Kevin Basko (aka Rubber Band Gun), who happens to be Foxygen’s touring guitarist, just released a fascinating Christmas album, Festive as Hell. Six original songs, with production by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, this EP was recorded in the middle of the night over the past few weeks… and it sounds like it. The production is ghostly, other-worldly at times, the result of which I would challenge anyone to imagine them creating at noon on Thursday. The record has a great sound, while the songs are at times challenging, oddly catchy, and never expected. “Christmas is Killin Me Off” is a dirty-bass romp spoken-word about how Christmas and New Years are “breaking us apart.,” and it is damn fun. “If You Want Us for Christmas” will get your head bobbing as it guides you to the most poppy (and quite fun) chorus on the album. “Yule Smog” has UFO sounds fluttering in and out, with a drowsy, beautiful piano melody carrying us through a song about not wanting to go to a Christmas party. “Divorced Xmas Dad” has programmed beats underpinning slinky synths as we learn about what dad’s going to make himself for dinner in front of the TV. “So American” pops into a 1960s garage rock style for what I can’t quite read as a Christmas song, if only for the “Christmas bridge.” “I Got Myself a Present,” has the formula of an old country ditty, clip-clopping beat and all, setting up a fantastic song about being alone on Christmas eve; It has some damn clever lyrics that you really need to check out for yourself. Truly one of the more out-there and enjoyable records I’ve come across.
Bottom Line: This is by no means the most accessible record you are going to hear this Christmas season, but dammit, it is fucking interesting.
Art is Hard Records
Buy: 7″ Flexi | Bandcamp | iTunes
DIY just premiered Porridge Radio‘s sloppy (in a good way) new Christmas single, “O. Christmas,” and it is a ramshackle delight. The frayed edges of nearly every instrument, vocals included, compliment the the sentiment perfectly, as “the song is the soundtrack to that Christmas Eve where you remember how much you hate your hometown and walk home alone in the rain.” Sure makes me wonder exactly how bleak Brighton can be! Readers of this blog, as well as my wife, know I love a good Christmas downer, which you’ll no doubt appreciate too as the song appropriately ends with: “The sun goes around again / It always starts again / I’ll break your heart again / I’ll break your heart again / I’ll break your heart again / Merry Christmas.” So just slap this track on if your over-enthusiastic aunt comes over. That’ll teach her. (If you want the flexi, go now, because there are only 300 of em!)
Bottom Line: This song is a ramshackle delight of a Christmas dirge. First time I’ve ever written that sentence!
Buy: Soundcloud (FREE!)
Take a song that feels rather formulaic, one where 1 + 1 obviously equals two… and to throw a wrench (and maybe a tab of acid) in the works. Diane Coffee‘s rendition of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is just this… it nudges the classic formula gently off the cliff and all of a sudden you are in the middle of this amazing fuzzed-out guitar, and you’ve forgotten how to count. For those unfamiliar with Diane Coffee, he has released two fascinating art-pop records on Western Vinyl (most notably the original home of Dirty Projectors), as well as being the initial drummer for friends (and sonic brothers) Foxygen. This one-off track was released in 2015, and is still available for free on Soundcloud, which is extremely generous. This track is good enough to be released on its own… perhaps Diane Coffee should record another xmas tune this year and release a 7″? I’d buy it, no doubt. For now, we’ll have to settle for a non-holiday 7″, as his new release Peel will be out on Polyvinyl on October 20th.
Bottom Line: It’s beginning to look a lot like art-pop Christmas, Diane Coffee, and I’m totally cool with it. Let’s get freaky.
Buy: Soundcloud (Live version is free!) | Band Site
So sometimes, while searching for Christmas songs, I stumble upon a band that transcends the holiday season, and enters into my everyday listening. I can think of many examples of this in fact, it’s a significant bonus to this particular obsession. So, while on a night of keyword searching on blogs I dig, I came across Manchester’s MONEY. They are raw emotion and the soaring music, channeled through Tom Waits (not necessarily literal voice, but the voice), all the while not feeling contrived and wholly genuine. I’m somewhat obsessed at the moment.
Their new album, Suicide Songs, comes out January 29th… and they have released some preview tracks. First came the spectacular “The Night,” which I cannot recommend enough. The most recent track is a live version of a deeper album cut, which I’ve been been particularly eyeing (and tweeting at the band about!), “A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year.” This is the track that really had me thinking Tom Waits – you can imagine Tom growling through this song beautifully.
and i’ve wasted all my time
on cocaine at christmas
and bottles of wine
and i’m as happy as a child
because you don’t have to ask me why
Darkness can sometimes bring you down, somehow MONEY’s travels in the darker corners of life can give you shivers – the good kind. I hope at least one or two of you agree… and preorder their new album. I do hope they have signed copies left after Christmas, when I might have some money!
Bottom Line: MONEY have channeled the very best of Tom Waits to create a new drunk, Christmas classic. They could not be kinder by releasing this beautiful live version for free on Soundcloud – even a WAV file!
So, unfortunately, this post is going to be pretty minimal. I’m still fuming about it from a couple days ago… when WordPress somehow ate it. My apologies to the Cleaners from Venus.
The Cleaners from Venus are a legendary (to some), underground, proto-indie rock band, who had a slew of reissues come out in the past few years by Captured Tracks & Burger Records (amongst others I believe). Indeed, with such a long recording history, there has to be some Christmas tunes in their past, yes? Indeed sir, the wonderful “Christmas in Suburbia” is on Number Thirteen. Now, you can add one more to the list, “Glammy Little Christmas.” The lyrics suggest a recapturing of one’s youth, heading out for a glam Christmas. “There’s a cold wind in the doorway / and the weather’s more like Norway / and my platform heels are skidding underneath. / But there’s glitter on the paving / and your granddad’s come out raving / like he used to do in 1973.” That’s just the first bit, but you get the gist. Pair this what Glam Chops’ “Baby Jesus was the First Glam Rocker” and you’ve got a new mix theme going…
Martin Newell & Co. have a new record coming out in 2015 as well, on their favorite format of course (cassette!). So be on the look out for that at Burger Records, and elsewhere I’d imagine.
Bottom Line: Great song by an underground legend. How about a few more… hint hint. 3.9/5
There must be something in the water in Oklahoma. First, there was the saucy “The Naughty List” with Ryan Lindsey from Tulsa’s Broncho. Now, there’s Oklahoma City’s IndianGiver with “Naked Feet.” The song tells a story of some… sexual exploits while home for Christmas. It begins with this verse – “When I was walking through your childhood home, / with my palm in your palm. / You said, ‘Come and fuck me in my mothers bed, / with your tennis shoes on.’ / Naked feet on the hardwood floor, / we we danced around to the / carolers singing at your door / with all the lights down.” That’ll be one for the grandkids! Everything about it is pretty wonderful – from the groove, to the vocals, to the lyrics – it does not disappoint. I do love finding songs that don’t quite fit the nice Christmas mold, thanks Don’t Need No Melody for posting it many months ago.
EDIT: It appears they changed their name to Wildlings. Hopefully they will rebrand their old material and repost it, so that it does not disappear into the abyss of time.
Bottom Line: These boys from Oklahoma continue to spice up our Christmas with this name-your-price single. 4.8/5
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
Colourmusic has put together a very enjoyable, at times silly, collection of 7 original Christmas tunes for the 2013 Christmas season. As an added bonus, those of you who love a good piece of vinyl will be pleased – a limited translucent green vinyl edition is also available! There is really nothing on this record that I particularly dislike, and some tracks that I very much enjoy. I feel as though you could put this on at a party, and nobody would be a big whiner and ask you to change it.
Bottom Line: Certainly listenable, and you might just love it. 3.9/5
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes
This song is amazing. I’m going to step back and let Spottiswoode explain it though:
“My recollection is that i wrote the opening two melodic lines with the clear intention of composing a Christmas carol (only realizing later that the melody was, of course, similar to “Hark The Herald”). and then the words for the first two lines came out:
Boys in Chelsea holding hands
Whistle as they watch us dance.
“Had I intended to write a gay carol? i don’t remember. My guess is that after mouthing those two lines my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to see where the song would go. i understand that many people may dismiss the tune as a novelty song or just think that’s it’s a little clever and twisted ditty, but to me it’s an achingly romantic song. it’s a love song. it’s not just a love song to the girl the singer is addressing who is about to share a dance with some leather-clad homosexuals in the snow. it’s a love song to gay New York and thereby, in Christmas spirit, to human brotherhood.”
Listen to this song. Its beautiful.
Bottom Line: One of my favorite finds, ever. 5/5
Buy: Discogs (CD/LP) | 7Digital FLAC/MP3 | iTunes
Super Furry Animals have a wonderful little Christmas song hidden away on their 2007 release, Hey Venus, which you need to become aquatinted with. Also released as a Dec. 25, 2007 free download from their website, “The Gift that Keeps Giving” is the Christmas single that Gruff Rhys believed needed to be on a SFA “pop record.” Its such a sweet song, but of course, Gruff Rhys and the SFA can’t be believed as sweet, sentimental artists. The video certainly expresses their true intentions, a disturbing sendup of commercial Christmas, which makes it much more fun.
Bottom Line: Love this song. Love this band. Buy the whole record: It’s all good. 5/5