Fun indiepop from Athens, Georgia. Well, that feels about as right as deep-dish Pizza from Chicago, or Nazis on Twitter; They just make sense together. Casper & the Cookies also holds a special place for me because I have a friend who used to be in the band! (I doubt she reads my blog, but hi Suzanne!) They also have lots of connections to the Athens, Georgia scene – being part of peak Of Montreal (IMHO Satanic Panic/Sunlandic Twins), opening for the Apples in Stereo, releasing singles on Happy Birthday to Me Records, etc, etc. Their new Christmas song, “Kiss Me Beneath the Christmas Tree,” would have fit nicely in with the sexy Christmas song roundups that have been curated over at Christmas a GoGo, as this song bypasses the mistletoe and gets you horizontal, “I’ll unwrap you, you’ll unwrap me.” Santa even gets an invite to a “ménage a three,” should he show up. Tie all these playful, sexy words up in some upbeat indiepop, and you have a recipe for some silly, poppy holiday fun.
Edit: It appears this track was originally released as an MP3 in 2007. Happy to have it back!
Bottom Line: You need some silliness amidst all the sentimentality, and this’ll do the trick.
In 2007, Sufjan Stevens wrote and recorded “Lonely Man of Winter” and, as part of a holiday marketing contest to promote Stevens’ Songs for Christmas boxset, traded ownership of the song to the winner, Alec Duffy. In turn Duffy gifted his song, “Every Day is Christmas,” to Stevens.
But instead of widely releasing “Lonely Man of Winter,” Duffy held listening sessions in his home and around the world, sometimes pairing the private listenings with cookies and hot chocolate.
In an end to that years-long project, Duffy – now founder/Artistic Director of the non-profit Brooklyn performance venue JACK – has decided to release the song “Lonely Man of Winter” on Asthmatic Kitty Records, digitally and on limited edition 7 inch, with funds going to support JACK’s mission of fueling experiments in art and activism.
So. I have heard it now. And yes, it is a Sufjan Stevens Christmas song, so it will obviously be much, much better than 97% of other Christmas songs. I particularly like the new mix – the electronic percussive touches especially. Had I only heard the first, original version, I might have come out and said that this could be a “filler track” on one of his Christmas EPs; It just didn’t hit me. This is the blessing and the curse of Sufjan, as he has raised expectations of his work by creating a vast, incredible back catalog with such amazing songs like “Christmas in the Room” and “Sister Winter.” Criticism in comparison to his previous work is frankly unfair; I certainly compare most songs against their Christmas music genre, rather than the artist’s past work. Don’t get me wrong, despite my waffling, I’m still damn pleased, and I am so happy to hear that mystery track from long ago. You know what would be an incredible finish to Sufjan’s holiday season though? How about a cover of Alec Duffy’s track, “Everyday is Christmas.” I kinda feel like Sufjan could knock that out of the park…
Bottom Line: Sufjan’s 2018 recording of this mysterious track from 2007 is indeed a worthy improvement.
There must be a significant (well, it’s all proportional!) readership who enjoy a good twee-Christmas tune, because I sure do write a good bit about indiepop. Thus, if you have an indiepop itch that needs a good scratch, Little My’s Fourth will do the trick. Cardiff’s Little My are up to their 11th release now, and have recently come back from five-year hiatus. Thus, their fourth release was a good while ago, yet somehow I haven’t come across it until now! The 2-song single leads off with an original, “Xmas Song,” which is chock-full of jingle bells, soft voices, and was that a recorder? It’s classic indiepop Christmas, pretty music with sad lyrics. “I’ll have a sad, sad christmas with a sad, sad look on my face / since you’ve gone away.” Thankfully the music keeps this song from entering dirge territory – so I think you could get away with having it on your mix without bringing everyone down.
The second song is a Shakin’ Stevens cover, the oft-(but not enough!) covered “Merry Christmas Everyone.” Their version is certainly a nice little indiepop version, but it did not jump out at me as the Kate Canaveral version from last year. Still, a solid tune, but more-so because I like the song, not necessarily how they tackled it.
Bottom Line: Little My have done up 2 solid indiepop Christmas tunes for a cool £1, or perhaps splurge a bit and get one of the 2 remaining CDs? Sure! Certainly good enough to hope that they do some more Christmas tunes in the future. 4/5
The first of two compilations by the much-missed blog, Hard to Find a Friend. Somehow, this blog was able to assemble exclusive songs by some relatively big names (indie big), to benefit Toys for Tots. This is a good-enough release that it would certainly sell, and make more money for Toys for Tots if it were available on Bandcamp. I have made an effort to contact them in the past, but to no avail. So, the link for vol. 1 is still “live,” but I have no idea if the purchase will work. Perhaps they will find my post and remedy the situation…
There are plenty of tracks to highlight from this release… so I’m going to rattle off a few of them quickly, with embedded tracks where available.
The record begins with “Shepherd’s Song” by The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. What a band name! Well, I am led to believe that this track is not exclusive, because they released a Christmas EP years ago which is well out-of-print. Certainly a beautiful tune that is worth your time.
Quiet Company give a rocking rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which is not something you tend to hear. A great treatment that doesn’t fit into the traditional mold.
David Karsten Daniels‘ rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter” is as slow and haunting as one would expect, and while it does not reinvent the version that many like to attempt, it may be one of the best of the bunch.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone‘s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is an instrumental rendition of the song, with a hip-hop beat behind it that adds much more interest than I would expect. Certainly a good version if you’re into the more traditional stuff, with a very nice twist.
The Winston Jazz Routine‘s “Through the Snow” is a gorgeous acoustic song that would fit perfectly in that contemplative section of your mix.
The Long Winters‘ “Sometimes You have to Work on Christmas” is a great indie rock Christmas song, reminding me of when all my friends worked in coffee shops, restaurants and record stores.
Ohtis‘ “American Christians” is a fantastic track… and I can’t find THIS version anywhere. They have 2 other version on their website, free for download. They vary slightly, the one on their proper record, and the one on their demos record. I am particular to this version… but below is the LP version.
Aaron Robinson‘s “End of the Year” completes the trifecta of great year-ending themed songs. This is a fantastic tune, and I do hope that Aaron hunts it down for his Bandcamp site soon (It may have been lost in a hard drive crash!).
Some songs, such as the Chris Walla track, left me undwhelmed, but I have to say, that feels like a MINORITY of tracks. There are still some great tunes I didn’t highlight, but those above are my favorite ones. Certainly the tracks by Via Audio, TW Walsh, and American Music Club are worth checking out (Full tracklist here). If you try to buy it, and are successful, please let me know in the comments.
Bottom Line: One of the top Christmas compilations I have – so many good songs, and for a good cause. Wish it was as easy as a Bandcamp site to purchase though. 4.5/5
Super Furry Animals have a wonderful little Christmas song hidden away on their 2007 release, Hey Venus, which you need to become aquatinted with. Also released as a Dec. 25, 2007 free download from their website, “The Gift that Keeps Giving” is the Christmas single that Gruff Rhys believed needed to be on a SFA “pop record.” Its such a sweet song, but of course, Gruff Rhys and the SFA can’t be believed as sweet, sentimental artists. The video certainly expresses their true intentions, a disturbing sendup of commercial Christmas, which makes it much more fun.
Bottom Line: Love this song. Love this band. Buy the whole record: It’s all good. 5/5
High hopes are never a good place to start. Though I know you should never judge a book by its cover, a swedish indie pop band named Annie Hall checks three of my boxes: Swedish, indiepop and a Woody Allen reference. How could it go wrong? Well, first off, this thing was a huge pain to get ahold of. You can’t order from the label (they do not ship to the US), and thus I had to get it from France, and pay more in shipping than the CD cost. Not looking good already, because if you know this blog, cost to obtain certainly plays into the overall rating.
Annie Hall begins the disc with “Morning News,” a fine-enough little song that I can’t for the life of me figure out how its seasonal. Their second song, “Walk Around,” does begin with “It’s Christmas time / Here’s an old song / for a new year.” They also mention snowballs… but really, its a bit of a downer right out of the gate with the dour music. Not something I really want to listen to again. Bummer.
Gonzo48K is the Japanese wildcard of this release – I really had no expectations, as I don’t listen to much Japanese indiepop. “Snowman’s Tears” has the kind of music that I wish Annie Hall had – upbeat, poppy, certainly in a Swede-pop vein. The lyrics, well… “So darling / You make me colder / you make me older / you close my folder?” Not exactly what I’m looking for, but really, english is their second language and they write better songs in English than I do in Japanese. “Turn off the Radio” is a much better attempt. It may even be on a shortlist for future mixes… I dig the backing beat, and the lyrics are much better: “Walk through the street light / in the Christmas time / Back to the starlight / Where the children write / Turn off the Radio / Turn off the Radio.” Still not quite telling a story, but certainly evocative when complimented by the contemplative backing track. I can’t find it posted anywhere, but you can preview 30 seconds of it on Last.fm.
Bottom Line: Good luck trying to buy it, especially in the US. Certainly not worth the price it cost to import, with only one possible song. Loses points for all the wrong reasons. 1.2/5
A beautiful indiepop Christmas tune is hard for me to ignore. Fireflies hit the nail on the head with “Xmas Song” back in 2007, and was featured on my 2010 mix, Write About Xmas. The melancholy, the atmosphere, the brevity… it has it all. While it certainly borders on twee, its so good that those twee-phobes you are friends with may even find this song palatable. As an added bonus (and what prompted me to write this entry), Fireflies has added At Home to his Bandcamp. At Home is a collection demos, alternate version and unreleased songs, and at “name your own price” is a wonderful place to begin. On this record you will find a demo version of “Xmas Song,” along with two other mix possibilities, “Snowstorm (Original Demo)” and “Winter Has Come.”
I’ll get back to the tougher reviews when I get a bit more free time.
I don’t have much time, so I grabbed a short one for this review. Happy New Year 2008 is out-of-print, and unavailable via Elefant, but still out there for purchase. Nothing really dates it 2008, so no worries about that.
Anyone familiar with the Elefant label will not be surprised by this indie pop groove. The School kicks it off with “Kiss You in the Snow,” which is a perfectly passable song. Light, happy and generally a good time. Coming in at 2:18, it is the perfect time – any longer and the saccharine sweetness might wear a bit… but they hit it well.
The second track by Helen Love is probably the one that you’ll come to with the highest expectations, if only for the title, “Joey Ramone Snowman.” Unfortunately, this is the worst song on the album. It sounds like a child is slightly autotuned… and the spoken-word-singing by a child is not only annoying, but ANNOYING. Sorry to be so brutal… but really. Its just not enjoyable.
Corazón contributes a song in spanish, which is quite appropriate for a spanish label. My Little Airport rounds out the disc with a song in Japanese, leaving only the twee-loving Swedes missing from this international celebration of the indie pop new year. With both tracks, the music is quite pleasant, but they don’t catch me as others have in the past. I don’t need to know what people are singing – if the music is engaging enough, that is all you really need. Not quite there.
Bottom Line: Cheap, but nothing truly amazing. The School track keeps this afloat. 2.6/5