Mama Bird Recording Co.
As I searched down the feed of Bandcamp purchases by folks I follow on that wonderful service, I came across the absolutely fantastic Ryan Oxford release that came out a few days ago. I am hoping they will fix their payment processing issues, so that I can buy that cassette. But this is not the real point of this post, the real point is to highlight the Christmas single that Nick Delffs put out on the same label, Mama Bird Recording Co., this past December. “As I Sat on a Sunny Bank” is a traditional English Christmas carol arranged and performed splendidly by Nick. There is a warmth to recording, with the muted, pulsing drumbeat and the shimmering guitar accents, which makes this song sound contemporary, as well as just downright fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to feel the warmth as they sit on a sunny bank?
Bottom Line: A beautiful treatment of a traditional song by the talented Nick Delffs… you have my vote. Which…. doesn’t matter for much, which is why if you buy this track today (Friday, February 3, 2017), you’ll be giving a small slice to the ACLU as they fight for our civil liberties.
Stubby hipped me to the excellent Portland trio, Three for Silver, when they released the fantastic Three Stones for St. Stephen in 2015. They are back once again, with a less ambitious release (1-song), but certainly with an eye towards the same level of quality. Three for Silver sound like a balkan-Tom Waits, and their style of junkyard folk-punk is a unique seasonal treat. Written in a recent snowstorm when the band had nowhere to go, you can feel the warmth of their studio come through in the production. A lovely antithesis to the dour news of the past few days, this is like a warm cup of coffee when you desperately need one.
Bottom Line: Three for Silver hit me at the right time, and hopefully you’ll find something here too.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
Holy shit. Just holy shit. Thank you Mac McCaughan, scion of Merge Records and Superchunk (amongst other bands). A highlight of the end of the season, with a sentiment that I can fully subscribe to. This song is a miracle of modern technology. Likely at no other time in our world can a song be written, recorded and released with such quality. As stated on Mac’s Bandcamp, “Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)” was “Written and recorded Dec 24, 2016 in a moment of trying to look at any possible bright side of the coming new year after the disaster that was this one.” I give you just the first bit here, as it gets less oblique and more acutely political as the song goes on… and I feel it best to be discovered, as you are just smelling the orange in the first verse, now you need to peel it back and taste if for yourself.
It was a year when everybody died
and it was a year when the adults and children cried
for the loss of their hope, for the loss of their youth
and next year might be better, but I don’t see any proof.
and this year it seemed like nothing really mattered
you could say any horrible thing, and rise to the top of this shitheap
So if you still have friends, raise a glass with them
Say it “Happy New Year, Prince can’t die again.”
I am not moving on to New Years songs… I don’t separate them anyways, they all can make a Christmas mix in my book. However, this New Years’ song is so poignant and of-the-moment, that it may never end up on a mix. “Happy New Year” might burn brightly for the next month, only to be extinguished by the suffocating shitstorm of 2017. But for now, let it burn. Let it burn.
Bottom Line: Mac McCaughan, damn.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
Richmond, Va’s Sleepwalkers have returned with another Christmas release! Their 2013 release, Merry Christmas, remains one of the strongest Christmas indie rock releases of recent memory, and even their short-lived second seasonal release, 2014’s “Under the Christmas Tree” was a stellar effort. So it’s no wonder that “Stop Your Christmas Moanin'” is a stomper that will get you to sit up and listen. And you know what, after you initially appreciate the fantastic music and excellent production, you’ll finally have a moment to realize how wonderful the lyrics are. “Stop your Christmas moanin’ / You can’t always get what you wanted. / You can take all your money and flaunt it, / but you won’t get a cent from me. / So stop your Christmas moanin. / It’s such a sight to see. / Stop your Christmas moanin, / it ain’t hard to be poor in the land of the free.” When a band can write a meaningful song without bashing your head over with schmaltz, then you have written a fucking winner in my book.
Bottom Line: Sleepwalkers are still batting 1.000. I want them on my team. Oh… and grab it before they change their mind and take it down (hope some of you got “Under the Christmas Tree” a few years back!)
Edit: Well… it looks like Sleepwalkers have joined Charlie’s Hand Movements in the practice of taking down all your seasonal stuff when the season has passed… so GRAB IT WHEN YOU CAN.
Mike and Lance (The Ornaments) are back… and dammmmn. This shit is dark. Funny, and dark. The song is a story about crashing in a plane on Christmas Day. The sweet guitar picking doesn’t lull you to comfort for very long, shit gets dark quick. The cabin fills with smoke, he buys inflight wifi to tell his love goodbye. However, there is a nice balance, as with the gallows humor found in the line: “meanwhile i thumbed through my phone to find a song, a christmas song, a burl ives song / that’s good to die to.” The narrator goes through the entire crash, in a slow motion mix of bemusement and wry observations. I would love to know more about how this song came about…
Bottom Line: The Ornaments’ dark humor is a welcome break from the sugary sweet songs that dominate the holiday.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
The Aux have released a really nicely produced, lo-fi Christmas EP the past two years, and can usually be counted on to have one of the most profane and funny releases of the season. This year is a bit different – the profanity is there, but as the title suggests, there is a bit of a shift. The first two songs are both really well written, introspective struggles with life and the season. Trying to find comedy in a year like this leaves you with a lot of those “it would be funny if it weren’t true” situations that can be hard to take. The third track, “all i wanted for christmas was my fantasy football super bowl,” brings out the clever bitter lyrics that I’ve come to expect from Mike. I feel for this song… I lost out on my fantasy football super bowl last year after a Thursday POINT ADJUSTMENT after I had specifically benched my defense as to not have one of those dreaded -1 weeks… DAMN IT. Heh. The final track is the obligatory cover the classic Wham! track, “Last Christmas,” but with way more fucks than usual. The autotune works really well on this track too, and has a great ending, “This song is fucking repetitive and this is the end.” Ha! About time someone cut that song off.
Bottom Line: The Aux are always a refreshing listen, even when the entire song is bitching about something. I do hope that Mike finds some inspiration for next year, and I share his hope that 2017 will be in improvement on what was a supremely unenjoyable year.
I don’t normally do straight-up pop, but Tokyo’s Give Me Wallets have released this fantastic, groovy song and I thought it best to share it with you all. “On this Christmas Night” has a nostalgic feel, strictly based on the chord changes amongst the fluttering synths. The lyrics are a bit tougher for me to pin down… “she wanna post some stuff now / that everyone can see freely / are you happy to receive as a gift / you were supposed to be fine / but the world’s not the same now / what can anyone do for you” There may be something lost in translation here… but what is not lost, is that I’m boogieing in my seat.
Bottom Line: I hope you enjoy this piece of Japanese Christmas candy.
I walk in from wassailing at our local pub, and find I’ve been tweeted at! Faye and the Scrooges have released their 2016 Christmas song in 2016! I usually get their song well into the next year, but to my delight, here it is! I believe this is the first time that they’ve tackled what I’d consider to be a dance track, as “Time for Christmas” is meant to move your fucking ass. There is the humor you expect from a F&TS Christmas song, which I absolutely love. Between the verses of cheeky holiday observations and frustrations, the chorus swings in with a full embrace of the season. It’s how many of us feel about the holiday – nothing is quite perfect, but you can still fucking love it. In closing, as Faye and the Scrooges say, “It’s Christmas time / lets all get wasted.” I certainly took a page from that book last night…
Bottom Line: Faye and the Scrooges have my ass moving and grooving with this Christmas jam. Now, you might wonder why I’m swearing so much in this review… it’s to make up for the “Where the f***’s that f***in Sellotape?” that F&TS dropped. Hey Faye! Release a parental-advisory version too! I love a good ‘ol profane Christmas song!
EDIT: Look below! 2 versions, one with all the 4-letter words you could want!
Buy: Stream (for now)
The Line of Best Fit hipped me to this fantastic new cover of the holiday classic (well, in the UK), “Fairytale of New York.” Daniel Woolhouse, AKA Deptford Goth, begins this classic Pogues’ track with an ethereal a cappella intro, and eases it into a beautiful, electro-pop room. Daniel also makes some refreshing choices in where he adds weight to the lyrics; he accents words where you would not expect it. I truly appreciate that, by every metric, this is far from a straightforward cover. This includes Daniel’s choice to exclude that one, problematic part of the song. He doesn’t change the lyrics, as some do, he just doesn’t even walk down that street. I’m cool with that, and I’m loving this song.
Bottom Line: Finally, a fresh version of “Fairytale of New York” that I feel 100% fine adding to a mix, minus that particular shitty word.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
I’m going to do my best to use Google Translate and not make a complete ass of myself. Following the fantastic find that Lie in the Sound had with Jägermeister’s Merry Jäger Christmas, I bring you Argentina’s Polvo Bureau and their new Christmas compilation, POLVO DE ESTRELLAS (Un disco navideño compilado por Polvo Bureau). From the chillwave, Wild Nothing-esque Mi Nave with “Ojos Cuadrados,” to the indie rock Camaleón’s “Fuegos Artificiales,” there are some great-sounding tunes on here. Again, I don’t speak Spanish, but I know great sounding music when I hear it. The dream-pop of Queridas’ “Brillen” is ethereal and spectacular. I just want to put headphones on and walk down a snowy street with my eyes closed. The Spanish language version of Joni Mitchell’s “River” is not just fantastic because it’s the first time I’ve heard it in Spanish, but Superflan’s version shines because of the electro-pop touches they put on it. The lead out on Yuliett’s “Tanto Fuego!” Beautiful! This release is damn special, and I’m so very happy to have happened upon it tonight.
Bottom Line: I might lack the language skills to fully understand these songs, but our common language of music has sweet talked me tonight.