a wonderful sense of reality to them – something you don’t normally get from a Christmas song.

The best song on the disc is Dolorean’s cover of the Dolly Parton classic, “Hard Candy Christmas.” Slow, sparse and haunting at times – this is not your mother’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” And best of all… they posted it on their website for download.

Definitely check out the rest of the series… but be forewarned, they do not let you BUY anything but vol. 4 & 5. I had to call a boutique in Portland to get ahold of #2… actually purchased their in-store play copy. And I’ve never seen one go up on eBay either.

BOTTOM LINE: Some solid classics are covered, with one strong original. 3.6/5

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