Adam Arcuragi “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” (2011)

Adam Arcuragi - Baby Please Come Home

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Adam Arcuragi has a number Christmas tunes… and every damn one is excellent. He has been on 2 of my mixes, and this one narrowly missed making it onto this year’s (strictly a flow thing). It will remain the in the hopper for 2014…

This version of the oft-covered “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” has just what I look for in a cover – originality in interpretation. He re-imagines it with much darker production, slowing it down and finishing with a beautifully emotional last chorus. Hey, its short too. I always gotta love a short one, especially when its slowed down.

Bottom Line: I will likely write about Adam’s other tunes, but if you are so inclined, hunt down “The Belgian” and “Christmas Song.” This man needs to put out a Christmas record. 4.7/5

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Duover – Christmas Vol. 1​.​5 (2013)

Duover - Christmas 1.5

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I awoke to a pleasant surprise in my mailbox, a new Christmas record from DUOVER! They had mentioned that there was something in the works… but time was fleeting, and I wasn’t quite sure it was going to be this year. This band is one of those underrated Christmas songsmiths who (while they don’t make a record every year) fill their records with originals, ALWAYS a plus in my book. Their voices work so well together, especially when dealing in nostalgia, as in “The Ghost of Christmas Past.” There are some other standout tracks, such as the uptempo “Wintertime Blues,” and the “subdued “It’s Your Turn,” certainly worth your time and money. I do hope that we get to see the other .5 next year!

Bottom Line: Another excellent addition to their already strong Christmas catalog. Extra points for original tunes. 4.4/5

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Behind Sapphire “Diamonds” (2011)

Behind Sapphire - Diamonds

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Behind Sapphire are an experimental pop band from Vancouver, Canada, also known (to me) as the Sweden of North America. What is it about cold climates that breed such excellent, interesting pop music? From the Broken Social Scene of Toronto, to the many odd and wonderful bands of Montreal, Canadian cities are just rife with fantastic bands. I will include Behind Sapphire amongst them, and their circumstances are certainly impressive. Still unsigned, they have released 2 EPs, one full length, toured China (got detained in China too!), and have a production value that any signed band would love to have. “Diamonds” is the title track off their first EP, and I am billing this track as one of the more challenging songs on my 2013 mix, The Third Eye Santa. The vocals, the lyrics, and the movements that the song goes through are not for a mainstream pop radio audience. This is one of those tracks that I could see your family members skipping by, but could somehow become your secret, favorite song.

Bottom Line: For your more adventurous listener, perhaps those who enjoy the Parenthetical Girls Christmas tunes. 4.8/5

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The Miserable Rich “Everything You Wanted” (2013)

The Miserable Rich

Snowflakes Singles Club
Buy: Snowflakes SC | Bandcamp

Not breaking any news here, but good songs sometimes need a little cheerleading before someone will listen. One of my favorite tracks from this season has been The Miserable Rich‘s “Everything You Wanted.” It is one of those songs that took me a few listens to absolutely love, but those are the kind of songs that last. I particularly like the chorus, where the music rises and the horns come in. His voice has a great emotional quality to it, which I feel is just something you have – and can’t really learn.

This is just one of four releases from the Snowflakes Singles Club, an excellent new project that I hope we see more of next year. They still have some 7-inches left through the Miserable Rich’s Bandcamp, as well as over at Snowflakes SC (where there are a few sets with the now sold out Smoke Fairies 7″ still available).

Bottom Line: You need to invest a few listens. Then fork over your money. 5/5

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Christmas Mix 2013: The Third Eye Santa

Third Eye Santa

Its finally done. A tougher year than most, and as usual, I continue to second-guess some choices. That late Thanksgiving (in the US) really pushed a lot of releases back I’d imagine. But it is set in stone. Have a listen if you like.

 

Geoffrey and the Livingstones – A Song is For Life and Not Just For Christmas (2013)

Geoffrey and the Livingstones

House vs. Home Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Geoffrey and the Livingstones have gathered their friends and recorded three indiepop originals for us this Christmas season. Their friend list is quite long, including members of Allo Darlin’, The Middle Ones, The Heliogoats, The Smittens, The School, Captain Dangerous, and the list goes on and on. I’d imagine that most of them are on the title track, “A Song is For Life and Not Just For Christmas,” because it is reminiscent of one of those “everyone takes a verse” classic Christmas tunes of yore. Its really a great little song, with some very odd lyrics for those of you who love that sort of thing (I would include myself in that category). “Christmas is the season / we miss old friends the most. / We’re not visited by wisemen, / we’re visited by ghosts. / But instead of kissing corpses / under the mistletoe, / lets raise a glass of eggnog / for a merry memorial toast.”

The other two tracks on the single are certainly the B-sides, but not to put them down, they are just of noticeably smaller scope. “Communist Christmas” is wonderfully clever, and will fit the bill for someone out there’s mix. I would post some lyrics, but you really need to experience them for yourself. “Little Donkey Kong” is a reimagining of “Little Donkey” as video game music. Not my thing, but hey, perhaps yours! It’s short, which is always a bonus.

Bottom Line: Hey, did I mention this is for charity, and totally worth the money? 4.8/5

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Christmas Aguilera “This Sky” (2013)

Christmas Aguilera - THe Sky

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Christmas Aguilera can pretty much do no wrong in my book… and with very little additional information as to who this mysterious group is, here they go and put out another wonderful Christmas tune. “This Sky” is the A-side to their brand-spanking-new charity digital single (as in, there is a B-side), and it is glorious. With their trademark sense of humor, and wonderful ability to find an intriguing hook, this tale of an economic misfortune cockblock (pardon my language) is not to be missed. Oh, and all the net profits go to Crisis, the national charity for the homeless in the UK. So don’t be a jerk and buy everything they’ve ever put out, OK?

Bottom Line: I LOVE THIS SONG. Well done guys. Please keep the tradition alive next year. 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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Haus of PINS presents Hymns (2013)

Haus of PINS

Haus of PINS
Buy: For 2014! Green Cassette Repress & Download

Haus of PINS has one of the more intriguing comps this year. I wish I had more funds to pick up the cassette version of the release, but adding in that overseas P&P has me settling for the download. I will ammend this entry at a later date when I have a moment to review it, but for now, here is what they have to say about it.

Reposted from Haus of PINS:

Haus of PINS are proud to present their last release of the year – a hand-crafted, limited edition Christmas complication cassette, titled ‘Hymns’. PINS have contributed their Christmas song, ‘Kiss Me Quickly (It’s Christmas)’ and collaborated with eleven other bands – some Haus of PINS artists, some Manchester bands, and some friends from elsewhere – to create a Christmas compliation tape of completely original material. Faith of PINS says, ‘Some of the bands already had the songs, other bands wrote a song exclusively for it, which I’m honoured by.’ Bands involve include Post War Glamour Girls, September Girls, Brown Brogues and many more.

All of the proceeds from ‘Hymns’ will be given to SWAP, a charity that helps refugees and asylum seekers in the North. Faith explains ‘My grandfather volunteers for the charity, he goes every week – he’s 81 years old and still chooses to spend his time doing this really admirable thing. I think he is an inspiration.’

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