I was driving the other day listening to WNRN (one of our local nonprofit radio stations), and this track came on that I really liked. Honestly, I can’t tell you what song it was now… but I recall the DJ coming on saying “That was Alex the Astronaut giving us some really big Courtney Barnett vibes.” I wholly agreed, and found myself making a mental note of the singer so that I might later see if there was a vaguely Christmas song I could mine for my mix (and my blog). WHAT DO YOU KNOW? Not only is there a song, but it is a single as well. I don’t get the same Barnett vibes from “Christmas in July,” and I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate her folktronic sensibilities to be lumped in with Courtney’s wordy indie guitar rock simply because they are both Australian. Initially, I expected the song to be more about celebrating Christmas in July, as many folks in the southern hemisphere wish to have a pop-culture-approved Christmas celebration during their winter. However, this is quite specifically a love song, and the reference to “Christmas in July” is very much in the “traditional” vein. Alex uses Christmas imagery to express how exuberant and lucky she feels to be with her love – as if she is getting a wonderful and unexpected gift outside of the holiday of Christmas. Alex’s voice brilliantly expresses emotion, fragile and powerful in equal parts. The simple piano lines build anticipation, leading us to drums that burst open the song like a brilliant flower. There is an energy, a physical and emotional motion to this song that I greatly appreciate. And yes, this is not specifically a Christmas song, but I have bent the rules for less. So… enjoy this bit of Christmas in September.
Bottom Line: It is a beautiful, emotional song that gets better with multiple listens, so hit that replay button a few times.
Random strokes of luck, that is often what Soundcloud feels like to me. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE SOUNDCLOUD, and would be lost without it. But anyone who has ever done a keyword search knows my pain. Thankfully, every so often you strike silver and gold (Christmas pun!). Kate Siefker, also known as Follies, has fought her perfectionist tendencies and released a bunch of tracks that she was working on in 2013-14 under the title Grave Matters (2013-2014). Included amongst these beautifully layered tracks is, yes, a Christmas song! “Christmas Day” is a beautifully raw track, with ukulele, (maybe guitar too?), beats and handclaps circling each other for just over two minutes. It is certainly not your usual ukulele fare, so those expecting the expected… you may be pleasantly surprised.
Bottom Line: Short, raw and beautiful. Best of luck with your move Kate (if you see this.)
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.
I’ve feeling the bug tonight – so here’s a third post for you night owls. London’s Bullion (aka producer Nathan Jenkins) has turned John Cale’s “Child’s Christmas in Wales” into a shimmering, electronic wave of synthesizers. This isn’t the only, somewhat drastic measure that Bullion employs. He only alludes to the first verse, as the melody replaces the vocals. Vocals do come in on verses 2-4, but again, he shaves off the fifth and final verse. However, I don’t mind a bit, as I believe brevity is always appreciated in a Christmas song. If only there were a download… but… I’m sure you kids can figure a way around that.
Bottom Line: Bullion has taken a great song, shaken it up a great deal, and thrown it on the table as a tasty treat. (and POOF – it’s gone)
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.”