Christmas Aguilera – S/T EP (2012)

Christmas Aguilera cover

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

So… to post or not to post. Is it truly selfish to want to keep this to myself, so that I might impress my Christmas music loving friends upon receipt of their mix CD? If it were not for the good cause this EP is supporting… I might have kept it in my back pocket.

The mysterious “supergroup” that claims to be the “greatest band since Wizzard,” has put out a truly excellent 4-song Christmas EP that will be one of the highlights of my personal mix. Four original songs that really push my buttons, be it a love of the melancholy, the political, or the secular… this EP has it all.

The leadoff track, “I Wanna Give You a Present,” is… for lack of a better word… dirty. And awesome. Its dirtiness not only comes from the playful lyrics, but specifically from the singer’s voice, which just sounds like he’s got something in mind for you, and you’re going to like it.

The second song is my personal favorite – “I Want a Car” revisits that classic idea of just wanting your significant other for Christmas… and damn I love that chorus. The vocals are a little rough-around-the-edges at points, but perfectly so. This is no way a knock on the performance; he has a way of making the vocals seem more sincere than a pretty voice ever could.

“Lennon, Oh” is the kind of political Christmas song that I knew I could get behind – “Lennon, Oh, where are you when we need you – Cause War’s Not Over.” Fantastic chorus – man this band can swing a chorus.

The final track, “Red Nose, Red Dress,” has a great groove – and would benefit from offering up the lyrics… because I don’t believe I understand it… “One longstanding misunderstanding, I am Rudolph, I am no man?” Who cares if I understand. It’s fantastic.

Really, this thing is so good that you will wish that it was 8 tracks long – because I do believe they have 4 more! The group will be performing 8 originals at the “Jolly Santa Social Club” benefit show on Saturday December 10 at The Victoria in London. All proceeds of both the EP and the show benefit Crisis, the national charity for the homeless.

Bottom Line: Buy it. It’s only ₤3 – its very enjoyable all the way through, and often quite brilliant. 5/5

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How is your Christmas mix coming?

How is your Christmas mix coming?

Photo shoot done. 20-30 songs on the shortlist. Waiting on a 7″, a CD from Spain, and very open to something new and incredible. My constant listening is keeping me from writing here – cruel timing – I know.

How about you?

The Rosebuds – Christmas Tree Island (2012)

Christmas Tree Island cover

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes

Few modern bands have had as much success writing enjoyable Christmas tunes as the Rosebuds have. I have hunted down their Christmas offerings on more than one Raleigh-area compilation, and am extremely happy to have a bunch more songs to sink my ears into.

My expectations were high, and they were roundly met. The two tracks I was familiar with, “I Hear (Click, Click, Click)” and “Oh It’s Christmas” are standouts (of course), but so are a good number of the new (at least, to me) cuts. The moody, saxophone-heavy “Xmas in New York” is truly exceptional. The sorrowful “Thru That Door,” also has some fantastic saxophone parts, that if not done so well, would be cheesy. “Melt Our Way Out” may be my new favorite – great music, and wonderful lyrics.

There are only a few tracks that I’m not too into, as I tend to enjoy the Rosebuds the most when the tempo is quicker. Another word of caution – the lyrical content of the record is largely melancholy. So… perhaps not party music – but its probably better than your party music anyway.

Bottom Line: A wonderful effort. I hope this (sort of) compilation does not signal an end to them writing Christmas songs. 4.5/5

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Pelle Carlberg “Soon After Christmas” (2008)

Lilac Time cover

Labrador Records
Buy: CD (You need the CD to get the download!)

Pelle Carlberg is one of my FAVORITE singer/songwriters… I am particularly fond of his two most recent solo records, In a Nutshell and Lilac Time. So, I dutifully bought them, enjoyed the hell out of their witty wordplay and to my amazement… there is a bonus… a hidden bonus to be found.

I encourage you to first look up Pelle Carlberg, or just groove to the songs below. If you like what he’s putting down, then you should go buy a copy of Lilac Time. If you read the liner notes carefully, you’ll find a link that shall lead you to three additional songs. One of those tunes… a wonderful cover of Stina Nordenstam’s “Soon After Christmas.”

You might imagine… when I found this… I jumped out of my seat, punched a waterfall, and smacked a leprechaun. It was damn exciting.

I will not post it here, and I beseech you to not post it anywhere once you hunt it down yourself. Lets actually buy some records. Lets put a few bucks in Pelle’s pocket. He has a family, and he is a full-time musician. The album is 100% worth it… throw in a ultra-rare Christmas tune that you have to search for… and you cannot beat it.

Bottom Line: The album itself is fantastic, and the Christmas song is wonderful. 5/5

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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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Free Music – A Carpark Record (2011)

Free Music - A Carpark Record (cover)

Carpark Records
Buy: LP

Class Actress. Dan Deacon. Cloud Nothings. Three Christmas songs on a free record (from select indie stores last year) that had me on the edge of my seat.

Too bad I don’t like any of them. The Cloud Nothings track is purely instrumental… not something I normally look for with a Christmas tune, though if it were compelling enough, not something I’d rule out. The Dan Deacon tune samples animal noises… which makes it (in my estimation) unlistenable. The Class Actress cover of “Silent Night” is acceptable… but I just don’t like that song on a mix. If it ever makes the cut, it will be because someone did something truly unique with the song that makes me enjoy it.

The non-holiday songs are generally great. Shortest review ever.

Bottom Line: If you create a Christmas mix based strictly on the hipness of the band and not the song, this LP is for you. The following number score is holiday-song specific and does not reflect the generally excellent non-holiday tunes. 1.3/5

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Do You Think it Will Snow Tonight? (2010)

Do You Think it Will Snow Tonight cover

Cloudberry Records
Buy: Good Luck!

Not technically a Christmas release, the 3″ CDR Do You Think it Will Snow Tonight falls in the winter/snow category that I open up my mix to. The vibe is much more varied than the previous Cloudberry release, adding a bit more of an indie rock tone at times. The first track, “Catch Your Cold,” is the best example of this. Evans the Death have created a rocking song with a great feel, and some very silly lyrics – “I’m afraid of getting a job / I’m afraid of Snoopy Doggy Dog…,” but it works.

Seapony‘s “Dreaming” is a lovely piece of 80’s inspired chillwave that will find favor with kids who listen to Wild Nothing. It later appeared on their 2011 record, Go With Me, and is certainly good enough to be mix-worthy BUT – is not winter-related enough for me (or at all!).

The Sweater Girls follow with “Sweater Weather,” which has a much more indie-pop feel than its predecessors. It could use a bit more a hook, with the lead singer’s spoken vocals over a buzzy guitar that is going in circles that would benefit from some variation of tone. Still, not a bad song – it gets bonus points for being the second song whose subject matter qualifies for Christmas mixes.

Floridian indie-poppers Cassolette weigh in with “Not Just Anyone,” the longest song on the record… a little over 3 minutes (a definite plus for this record if I may say so), but it is not a winter song! The only nod to the season is the lyric “You turn my winter into spring.” Too bad – it is a wonderful piece of indie-pop!

Finally, the Christmas-y named The Garlands finish out the album with a song that could be off a Sarah record of old, “Throw Away This Day.” My personal taste leads me to say this is the least strong song on the record, though if you love the indie pop sound of the 1980 & 90s, you’ll absolutely love it. Though, this is not a winter song either! (They did release a rather good Christmas tune two years prior that you should check out.)

Bottom Line: Not enough winter-themed songs hurts its rating, but some strong stuff. 3.3/5

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Last Train to Christmas (2008)

Last Train to Christmas cover

Cloudberry Records
Buy: Discogs Good Luck!

This little 3″ CDR packs a big indie-pop punch. Four tracks of solid songs that would please any fan of the genre, and perhaps even those who don’t normally warm towards the twee. Featuring four originals that don’t fall into any heavy religion at all… pretty much what I wish every Christmas CD I picked up was like.

The Swedish band Twig starts it off with “Antoinette’s Christmas Wedding,” which will give you all the crooning, brass, and calypso that you never knew you wanted in a Christmas song. A small story of a song, it sets the wedding (and surrounding) scene quite well. I am quite partial to Christmas originals, and this one is a very interesting one… It has yet to make a Christmas mix for me yet, it just hasn’t fit yet. It may never fit… but that doesn’t make it a lesser song.

The first of two NYC bands, Strega follows with “When the Stars are Shining Bright at Christmas Time,” and their very familiar, sleigh bell-heavy, female fronted approach does not stand out quite as much as the dulcet tones of Twig. However, they have written a tight little song that is immensely listenable.

The Soft City lead off “Side B” with “Snow Keeps Falling,” with a much more 60’s inspired treatment that I could imagine being off an early Essex Green record for some reason. Great motion to this song…

The final song is by the Danes Champagne Riot, who can be found singing Christmas tunes (Xmas Safari) on the most recent Matinee Records holiday offering. “December Slopes” is a fine first effort with a great groove; they reach a level that not many bands hit after many Christmas attempts.

Bottom Line: Every song is truly good, though no song is mind-blowing incredible. 4.8/5

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