Benoit Pioulard

Benoît Pioulard “Rays in the Tallow” (2005)

Ghostly International
Buy: Free!

One of Benoît Pioulard‘s labels, Ghostly International, offered up three free tracks for Christmas way back in 2005, one of which was the wonderful track “Rays in the Tallow,” by Michigan’s Benoît Pioulard. If you are unfamiliar with his work (its a stage name, do your research if you are so inclined), then there is a lot out there for you to get into. This particular track is well within his style: beautiful, melodic, haunting and effecting. So take particular pleasure in glory that is this, the long-lost Benoît Pioulard Christmas track, “Rays in the Tallow.”

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

Bottom Line: Pure beauty. 5/5

Jens Lekman - USA October 2005

Jens Lekman “Run Away with Me” (2005)

Self-Released
Buy: Free!

So, this is the first in a series of Jens Lekman Christmas tunes I plan on posting. If you are familiar with the Swedesplease.net Christmas rundown, than you know and love this particular song already. If not, please do enjoy your first listen.

Jens Lekman released this little gem on the appropriately titled October 2005 : USA Tour EP. There are only 200 of these handmade CDrs out there, and one day I hope to be in that elite group. For now, I will have to settle for an MP3 (though I did suggest to his management that some of us would love a Bandcamp site). “Run Away with Me” starts off extremely strong – jingle bells and the driving beat that those familiar with Jens’ earlier, more uptempo work will absolutely love. The lyrics are also classic Jens. Since its a short song, I thought I might post them all:

What are you gonna do on Christmas Eve
Please don’t spend it with your family
I know you love your mommy
But she’s more like a mummy

She’s so empty,
She’s so empty
So run away with me

She’s so empty
She’s so empty
So run away with me

Yeah I know it’s been a bad year
And I can trace every tear
Back to your little life
But I can see a future for you and I

Because we’re not empty
We’re not empty
So run away with me

We’re not empty
We’re not empty
So run away with me now baby

If you make a mix that is at all along the lines of mine, then this song is either already on one, or NEEDS TO BE. What a weird, dark, beautifully orchestrated Christmas song.

Bottom Line: This is one of my favorites. I really, really, really need a higher source than the MP3 that Jens’ website offers. Anyone out there want to help a guy out? christmasunderground(at)gmail.com. 5/5

LISTEN:

[audio http://jenslekman.com/MP3/01%20run%20away%20with%20me.mp3]
Oh Sweet Music

Oh Sweet Music! “(Fly Away For) Christmas” (2005)

Canarie Records/Self-Released?
Buy: Good Luck!

Many moons ago, Swedesplease hipped me to this wonderful, odd little Christmas tune. The anti-christmas lyrics, the rough-around-the-edges vocals, the sparse guitar arrangement and beautiful horn interplay have placed this track solidly in my own personal “classics” collection. I now find myself wanting to learn more about the band in question, Oh Sweet Music. So, after some basic research, which takes some serious digging, I have come up with a few items I believe to be (relatively) true. First, the band is fronted by a man of the name of Magnus Nordström. This turns out to be quite a popular name in Sweden, and has thwarted my attempts to find him on Facebook. Secondly, he was also in a band called Piotor. Each of his bands appear to only have MySpace pages, and they haven’t been attended to in years. Thirdly, he recorded on Canarie Records in Sweden, and appeared on a Series Two Records compilation in the US. Canarie Records appears to be long-gone, and Series Two stopped releasing records in 2010. What I would give for an e-mail address, simply to thank him for the songs (I’ve found about four Oh Sweet Music tunes still available around the net), and perhaps suggest a Bandcamp page where his music can live on with high fidelity downloads and a few bucks in his pocket.

So, I throw out in to the ether, Magnus Nordström, please create a Bandcamp page for your old recordings. I will buy them.

Also, it appears that everyone thinks this song is called “Oh Sweet Christmas,” rather than “(Fly Away For) Christmas,” as it was originally titled (or so I assume… based that it makes sense from the lyrics, and is titled such in the earliest instance of the song being posted.)

Download the song here I found a link that was still live!

Bottom Line: An interesting original with a rough edge, sung by Swedes who, try as they might to fight it, have quite an ear for pop music. 5/5

A Very Magistery Christmas cover

A Very Magistery Christmas (2005)

Le Grande Magistery
Buy: iTunesicon7Digital MP3

A Very Magistery Christmas is one of the stronger indie rock/pop compilations I’ve come across. Originally an iTunes exclusive, this album has made its way into Amazon, Rhapsody, and eMusic.

Leading off the record is Pas/Cal,  who are known (at least by me) as having some of the BEST christmas tunes around, and their cover of “Last Christmas” lives up to their stellar reputation. This is one of the best versions you can find – and there are a LOT of covers out there. You can also grab this track on their 12″ split with Asobi Seksu. Their stab at “Jingle Bell Rock” isn’t quite as fantastic – but for a song that I don’t particularly like, they cover it well. It is quite unfortunate that when thinking about Pas/Cal, you must think of them in the past-tense… such a loss of lovers of indie pop christmas tunes.

The Stars also make two appearance on this compilation – and for this, be very thankful. First off, I’m a fan. Secondly, they hit a sweet spot that I enjoy – political Christmas songs. “Christmas Song” reflects on our perpetual wars in the Middle East, while reminding us that the Christmas season and Ramadan overlap. “A New Year (Live)” ends the record with a wonderfully stripped-down performance, dramatic as ever, and subtle with its hook. Two tracks worth a listen for sure.

Other standouts would be the electro-pop Baxendale tune, “Flash Gordon,” Mascott & Dave Derby‘s sad folk number “This Christmastime,” and Finian McKean‘s bluesy “Lost & Found.”

I’m not in love with the rest of the record, but nothing on it truly makes me cringe. You might be able to save a few bucks singling out the tracks you want, but overall, a worthwhile compilation that I am happy to own and support.

Bottom Line: Some stellar tunes in here make it rise above the pack. Loses a fraction of a point for not having an avenue to get a CD or FLAC. 4/5

LISTEN: