The Very Most - Winter EP

The Very Most – Winter EP (2009)

Indiecater Records
Buy: Indiecater MP3iTunes | Indiecater CD

You would be hard-pressed to find a band who loves Christmas more than Idaho-based indie-pop band The Very Most. For years they have been steadily producing indie-pop Christmas classics, and their 2009 Winter EP is the strongest of the bunch. This was the last of the series of season-themed EPs, which were later compiled into the full-length, A Year with the Very Most. All three songs featured on the EP are extremely good, beginning with a fantastic indie-pop take on “Away in a Manger.” If the focus of your mix is to give traditional tunes new life, then I would highly recommend The Very Most’s take on that classic. The next two songs are both originals, which I very much appreciate. “It’s the Best Thing” sets the scene in the evening, lit up by the streetlights just as snow begins to fall. All is quiet, except for the excited shrieks of his giddy children. It’s a beautiful scene, so honest and so easy to place yourself into. I truly love that song. Finally, “When Does the Goodwill Start?” rounds out the EP, wondering (because it’s Christmas) when the goodwill and peace on earth will start. Its a melancholy Christmas song wrapped in indie-pop paper – truly wonderful in its execution.

Bottom Line: You can’t get indie-pop Christmas better than this. 5/5

LISTEN

Eux Autres - Another Christmas at Home

Eux Autres – Another Christmas at Home (2009)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes7Digital MP3/FLAC

Eux Autres released their Another Christmas at Home 7-inch back in 2009, and in the subsequent four years, have earned (what I would consider) a status of indie-Christmas classic. Their original song, the titular “Another Christmas at Home” is 2:18 celebrating a warm fuzzy drinking-at-home Christmas that I’m sure a number of us can relate to. Short, sweet, and great. Their two covers, Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” and the Jacobites’ “Teenage Christmas” are equally wonderful – Eux Autres’ sound adds something to the song that makes you think they should be Eux Autres originals. (I especially love the lo-fi indiepop take on “Teenage Christmas.”) Unfortunately, the 7″ version will be hard to come by, as it was limited to 250 copies and is sold out – but do some digging and you might get lucky.

Bottom Line: The kind of solid effort you wish would come out more frequently. Truly enjoyable with some great choices. 5/5

LISTEN

Fucked Up - Do They Know It's Christmas

Fucked Up – Do They Know It’s Christmas (2009)

Self-Released
Buy: Discogs 7″ | iTunes

Fucked Up are no strangers to Christmas music. For those who actually like this song (I may not be one of those…), this is a solid version. They change the production and modernize it a bit, and the singing is not very good in parts… all of which I actually appreciate. The gloss of the original can feel so syrupy-sweet that it’ll rot your teeth.  Along with members of Fucked Up, you’ll find Andrew W.K., Bob Mould, David Cross, Ezra Koenig, GZA, Kevin Drew, Kyp Malone, Tegan and Sara, and Yo La Tengo on this track. Likely, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve heard of this version, if not actually heard it already.

OF NOTE: If you read this today or tomorrow, you can pick up the David’s Plan 7″ (with this song as the b-side) from Insound for a sweet $1.50. That is kind of insane.

Bottom Line: Good for what it is. 3.8/5

LISTEN

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd4RFPPYxp8]
Christmas Off the Coast

Christmas Off the Coast (2009)

Decoder Magazine
Buy: Free!

After listening to the STELLAR winter/Christmas mix “The Way Snowflakes Fall” by cherrystarscollide on 8tracks, I found myself scrambling to hunt down some new Christmas tunes I had never heard. The main target of my affection was the stellar “Winter (Christmas Song)” by Memoryhouse. Known to many via their recent Sub Pop release, The Slideshow Effect, I was amazed to find a song from 2009 floating out there that nobody seemed to be talking about! After some digging, I found that Decoder Magazine had put out a small, free compilation back in 2009 titled Christmas Off the Coast, but to my dismay, all the links were broken and the original files had been lost on a stolen computer’s hard drive! So, I threw out a few shots in the dark and landed the entire release (thanks cherrystarscollide!!!). You may kindly download it from the link above, or right here. As for the songs themselves, this is a pretty strong release. The Memoryhouse track, of course, is wonderful. I wish they would release it as a FLAC on their Bandcamp!! Woodsman’s cover of “Little Drummer Boy” is actually palatable too… because its an instrumental! I never realized… I really just HATE THE WORDS! Weed Diamond‘s “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” is perfectly fine too. Fuzzed out with a more lo-fi feel, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but there are parts (this one guitar part inparticular) that separate it from the pack. Wasters’ “Holiday” is another great instrumental piece that, with its brevity, just might sneak onto a mix. I Am the Dot‘s “Blue Christmas” is electro-on-the-edges enough to be interesting as well, for a song I generally don’t gravitate to.

Bottom Line: This is a great release – and I’m happy to bring it back to the masses! I could never give something a perfect score when it has “Little Drummer Boy” or “Blue Christmas,” but forget my personal prejudices and add another .5 to a release that you can enjoy all the way through. 4.5/5

Bears - Snowman 7"

Bears – Snowman 7″ (2009)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes

The Bears released this lovely little 7″ record back in 2009, and I am flabbergasted that they are still available. Limited to 250 copies, the Bears are offering up this EP (6-songs!) for a mere $2! The songs are classic indiepop – beautiful music, melancholy lyrics. I recently revisited their Twitter account, and they made mention of their love of the Acid House Kings. This love, which I share, can be heard throughout this record. Standouts (for me) are “Easy Days” and the slow grower “Holidays.” Also not to be ignored, the extremely cheery “Merry Christmas Have a Happy New Year,” where the Bears delightfully sing “To all the people we hate / have a terrible year.” Hussah!

Bottom Line: Truly worth the $2, and then some. 4.5/5

LISTEN

Avalanche Records’ Alternative Christmas (2009)

Avalanche Records (Edinburgh)
Buy: Good luck!

One of the biggest challenges with reviewing Christmas records, is that so many are released to benefit charities. I certainly don’t want to crap all over a record that benefits sick kids, and thankfully, I don’t have to.

Avalanche Records in Edinburgh, Scotland released a very DIY Christmas record back in 2009. Simply titled Alternative Christmas, this compilation features mainly Scottish artists each submitting an original song, with only a few exceptions. So, for those out there who love originals (like me), this is a good start.

I originally purchased this to have an audio master for There Will Be Fireworks‘ “In Excelsis Deo,” which is a dramatic, and fantastic song; a perfect ending to my 2010 Christmas Mix. This used to be the only place you could buy this track, and of course it has since been released elsewhere. Fellow dramatic Scots Frightened Rabbit also lend their (by now) classic track, “Its Christmas So We’ll Stop.” I think this may be the only official CD release of the track, beyond a promo that they sent to radio stations back in 2008.

A large chunk of this record is terribly sad. The Savings and Loan contribute a serviceable cover of the Palace Brothers’ lament “Christmastime in the Mountains,” but it does not improve upon the original – which is a must if you are going to perform it in a similar style. Withered Hand gives us an emotional “Its a Wonderful Lie,” and while it certainly has its moments, it is just too dreary for me. Really, this one could be you favorite tune on the record if you really love a Christmas dirge. Another rather brutal, but well-done song is the Phil Ochs tune, “No Christmas in Kentucky”, retitled “Christmas in Kirkcaldy,” and performed by Meursault. Scots singing about the Southeast United States… and the poverty that is Appalachia. I have heard it all.

Two final tracks that are certainly worth a listen are Emily Scott‘s “Holy,” and X-Lion Tamer‘s stab at Beck’s “Little Drum Machine Boy.” Both are done well, and “Holy” is an extremely pretty, sparse folk song with excellent vocal layers.

Bottom Line: Can be quite sad, but has a higher percentage of good songs than most comps out there. 3.8/5

LISTEN:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMlpRJf1iSE]
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw9MMvdol9Q]

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12 Days of Christmas cover

12 Days of Christmas (2009)

Bubblewrap Collective
Buy: CD | Bandcamp

The concept is intriguing. 12 bands were selected and given 31 days to write and record a song, each based on a particular day in the “12 Days of Christmas.” It was intriguing enough to compel me to preorder it many moons ago. As with nearly every single Christmas compilation, there is a WIDE variety of quality on this record. The tracks that rise above the rest are all female-fronted indie bands – one might think that I have a type. The first notable track is “Five Golden Rings from the Hi Five Kings” by The Rocky Nest. They have a great musical aesthetic – everything works well together. The second track I would like to highlight is “Silver Swans in NYC” by Allo, Darlin’ (Look them up – they put out a fantastic record this year). This was the one I was anticipating… and perhaps it was that anticipation that raised the expectations a bit too high. Its a lovely little song… but for some reason I wish it was a more fleshed-out production. There are a few other tracks on there that are ok, but largely, I was not a huge fan.

Bottom Line: So much potential, but not enough quality payoff. 2/5

LISTEN:


Laura Marling - Goodbye England cover

Laura Marling – Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) (2009)

Virgin
Buy: 7″ | iTunes

I originally heard Laura Marling perform this song on a Youtube video, a year before she released it officially (see below). Performing at the amazing folk collective Communion Christmas show, this glimpse into what would be her incredible second record left me in awe. It then popped up on the BBC in a live set about a month before the official single was released, and if you hunt that one down, you will not be disappointed. The official single is a one-sided 7″, and extremely limited. If you are a collector, you would do yourself a favor to hunt it down. The same version can be found on her sophomore release, I Speak Because I Can, as well as a live version on the 2-CD deluxe edition of Creature I Don’t Know and the Live from York Minster 2LP release.

I have to say… perhaps my #1 Christmas release wish, is for Communion to put out a nice live recording of one of these shows…

Bottom Line: A classic. 5/5

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKFT-heAf_s]
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt1dmt-Zqyc]

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