No Monster Club - Sleigh Decibels Volume One

No Monster Club – Sleigh Decibels Volume One (2011)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Dublin’s No Monster Club treated us to a great new original (anti)Christmas song in 2016, “Start the Carvery” (kindly pointed out by Lie in the Sound), but did you know that they have a whole Christmas compilation EP that they released back in 2011? The hilarious titling of Sleigh Decibels Volume One certainly helps set up expectations, as the lyrics are clever and biting throughout. The lo-fi fun runs through the entire release, which compiles songs from comps by net label Rack N Ruin Records in the Netherlands, as well as Belfast’s CF Records. Each song has its own charm, but my favorite is the short and dirty “A No Monster Club Christmas,” which has an infectious chorus that I have found myself humming walking down the street on more than one occasion.

Bottom Line: No Monster Club’s lo-fi Christmas tunes stylistically compliment their clever lyrical point-of-view on this fantastic compilation EP.

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Golden Dregs "Blue Christmas"

The Golden Dregs “Blue Christmas” (2016/2011)

Art is Hard Records
Buy: Free on Soundcloud!

The Golden Dregs are working on a theme here… they began with “White Christmas,” and have now moved on to “Blue Christmas,” I am waiting for “Green Christmas,” or as the title would suggest “Gold Christmas.” Well, as we wait to see if this project is bigger than two songs in the Art Is Hard Advent Calendar, lets take a listen to “Blue Christmas.” So… I’m not as enamored of this version as I was of their take on “White Christmas.” The Golden Dregs excel when they tackle material that is outside their normal aesthetic, and “Blue Christmas'” country roots are just a bit too close. This is actually their second take on “Blue Christmas,” as you can find a version on their Soundcloud from 5 years ago… (EDIT, they took it down) with oddly less listens than this year’s! That one is even more lo-fi, but has essentially the same approach to the material. All this said, “Blue Christmas” is not even close to being a personal favorite in my house… I have never included it on a mix, as I often find it terribly boring. So, The Golden Dregs may have been fighting a losing battle with this song.

Bottom Line: “Blue Christmas” may leave me feeling blue, but I very much enjoy The Golden Dregs holiday efforts and would LOVE to hear their take on some more adventuresome/against-type material.

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Love, Detroit Vol. 02

Computer Perfection “When the Key Turns” (2011/2015)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

What can I say? I am super-connected. I have been talking to the folks over at Computer Perfection for about a week, and we are totally the best of friends. How can I make such a wild claim? Well, they’ve invited me to Christmas dinner (they don’t know this yet) and they sent over a new mix of their wonderful 2011 Christmas track, “When the Key Turns.” Originally released on Love, Detroit Volume 2 (still available for free download!), this new mix is absolutely beautiful; it shimmers out of the headphones. Computer Perfection fancies this song to be their most beautiful work to date, and I would not argue them on that fact.

Bottom Line: Absolutely beautiful indie pop from masters of the craft. 5/5

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The Linedance Fever - Last Christmas

Linedance Fever “Last Christmas” (2011)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Like my fellow friend-in-Christmas Stubby, I too believe that the Swedish country-punk band, The Linedance Fever, have recorded one of the most wonderful and original versions of the oft-covered Wham! classic, “Last Christmas.” I have included a few covers of this song on my mixes in the past, each one quite distinct from the other… and this version joins the Erlend Oye version as the best that you can find. (They also have another Christmas tune, 365 Days of Christmas, and I may review that at some point… and I do hope they make some more.)

Bottom Line: A gem. If you have any taste, you’ll think so too. 🙂 5/5

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Serenades-Come-Home

Serenades (aka We Are Serenades) “Come Home” (2011)

Cherrytree/Interscope Records
Buy: Amazon (Try to find it elsewhere – eBay is often cheaper)

A side project of both singer-songwriter Marcus Srunegard and Adam Olenius (of the Shout Out Louds), Serenades (now known as “We Are Serenades“) put out a fantastic little EP, Come Home, to indie record stores in late 2011. A friend at our local college radio station proceeded to hip me to the fact that the title track is actually a Christmas song! And what a Christmas song! Melancholy Swedish Christmas songs are pretty much my favorite thing, and add a big chorus and I’m pretty much putty in your hands.

Bottom Line: These swedish songsmiths have created a song worthy of all-year-round listening – not bad for a Christmas tune. And hey, you can get this CD for CHEAP. 5/5

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHZ2ev-C4WY]
Adam Arcuragi - Baby Please Come Home

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

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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Behind Sapphire - Diamonds

Behind Sapphire “Diamonds” (2011)

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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Jens Lekman

Jens Lekman “I Don’t Know What to Do With This Information” (2011)

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Its been a whopping week or so since I’ve written about Jens Lekman. What can I say, he’s top-5 all-time for me. However, this may be my last post about Jens for a good while, in that I don’t know of any other Jens’ Christmas tunes. Please feel free to correct me, and subsequently, make me forever in your debt.

“I Don’t Know What to Do With This Information” has only been performed live so far, with a very high quality version coming from a Maida Vale Session back in 2011. Such a sad song, not in the sentimental way that “Christmas Shoes” (BARF) is, but with a realism that brings it a little close to home, even if you haven’t specifically lived through something like that. Its called empathy and Jens brings it out well.

Bottom Line: So, so very sad. I can’t bring it over 4 because I just can’t listen to such a sad song over and over again. 3.9/5

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Jens-Lekman

Jens Lekman – Christmas in San Francisco (2011)

Self-Released
Buy: Free!

Lets get this ball rolling again.

This is the second of my series of Jens Lekman posts. What prompted me to so quickly dive back into the Jens Lekman catalogue? Well, he updated his website yesterday, and seems to suggest that he sold only 16 records last year. While I find this absolutely baffling, I would still like you to take a moment and discover Jens’ music if you haven’t already. If you are already a fan, you may be excited to know that he is presently accepting orders directly from his home for signed CDs at a “pay what you wish” price point, as long as you also cover postage. Normally I would jump all over this, but I already have all his records, and had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago and he graciously signed my 12″ of When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog.

Enough exposition about Jens and why he needs the support of those who love him, and those who have yet (but most certainly will) to love him. Back in 2011, Jens surprised us with a small present on his Smalltalk blog, a modest, 3-song zip file of holiday piano pieces he wrote in San Francisco back in 2005 – hence the title. They are all instrumental, but each quite lovely. Certainly a worthy pickup for its price: Free. Take that money you saved by not having to buy anything and buy one of his other records, for yourself or for a friend.

Bottom Line: Simple, thoughtful piano pieces from one of my absolute favorite artists. For the price, it cannot be beat. In the right context, I might even sneak it on to a mix. 5/5

Faye and the Scrooges

Faye and The Scrooges “Fancy Postman” (2012) and “Terrible Presents” (2011)

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Two excellent little songs from the rather mysterious Faye and The Scrooges have come across my Soundcloud searches of late. Before I inquired, very little could be found about them. Google searches led to nothing. I thought, perhaps, there was an odd Aluna George connection, since that is the only band they followed. They had 2 songs up, and by all measures, were quite obscure with two very modest play counts (as of now, 80/768). I took a moment and asked them who they heck they were, and learned that this is the product of a group of friends who get together and write/record a Christmas song with just enough time to give them to friends at the pub on Christmas eve. Judging by the production value, this group of friends knows their way around a recording – they sound great. Both songs are silly, but not too silly as to be annoying. They are simply quite clever, and extremely enjoyable. Jump on this bandwagon and add to their 4 followers, and while you’re at it, follow Pluto Rise on Facebook and Soundcloud – because two of the members of this trio have started a band, and its bound to be pretty damn good.

Bottom Line: Faye and The Scrooges have my vote. They are one year away from writing an indie classic. Perhaps set up a Bandcamp to allow FLAC downloads? 4/5