Grapes and Friends - Christmas Crush

The Grapes & Friends “Christmas Crush,” “Can I Come Home with You (For Christmas)?,” and “I Wish it Would Snow in Austin” (2016/2015/2012)

Self Released
Buy: Amazon MP3 | Amazon.UK MP3 | Amazon.DE MP3 | Amazon.FR MP3iTunes

Here is something I had been meaning to write about since well before Christmas… but you know what? There is only so much time in the day, and you know… family, work, and all that other shit.  That, and Christmas A Go Go already covered it! Not that I don’t write about things that other folks do – I just feel less urgency about actually doing it. I think I just had a breakthrough! Thanks for listening guys and girls. I’ll see you all next week.

Oh yeah – review.

Grapes and Friends are an Austin, TX indie rock band created by smashing together members of Dangeresque, The Gorgeous Hands and Genuine Leather; they are like the Austin version of our friends the Sunturns, a specifically indie-rock-christmas supergroup. They combine to throw a Christmas party (have for eight years now) and it sounds like a fucking blast; I would love to go. This year they released the fantastic “Christmas Crush” as a teaser to get you to come to their holiday shindig, and what jam! I don’t know if I quite agree with C-a-Go-Go (Hall & Oates meets Ween), I find it to be equal parts Young Americans-Bowie and Midnight Vultures-Beck as the recipe for this cheeky holiday romp. The music is groovy, the lyrics are clever, the whole thing just makes me want to (Christmas) party.

They also released “Can I Come Home with You (For Christmas)? in 2015,” which is still a ton of fun, just a bit goofier. Smooth and silly, it is something that wouldn’t be out of place in a fireside seduction scene on Flight of the Concords. “Can I Come Home with you for Christmas / Can I get stoned with you for Christmas? / make you feel alright pretty baby, maybe.” Some fun shit indeed.

BUT WAIT, there is one more! The final track is “I Wish it Would Snow in Austin,” released in 2012 and accented with beautiful horns and lots of love. It reminds me of Yoko-era Beulah, which is a band I fucking love. (What’s with all the profanity today?) I truly dig this one too – battling with “Christmas Crush” for my favorite by these Grapes folks. Can’t wait for this year’s!! (fingers crossed)

Bottom Line: The Grapes and Friends are a welcome indie-Christmas supergroup that would be amazing on a double bill with their Norwegian counterparts… just imagine that one… what a party! Love this band!

LISTEN

Advertisements
Jean Luc Tobine's Official Fan Club

Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club – Christmas 7″ (2012)

Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club
Buy: Bandcamp

My french is nonexistent, and Google Translate is only so good… so please bear with me as I try to relay information about this wonderful Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club (JLTOFC) Christmas 7″. JLTOFC began in 2011 to support and develop artists. If I understand correctly, JLTOFC is a nonprofit arts organization, with a radio program, music label, and theater and film production services. Of particular note, JLTOFC’s radio program is run on school holidays, and they ask participants to create a playlist of 5 tracks on a theme. The program would focus on songs of spring, summer hits, fishing songs, Halloween songs… and yes… Christmas songs. Perhaps this radio show was just the spark that began the warm fire that is JLTOFC’s wonderful musical offering, 2012’s Christmas 7″.

Christmas is truly one of the strongest 7″ Christmas compilations I have ever come across. Four tracks, each original and with an interesting point-of-view… I want more… I need more. It begins with the now-defunct All Cannibals‘ “Christmas Night.” I love every second of this song, from the rollicking music, to the earnest lyrics (“Christmas night / true and beautiful”), this song is undeniable. You can also find this track on my 2015 mix!

Trotski Nautique‘s “Noël Sapin” is a lovely slice of French indiepop, and while I have no idea what they are saying… the music is all I need to love this song. Is that a recorder I hear? If it is, that’s the best damn recorder I’ve ever heard in a song. Don’t let me scare you off… listen.

You Call It a Name veers into Weezer territory with the cheeky “I’ll play my next album with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.” As with most of the songs on this release, I can’t quite make out all the lyrics well enough to quote them… but I don’t think I’m crazy to think that they might be writing to Santa Clause to be able to play their next album with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. There’s some “kicking ass,” lots of rocking out… it’s good fun.

If you’re a reader of this blog from 2015, you may already be familiar with the wonderful a Drift. “It’s Christmas” is their first seasonal offering, and it’s quite a lovely piece of indiepop. “All these colored red white and green / it’s Christmas  / it’s Christmas / the whole house smells like tangerine / it’s Christmas / it’s Christmas.” A warm, fuzzy, indiepop blanket of a song to round out this incredible 7″.

With only 300 of these records in existence, there is no explanation as to why these are not already sold out. They sent me a lovely note with my order, and as it turns out… I’m the first person from the states to order it. While this does prove how stone-cold cool I am, this needs to be remedied. Buy the crap out of this. Throw a few bucks in and download it. Whatever you do… this needs to be heard and loved.

Bottom Line: I am most certainly a fan of Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club. Please, dear flying spaghetti monster Santa, deliver me a new Christmas release this year, or next year, or the year after that. I’m patient. I’ll wait.

LISTEN

Adult Books Demo 2011

Adult Books “When the Lights Go Out on Christmas Eve” (2012)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Los Angeles’ lo-fi trio Adult Books snuck a Christmas song onto their Demo 2011 release, “When the Lights Go Out on Christmas Eve,” and its a grower (for me, particularly). On first listen… I wasn’t hooked. It took me three listens, spread over a few weeks to get into this track. But you know what? Those kinds of songs often last for me. I really like the production, and if the EP title is to be believed, it’s only a demo. The simple instrumentation – the fuzzy vocals – it all creates a great atmosphere. I especially like the layered vocals at the end.

Of note – Adult Books also just put out a 7″ EP on Box Bedroom Rebels. BBR is one of my favorite labels of the past year, and their releases normally sell out extremely quickly. Fortunately for you, they still have some of the Adult Books EP, and it comes with lots of fun extras. Certainly check it out if you’re curious.

Bottom Line: A fantastic lo-fi Christmas tune. 4.4/5

LISTEN

Cocktails - The Most Wonderful Time (For a Beer)

Cocktails “The Most Wonderful Time (For a Beer)” (2012)

Father/Daughter Records
Buy: Bandcamp

I apologize for the language; I’m apparently quite fond of profanity in 2015.

San Francisco’s Cocktails are the perfect follow-up to that Pupppy track – they are both on the same label, Father/Daughter Records, and they both recorded drunk Christmas tunes. Shit really appears to be hitting the fan – girl is gone, transmission is busted, life has kicked them in the nuts. “I don’t hear the children singing / I don’t hear the sleigh bells ringing / Its the most wonderful time / Its the most wonderful time / for a beer.” The contrast of the shit situation with the upbeat, happy chorus makes for a great, interesting song from what could easily have been a throwaway with a good title.

Of note, Cocktails also appear on the Bay Bridged 2014 Holiday Compilation, previously talked about on the always-influential Stubby’s House of Christmas. Check it out – its another great power-pop Christmas song for your earholes.

Bottom Line: Clocking in at 2:07, shotgun this beer onto your mix if you want to pick up the pace. Maybe see them live with Wild Nothing on May 22nd too4.5/5

LISTEN

 

Blades Club "What You Get Me (For Christmas)"

Blades Club “What You Get Me (For Christmas)” (2012/2014/2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

This post has been edited for the 2015 remaster.

Dublin’s Blades Club‘s “What You Get Me (For Christmas)” is one of the best rocking out Christmas tunes I’ve heard this year. Originally released on Youtube back in 2012, you can now get a remastered, high-res FLAC download on Bandcamp! Blades Club has channeled the best parts of the Strokes, blended it with surf vibes and great lyrics to create an absolutely wonderful Christmas song. So, I would recommend a quick listen, then fork over a euro and support Blades Club!

Bottom Line: Simply said, fun rocking out Christmas tune. 4.8/5

Carousel

Carousel “Christmas Time With You” (2012)

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

It was December 24th, 2012, and San Francisco’s Carousel released an indiepop gem of a Christmas tune on their Facebook/Soundcloud. So, it probably never made a mix that year. That’s a tough time to have a song drop, and it may have even gotten a little lost in the shuffle for 2013. In a cursory search on Google, I don’t believe it popped up on any of my Christmas-bloggin friends last year, though I did not look terribly hard (sorry if I missed you). Therefore, I bring this to the masses for mix-consideration in 2014. Electro indie pop at its finest, I do enjoy this little song. Classic Christmas subject matter (all I want is you) with a great beat.

Bottom Line: While their official feed has taken down the link, you can listen to it below and those who are motivated enough, will certainly know how to grab it. 4.4/5

LISTEN

Glow Kit - Christmas Daze

Glow Kit “Christmas Daze” (2012)

Self-Released / Mastermind Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Well hot damn. After reading about this track on Snowflakes’ blog, I knew I had to (legally) have it. Hailing from Aarhus, Denmark, Glow Kit recorded “Christmas Daze” back in 2012 and released it on Youtube, followed by a very limited (24 copies) lathé cut 7″ by Danish label Mastermind Records. Supposedly it was a free download on Soundcloud, but I could never get it to work. HOWEVER, after contacting the band, they have been kind enough to finally set up their Bandcamp page! So, now you can legally download a MP3 (or FLAC!) of this fantastic indie rock Christmas song. Please keep in mind, while they are offering it as a free download, they would greatly appreciate a donation. All the money made off this song will help with the ongoing recording of their new album. Musicians need money to make records, and if we want to continue to get fantastic music, we’ve got to support them.

Bottom Line: Really, I love this song. You should love it too. 5/5

LISTEN

Friday Bridge

Friday Bridge “Coloured Lights Will Fall Like Bombs” (2012)

But Is It Art? Records/Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Friday Bridge is a (Can you guess the country? Do you read my blog?) Swedish pop duo comprised of Ylva Lindberg and Niklas Gustafsson (of the Higher Elevations). Back in 2012, they released a Christmas tune on Youtube, and a good one at that. I dig the atmosphere of the song – and while I can’t make out many of the lyrics, I don’t really care. Short, with a f*ing fantastic title… it might just sneak onto your mix.

Bottom Line: No way to download this song without getting creative… good tune, listenable, but may need to grow a tiny bit more to claw up into my favorites. 3.8/5

LISTEN

For Folk's Sake 2012

For Folk’s Sake it’s Christmas 2012 (2012)

For Folk’s Sake
Buy: Bandcamp

For Folk’s Sake has been putting out Christmas compilations for (including this year) four years now, and I do hope it continues into infinity. I can easily say that Folk Folk’s Sake it’s Christmas 2012 was the best compilation that I purchased last year. Entirely listenable with some complete gems, this comp was worth every cent. I was one of the lucky few with an actual CD, as I do love physical media, and that just adds to the luster in my eyes.

While I feel there are many 3’s and 4’s on this record, I don’t have enough time to go track-by-track. However, I will most certainly highlight my absolute favorites. Please keep in mind, some of those songs I don’t mention at this very moment may indeed, one day, become a favorite that should stand with these… but I cannot see the future.

Ellen and the Escapades “By the Fireside” has that classic percussion + jingle bells that we have all come to expect from Christmas songs, which is not a knock at all – its the Darlene Love formula, but updated to their own, modern purposes. This song is good enough to be covered for years to come… and while I can’t imagine a different production being better than this one… perhaps a stripped down, banjo version would do the trick. Beautiful song. Can’t stress that enough.

Gibson Bull and Carmen have made me a believer in “The Holly and the Ivy.” I’ve heard versions from Los Campensinos (a good one, maybe even a great one) that come close, but not as good as this. Their voices are good, but not TOO good, which means they don’t overpower the song. They compilment each other so well – his early Dylanish tone and her soft tone wrapping that like a scarf on a cool winters night – true perfection.

Tom Williams‘ “Christmas (So Much Better When You’re Here)” reminds me of Mason Jennings’ lackluster contributions to the Brushfire Christmas comps… and how much better they would be if he took Mr. Williams approach. Stripped down, melancholy and utterly beautiful, this track is for that late-middle section of your mix, before you pick it up a bit in the latter half. It might just be someone’s favorite song, if they are a Handsome Family fan or something of the sort.

I’ve been glowing about these early songs, but you and your buddies in Spinal Tap will have to turn the glow up to 11 for this one. Gerard & the Watchmen’s “The Road” was very much one of my favorite Christmas tunes of the last five years. Comparison is useful for description, so please don’t think that I’d rather have these artists perform the song… but if Bon Iver had released this song, everyone would have (pardon my vulgarity) shit their pants in approval. I love it when a song’s ending is my favorite part.

So, with very few exceptions (mainly the really traditional stuff… but that’s a personal preference), For Folk’s Sake 2012 is one of the strongest compilations in years. Do yourself a favor, send them some money and download it right now.

Bottom Line: These kinds of releases make my life infinitely more enjoyable. 4.7/5

LISTEN

This Christmas (with Anthologies and Hide & Seek) (2012)

This Christmas (with Anthologies and Hide & Seek) (2012)

Anthologies / Hide & Seek Records
Buy: Donate

A very admirable, and higher quality (than most) charity compilation by Anthologies has come out two years in a row now, and I do hope it becomes a yearly seasonal occurrence. Donation amounts are left up to the giver, and all proceeds go towards supporting the homeless.

While I must admit, there was nothing that I fell in love with, I found it a very listenable compilation. The Birthday Kiss‘ “Sentimental Christmastime” was released outside of this compilation first, but is certainly a welcome addition. I happen to be a fan of The Lodger, so a Lodger side-project (The Birthday Kiss) will always garner a bit more attention from me. Dancing Club’s “Silent Night” brings new phrasing and instrumentation to what I normally find a very boring song. His voice is odd, yet good enough to be interesting – and I do love a banjo. Finally, These Men‘s “How Come You’re Only Nice to Me at Christmas,” is another to check out – great lyrics, nice music and short – always a bonus. The rest of the record is certainly listenable, and your personal song preferences will likely direct you to like songs that I might simply cross off out of my personal prejudices. For example, I hate “Wonderful Christmastime.” HATE it. So, that’s me.

Bottom Line: Good cause and overall very listenable. Keep em coming Anthologies. 3.8/5

LISTEN