London post-punk band Shame has a solid history of excellent Christmas tunes, a legacy that they really jumped right into alongside their debut record. I covered their excellent version of “Feliz Navidad” back in 2018, and would still love to hear the holiday flexi for “Tinsel Gate,” sent with early preorders of their last record, Drunk Tank Pink. This year’s selection, “Baldur’s Gate,” isn’t a celebration of Christmas, but more a snapshot of a holiday past from frontman Charlie Steen… I’ll let him describe:
‘It’s another Christmas classic. It’s about a period of time in which I’d regularly be trekking up to the streets of Edinburgh to see an ex-partner. These are some of the thoughts I’d have when I’d be leaving Waverley station, en route back to London in the winter nights.’
The deeper the song goes, the more I’m into the groove they have created. Certainly not your standard holiday release… which is what this blog is kinda about. Enjoy!
Bottom Line: Shame is a killer band during all twelve months of the year, and “Baldur’s Gate” only reinforces this.
Phoebe Bridgers dazzled us last year with her beautiful rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” It truly was a highlight of the season, and in what appears to now be a seasonal tradition, Phoebe has returned, this time with Jackson Browne! Phoebe and Jackson have done what I desperately wish more bigger artists would do – cover smaller artists. “Christmas Song” was originally penned by Dan McCarthy of the band McCarthy Trenching. My dream is to help someone put together a Christmas record that, for the general public, would appear to be all originals. But the sneaky thing would be that most of them would be covers, killer, killer covers of amazing songs they had never heard. Phoebe – you are on the right track here.
One more thing – everyone is publishing the bit from the press release (I am much too small a blog to have them send it to me), and if this is your first exposure to the track, you need to read this too.
“McCarthy Trenching is singer/songwriter Dan McCarthy’s band. We played a show together in Omaha this last year. They named the band after the trenching company owned by Dan’s uncle so they could sell those t-shirts instead of having to make their own. The first time I heard this song it hit me like a ton of bricks. A lot of McCarthy Trenching songs do that. It’s not that often that I hear a Christmas song that doesn’t make me want to quit music. I played a show in L.A. around the holidays last year where I covered it for the first time. Jackson Browne was there, and he came up to me after the show to tell me how much he loved the song. A couple days later, Dan got a Bandcamp notification on his desktop computer that someone paid 50 bucks for his record and wrote a nice note and signed it Jackson Browne. He thought someone was fucking with him. So when I decided to record a version of the song, I knew who I wanted to sing on it. Plus, I have wanted to make music with Jackson as long as I’ve wanted to make music.”
How damn cool is that?!
Bottom Line: This song surpasses last year’s, and suggests that we might have many more years of incredible Christmas covers from Phoebe + Crew. Hell, I’m down with her teaming up with Jackson on every single one – they sound spectacular together.
I did not wake up this morning hoping to hear autotune in a cover of this classic José Feliciano song, but dammit, I should have. London’s Shame have managed to inject this sometimes dusty old song with new spirit, bringing some of the background melodies into the fore and inexplicably incorporating autotune with excellent results. This is Dead Oceans’ second holiday release this season (and it is only OCTOBER!), following Khruangbin’s “Christmas Time is Here,” announced earlier this week. Simply said, keep it coming Dead Oceans!
Bottom Line: Shame shine up an old song to sound all sparkly and new.
The latest “Christmas” tune to make the rounds on all the big boys (Stereogum/Under the Radar/Brooklyn Vegan/etc) is the second track to be released off the new Phosphorescent record, C’Est La Vie, due out Oct. 5 on Dead Oceans. It has been five years since the excellent Muchacho (with that brainworm “Song for Zula“), and this new record promises to be damn interesting. The first track, “New Birth in New England,” strikes as a stellar, upbeat Paul Simon track, while “Christmas Down Under” is an auto-tuned slow burn. Pedal steel and haunting lyrics forge the solemn atmosphere that permeates this song, yet not without revealing its own scuffed beauty.
Bottom Line: Phosphorescent’s end-run around what we expect from a “Christmas song” yields fascinating results.
I have loved Phoebe Bridgers from the moment I picked up her Killer 7″, and her new album Stranger in the Alps is on my list of “gotta pick up” albums. So, when The Line of Best Fit premiered her haunting rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” I knew I would have to say SOMETHING about it, rather than just retweet it. The ringing guitar notes and soft percussion frame her voice beautifully, as she takes a well-known, sentimental song and makes it personal. Beautiful.
Bottom Line: Phoebe makes this song her own, and that is really all you can ask from a cover. Wouldn’t change a thing.