A City Without Snow

A City Without Snow (2016)

Middle Class Cigars
Buy: Bandcamp

Singapore’s Middle Class Cigars has released, from front to back, one of the most enjoyable compilations I’ve heard this year. A mixture of Books-esque spoken word folktronica, indiepop, lo-fi folk and downtempo chill-out music, the production value is uniformly excellent, and the taste level is on-point. If I had to pick out a track or two to highlight, for me it would be the lovely “A Song to Sleep to” by Ferry, and the dreamy “0212” by Cosmic Child.  You could put this album on, and not have to skip any horrible tracks… which in the Christmas-music world is a RARITY. Most certainly worth a listen – and for those in the US, it’s only a dash above $10 to have the limited edition cassette (ed. of 50) shipped from Singapore!

I found their description both useful, and endearing.

Music plays an important part in the season of Christmas, as we sing along to the carols written years ago, it still remains as powerful as ever.

With contributions from 9 Singapore-based musicians, A City Without Snow is a Christmas compilation album consisting of seven original songs and two renditions of classics. Born from different emotional perspectives of the season, each composition is a musical vignette of a uniquely Singaporean Christmas.

A City Without Snow is Middle Class Cigars’ proudest release thus far, encapsulating a collective dynamic of warm and intimate sounds of which the label thrives in.

Bottom Line: Just a pleasure. A pleasure. A pleasure.

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Coal: A Winter Split

Coal: A Winter Split (2015)

Breadking Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Milwaukee’s Breadking Records first release is a 4-track, winter (and Christmas) themed E.P…. released this February! The lead-off track, “On A Quiet Winter Night” by Hello Death is a beautiful weaving of three voices, a cello, guitar and brandy. J.E. Sunde‘s “Rest in the Everlasting Arm” blends layered vocals, sparse notes and waves of electronic instrumentation; truly a break from the norm while remaining in the folk genre. Boom Forest‘s take on “The Holly & the Ivy,” is yet another excellent stab at a recent cover du jour. It’s quite atmospheric, as the instruments ring and seem to hang in the air. Christopher Porterfield bats cleanup on the E.P. with my favorite track on the release. Porterfield may be better-known as frontman of the Milwaukee-based folk band Field Report, but with this solo track, he leaves the genre behind to rock out a bit more. “Christmas Ghost” is a stone-cold lock for my 2015 mix. The driving beat, the shimmering keys, the booze… sign me up.

Look for this release to be released on cassette later on in the year, but for now, you can buy each single track on Bandcamp.

Bottom Line: Solid all the way through… this truly lives up to the label’s intent. 4.8/5 

“When I was growing up, every other Christmas or so, my mom would forget about a really awesome present and randomly find it some months later. It would always be one of the sickest gift and have a lot of thought and love. Please accept this release as a very late present on behalf of all of us at Breadking.”

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Benoit Pioulard

Benoît Pioulard “Rays in the Tallow” (2005)

Ghostly International
Buy: Free!

One of Benoît Pioulard‘s labels, Ghostly International, offered up three free tracks for Christmas way back in 2005, one of which was the wonderful track “Rays in the Tallow,” by Michigan’s Benoît Pioulard. If you are unfamiliar with his work (its a stage name, do your research if you are so inclined), then there is a lot out there for you to get into. This particular track is well within his style: beautiful, melodic, haunting and effecting. So take particular pleasure in glory that is this, the long-lost Benoît Pioulard Christmas track, “Rays in the Tallow.”

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

Bottom Line: Pure beauty. 5/5