Glow Kit “Christmas Daze” (2012)

Glow Kit - Christmas Daze

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

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Wolves & Moons “In the Bleak Midwinter” (2012)

Wolves & Moons

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Wolves & Moons are a french band with an English singer, who offered up a lovely cover of “In the Bleak Midwinter” on their Facebook page on Christmas Eve last year. (Turns out it was on Soundcloud in Dec. 2012.) They chose Bert Jansch’s arrangement, which is simple, beautiful and short – and what a perfect choice it was. The arrangement, coupled with Richard Allen’s vocals, give this song a feeling of authenticity that the extremely sugary-sweet versions that I tend to find just don’t have. It may have been a free download on Soundcloud, as their profile page suggests, but there is a server error. So alas, you will have to get creative to fit this onto your mix, but I’ve got faith in you.

Bottom Line: Beautiful, short, with a feel of authenticity that is not found very often. 4.8/5

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

Friday Bridge

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

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Memoryhouse “The Year Will Be Our Year” (2012)

memoryhouse - this year will be our year

Self-Titled Magazine
Buy: Free!

Why not round out the week by rounding out my Memoryhouse posts with their one remaining Christmas/New Years track? Back in January 2012, Memoryhouse covered this classic Zombies’ track to celebrate the new year. Posted and hosted by Self-Titled Magazine, this cover is certainly worth your time. The noisy guitar parts that they every-so-often intersperse differentiate it from the wonderful Mynabirds’ version enough to let it stand on its own.

Bottom Line: Free download. Great song. Great Band. Why not? 4.4/5

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

For Folk's Sake 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

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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

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Allo Darlin’ “Only Dust Behind” (2012)

allo-darlin-7777777

WIAIWYA
Buy: Bandcamp

Allo Darlin’ have a long history of Christmas tunes. In fact their first-ever release was a Christmas EP. I may review that one day soon as well; we’ll just see how it shakes out. I am not hear to talk about the distant past, but the ever-so-recent release from 2012, their WIAIWYA 7″ from last December. The Christmas song that resides on the A-side is one of my absolute favorite of the past few years, “Only Dust Behind.” This is one of those tracks that I just always come back to. My only regret… that I was unable to get my act together to buy a vinyl copy. However, as consolation, a lovely FLAC waits for you at the link above. I will not bloviate any more, you really just need to listen to it.

Bottom Line: Simply said, wonderful. 5/5

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

Faye and the Scrooges

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

Parenthetical Girls – Good Christian Men Rejoice, It’s Parenthetical Girls (2012)

Parenthetical Girls - Good Christian Men Rejoice, It's Parenthetical Girls

Slender Means Society
Buy: Bandcamp

Parenthetical Girls never disappoint when it comes to Christmas tunes; They are ALWAYS interesting.  2012’s edition, Good Christian Men Rejoice, It’s Parenthetical Girls, does not have any of the sure-fire xmas singles that some of their early releases had, but the entire release is uniquely fantastic. This release is a fully-formed group of songs meant to be listened to as a set. After some basic research, I am led to believe that all these songs may very well be originals, but I just await that clarification from my better educated readers. For example, there are a bunch of “Christmas Mourning” tunes out there, but the Parenthetical Girls’ version rings original to me. My favorite track would have to be the gorgeous “The Salvation Army Bell.” Parenthetical Girls can be wonderfully abrasive, but this track is like a warm hug… at least, as warm as the Parenthetical Girls can be. The lyrics set such a vivid scene and very much suggest the short story that comes in the final 12-minute track, with lines like: “A cold day, the end of December / those bright bells chimed. / In a twin bed, we swore to each other / you’d show me yours, if I showed you mine.” Parenthetical Girls, please continue this tradition. You are in the top tier of Christmas songsmiths, and each release is a welcome addition to the underground Christmas canon.

Bottom Line: This release stands beautifully as a fully realized piece of art. Would be a perfect 5/5 if I could have just squeezed on single off it, which I am well aware, is antithetical to why I loved this record. 4.6/5

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Peaks “Xmas Song” (2012)

Peaks "Love"

Sober & Gentle
Buy: RoW (as in… not available in the US, barely available to the world)

Did you enjoy Cocoon? Because if you did, you may like Peaks. Why? Because its one half of Cocoon (Morgane Imbeaud) singing a song that has nearly the same name! Officially released on their debut mini-album, Love, this song was also promoted as a Christmas gift from Peaks last year. I do not believe it was ever available for free download though…

As you can imagine, the music is quite lovely. It is unavoidable for a band associated with Morgane Imeaud. Now lets take a stab at the lyrics… if you guessed dark, you guessed right! The song finds the lead character lamenting how wonderful it would be if they were still in love and stuck inside together, while crying that her love is not there and not coming back again. So bring that mix back down to earth with this fuzzy little Christmas dirge.

Bottom Line: You guessed it. I’m a fan. Loses points because of the extreme lengths you may have to go through to actually purchase this song. Sober & Gentle will not ship to the US, and I can’t find it on Amazon/iTunes. 4.2/5

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