Charlie’s Hand Movements “Lawns of Ivory” (2018)

Self Released
Buy: Free!

On a day when big(ish) names such as The Beths (I really dug their record) and Wavves have released…. disappointing Christmas records, I find myself rejuvenated by one of my favorite yearly traditions. Today is the release of Charlie’s Hand Movements‘ (I will now use CHM for brevity’s sake) yearly offering to the gods of underground Christmas music. No two CHM release feels quite the same to me – they manage to mix it up enough sonically to keep me forever guessing. This year’s is a slow, beautiful nostalgic burn, with much less orchestration than I’ve been accustomed to. This slightly stripped-back CHM does not skimp on lyricism though. The song starts off with this absolutely gorgeous line: “The seasons will surely change / as we stay the same, / recalling stories that mesmerize / still seeing through young eyes.” There is even some subtle politics worked in: “temperatures rising every year / maybe a summer souvenir.” Then how about the f*ing chorus (which appears to change slightly in the second instance): “Lawns of ivory/ Powdery patterns surrounded me / Beneath moonlit canopies / By the next morning, a drunken dream” So. Damn. Cool. This band really can’t miss.

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements are an absolute treasure.

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Charlie’s Hand Movements “Always a Dream” (2017)

Charlie's Hand Movements "Always a Dream"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Charlie’s Hand Movements are so good at writing wonderful Christmas tunes, that sometimes I’ll find myself sitting here in July, antsy and wanting December to arrive if only for another CHM track. This year’s latest, “Always a Dream” does not disappoint. In a similar fashion to last year’s drop-dead gorgeous “Until the 25th,” “Always a Dream” moves through a number of musical movements, each beautiful in their own right. The song perfectly conveys the rise and fall, the aching feelings of anticipation and release, of being with someone you love at Christmas and having to let them go again. I think my favorite part of the song is when they are trying to deny reality and what the future holds to stay in the moment (with a little liquid forgettin’ juice).

“Well I guess the year is ending
& pretty soon we’ll stop pretending
That life Is one long holiday
With no more work or bills to pay
So drink up & drink all night
Pour yourself another glass of wine
& when you reach the end
fill it to the top again

For out of the haze we’ll go our separate way
Like snowflakes on Christmas Day”

It is in these complex, emotional scenes that CHM are at their best. They excel at finding that nugget of truth, a truth that doesn’t necessarily require direct personal experience as much as a shared, flawed humanity. Charlie’s Hand Movements’ are a truly special band, and I give thanks for the years they have given us such wonderful music, and hope for many more to come.

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements continue their spectacular run of emotional, compelling Christmas songs.

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Charlie’s Hand Movements – Be, Be Together (2016)

Charlie's Hand Movements - Be, Be Together

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (FREE!)

What the what?!?!?! How come Bandcamp didn’t let me know that there was a new Charlie’s Hand Movements release? I had to find it in my Twitter feed?? HUSSAH! The boys are back, and as great as ever with this new 3-track EP, Be, Be Together. The leadoff track “Snow Globe” is a fuzzed-out guitar, flippin’ good time. “We can block the whole world out and be together.” Awesome.

“Until the 25th Came” is one of CHM’s most interesting Christmas songs to date. The musical movements, as well as the lyrics, take a journey that culminates with the some of the most beautiful lyrics they have written. “Forget the jealousy, forget the misery, embrace the melody, take pleasure from the small things like giving more than you get, appreciating friends, tell people that you love that you love them.” The ending is warm, cathartic and gorgeous.

“Fairy Lights & Cheap Beer” finds CHM pinpointing a simple moment. “Get together every year, fill the room with fairy lights and drink cheap beer. Drink cheap beer. Talk about nothing. So glad you’re here. We don’t need to talk about anything. Our hopes, jobs, or fear. No, we don’t need to talk about anything, just be together. Don’t leave me hanging.” There is something so perfectly human about this moment. There is the warmth of connection that you have with those few people in your life, where you don’t even need to speak, a mere presence is enough. But that final line, “Don’t leave me hanging,” there is something so fragile there that everyone can relate to. Those who we love the most, can break us so easily.

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements have given us their most beautiful Christmas record to date. Of note, their past two releases are back up on Bandcamp as well, so I’d grab them while you can.

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Charlie’s Hand Movements – Secret Santa and Other Songs (2015)

Charlie's Hand Movements - Secret Santa EP

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

What a day! First Christmas Aguilera! Now Charlie’s Hand Movements!! Two of the best Christmas writers out there! I was, at the very least, hoping for another Christmas song from the authors of one of my highlights from last year, “Baubles,” and what did they do??? A whole Christmas EP! The EP was apparently born out of the idea that they just weren’t going to be able to get it together like they did last year. “Last year we made a song and a video but couldn’t see ourselves pulling everything together this time around… so, instead we made four songs. Or three at least… one of them is an Elton John song. A proper Christmas banger.” Of course, these songs are pretty damn fantastic, like everything that Charlie’s Hand Movements does. Their songwriting, their production, their ability to create interesting melodies – this band can do it all. I’m gonna blow through some simple, succinct thoughts on the tracks, simply because I’m a bit too excited and want you all to listen as soon as possible. “Secret Santa” slinks down the hallway with a funky beat; it really makes secret Santa feel quite naughty. “It’s Christmas Time (And I Don’t Want to Wait)” is smooth melancholy indiepop with all the right musical flourishes to make it a damn brilliant song. “Step Into Christmas,” the only cover on the EP is an Elton John cover, done in a fantastic indiepop style reminiscent of the brilliant Pas/Cal. Finally, “Flambe,” it is a great spoken word piece with CHM playing underneath, which could make anything wonderful. It’s funny, thoughtful, pissed, odd, and fantastic. So happy to have Charlie’s Hand Movements back… pick up all their tunes, because they are phenomenal.

Of note, “Baubles,” their 2014 Christmas single and “Don’t You Love Christmas Time,” their 2013 Christmas single, are both back on their Bandcamp for free download! But hey! How about throw them a few bucks and buy their latest (non-Christmas) release??? They are kind enough to give you ALL this Christmas music for free, it’s the least you could do!

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements are back with a whole damn EP of wonderfulness. You need to listen to this record, then go to bed happy that there are people like Charlie’s Hand Movements making wonderful music.

EDIT: It appears that Charlie’s Hand Movements like to take down their Christmas tunes as one takes down a Christmas tree. I would follow them on Bandcamp to get alerted immediately when they have new stuff.

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Charlie’s Hand Movements “Baubles” (2014)

Charlies Hand Movement " Baubles"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp | Bandcamp

Wow. What a find. Charlie’s Hand Movements are Adam Gardner and Lance M Keelbe, two gents from Benfleet, England, and they have just released their second Christmas song in as many years. Now that you are introduced, I must say, “Baubles” is really beautiful. “I was your bauble / hanging from a tree / wrap me in tinsel / make me believe.” Some nice turns of phrase, some beautiful music, and excellent vocals to round out the package to make “Baubles” quite spectacular. “If we fall, we’ll shatter / but it don’t matter at all.” I love that lyric. Each listen gets better… and it’s free! So what are you waiting for??

Bottom Line: Love it. Great song, free download. I am pleased as punch. What a day of great Christmas songs. 5/5

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(EDIT) – they took down their own page for this song, so here is an embed of the Dismas compilation that it also appeared on.