Blackwatch Christmas VII

UPCOMING: Fowler VW Presents A Blackwatch Christmas Volume 7 (2017)

Fowler VW/Blackwatch Studios
Buy: Coming Soon!

It is that time of year… and Fowler VW has been hinting about their upcoming Christmas record on Twitter, much to my delight. There are few Christmas releases that have such a high level of quality, and each year that they keep the tradition alive, is a year that the entire alternative Christmas music community can give thanks. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Breakup are given the honor of being the first track out to the public, and it is fantastic. The electro-pop jam about being together at Christmas has the kind of slinky groove that just might take your office Christmas party off the rails. Eyes meeting over the punchbowl, we all knew Jim and Pam were meant to be together, they just needed “Be With You” to seal the deal. Want to know the rest of the tracklist? Go to NewsOK and give them the clicks!

The entire album will be available for stream/download on Black Friday, or better yet, #BlackwatchFriday, and for those lucky enough to live in the Norman, OK area, there is a big, free party on Dec. 8 at Stash, where the first 200 attendees get a free copy of it on VINYL. Yes, there are copies out there on vinyl… I am the proud owner of 2014’s “The Naughty List,” but these things are tough to come by. They have never sold them online – you gotta grab them from local Norman, OK venues like Fowler Volkswagen, Guestroom Records, The Social Club, STASH, and Tree & Leaf Clothing.

Finally, isn’t it great that these albums are free? And if the generosity of Fowler VW and Blackwatch Studios makes you so very happy… then, as you download this year’s new record, why not throw them a few bucks toward Norman Public Schools elementary music programs, because that is where 100% of donations go!

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Fast Romantics from 2010

Fast Romantics “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (2010)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Originally released as a Youtube video back in 2010, the Fast Romantics managed to put together a wonderfully upbeat, profane (my mix is gonna have lots of swearin!) version of the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” which I had been trying to hunt down for a good while – even messaging the band at one point. How I never found this Soundcloud stream from Aporia Records, is beyond me. But alas! It is now mine! The Fast Romantics, for those unfamiliar, are a wonderful indie rock/pop band from Toronto. The early lineup you hear in this delightful Christmas song is clearly fantastic – the groove, the keyboard melodies, the driving bass – it is so damn good. The latest lineup retains two original members, and the recent additions (and the new record, American Love) are fantastic. (Also check out FR member Kirty’s self-titled solo record, it is beautiful.) I would love to hear the new version of Fast Romantics tackle a Christmas song… just sayin…

Bottom Line: The Fast Romantics’ version of this classic Grinch tune is the best one I’ve heard – resurrected from the past for your listening pleasure.

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UPCOMING: “Indie for the Holidays, An Amazon Original Playlist,” “Acoustic Christmas,” and “Christmas Soul” (2017)

Amazon
Buy: Coming soon

Well, it looks like Amazon is continuing their tradition of providing high-profile indie Christmas tunes to the masses via their popular Indie for the Holidays and Acoustic Christmas playlists. Likely, the new tracks will just be tacked on to the already existing playlist, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. In addition to these two returning playlists, be on the lookout for Christmas Soul, also being released on Nov. 24 via Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music.

Some highlights to look forward to…

Indie for the Holidays has so far announced contributions by Kevin Morby, Lemon Twigs, Best Coast, JEFF the Brotherhood, Albert Hammond Jr. and Jessica Lea Mayfield.

Acoustic Christmas teased out a song on Brooklyn Vegan today, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” a cover by Courtney Marie Andrews, as well as listing off a few more contributors: Josh Ritter, Nicki Bluhm, Sera Cahoone and Lori McKenna.

There is much more info out there about Christmas Soul, as a few tracks have been released (linked below), as well as a large roster of participating artists: Tamir, Dawn Richard, JC Brooks, Joey Dosik, Buscabulla, Spacebomb House Band feat. Andy Jenkins, Blu and Exile, Ural Thomas & the Pain, Demo Taped, The Texas Gentlemen, Jacquie, Jungle Fire, Diane Coffee (!), Major, Robert Finley, Nicole Atkins, Marc Broussard, Ruth B, Davie, Open Mike EagleGemma (feat. Adrian Younge), Taliwhoah, Liz Brasher, The Soul Rebels and Don Bryant.

BOTTOM LINE: I’ve got my eyes on a few of those names, but still too early to get this grumpy gus too too excited 🙂 Amazon keeps their stuff so close to the vest (and aren’t my favorite people – I’ve got a history…. ever notice that I push Bandcamp and 7Digital whenever I can?)

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Justin Kennedy Christmas

Justin Kennedy (of Army Navy) “What I Don’t Want for Christmas” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Justin Kennedy is the lead singer of the LA indie rock band Army Navy, and while Army Navy have their own solid duo of Christmas tunes, I’m really here to talk about this golden nugget of a song that Justin released under his own name back in 2014, “What I Don’t Want for Christmas.” The song begins by saying all the wonderful things he’d like for Christmas this year… but you realize that things are not quite right. The relationship is strained… they are sitting apart, glaring daggers. But then, “I still you love you, you know its true / and yes we’ve both been so cruel / make a wish on this Christmas night / hold me close and lets never fight.” The turn is made, and the love spills out of it. “Yeah I think that I know what I really want for Christmas this year / just hug me so close and I’ll love you, you know till next Christmas eve.” The story is clever and poignant, the music feels contemporary yet classically Christmas, and the production is top notch. Check out the other Army Navy tracks too, and if you are a glutton for punishment, Justin’s version of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” because, while I truly enjoy Justin and Army Navy, nothing will let me enjoy this song… because I’m not 6 anymore… I also loved poop jokes and morning radio DJ parody songs. Of note – the song is not available for download right now, but it had been in the past… so perhaps that will change?

Bottom Line: Well that review got a little old man shaking his fist at the kids there didn’t it? That ending should not dissuade you from listening to the fantastic Christmas songs of Justin Kennedy and Army Navy. Go. Enjoy. And follow Christmas Chaos on Facebook, because Bob reminded me about these guys!

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Mellow Fellow and Floor Cry - New Year's Eve

Mellow Fellow and Floor Cry “New Year’s Eve” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Stream | Bandcamp (soon?) |

Mellow Fellow, a bedroom-pop genius from the Philippines (who it appears, Soundcloud was invented for), teamed up with Manitoba’s wonderful Floor Cry for a lush tale of a sad, sad New Year’s Eve. The chill vibe, and the beautifully layered instrumentation nearly lets you forget that this song is pretty devastating. The fractured relationship plays out as both parties have a full realization of their roles – she knows that she loves him, but only shows it when convenient, and he won’t take the emotional strain anymore. A late night call that remains unanswered on New Year’s Eve, dressed up with some beautiful performances and production. Highly recommended.

Of note, Floor Cry is no stranger to holiday tunes – I’ve attached her covers of “White Christmas” and “Wonderful Christmastime” (please, everyone, stop covering this) to a playlist. Both are available on her Bandcamp as well.

Bottom Line: A beautiful downer – right up my alley.

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The Just Joans – The Just Joans’ Seasonal Greet (2010/2016)

WeePOP! Records
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Way back in 2010, the wonderful Scottish band The Just Joans released The Just Joans’ Seasonal Greet, a limited mini CDr Christmas EP, on the wonderfully-titled WeePOP! Records. And it looks like just about every holiday season, they would pop a track out here or there, released on Soundcloud or as a live recording on Youtube. However, it appears that in December 2016, the whole EP became readily-available again via their Bandcamp page! This is a wonderful turn of events, as there are some excellent tunes on here for those who like a melancholy, slow-tempo Christmas. “Card from a Multipack” is (for me) the strongest of the bunch, as the approach is interesting and the delivery feels genuine – there is some pain in this track. My second favorite would be the vaguely indie-folk rendition of the classic “Last Christmas,” where their Scottish brogue and gently strummed banjo give this stale song a fresh feel. Certainly worth your time and money.

Bottom Line: The Just Joans are due for another Christmas EP… just throwing it out there 🙂 But until they do, I’m happy to have “Seasonal Greet” to tide me over.

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Marble Gods “I Remember Xmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Scottish popsters Marble Gods somehow snuck a sweet little indiepop Christmas tune by me last year… and if I ever find out how, there will be hell to pay! They even have it tagged properly! “I Remember Xmas” is a lovely, jangly little indiepop song that is right up my alley. Upbeat guitars with a dash of melancholy in the lyrics… the perfect indiepop blend for your anorak Christmas. “Driving home I remember Christmas / when we were young. / We thought would last forever. / Oh how we were wrong / So it’s Christmas time, / and you’re everything I want. / But my only fear / is that you will break my heart.” Beautiful!

Bottom Line: Marble Gods’ “I Remember Xmas” is some finely chiseled, indiepop perfection.

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Terry Malts "Our Love"

Kids on a Crime Spree “The Saddest Time Of The Year” (2017)

Emotional Response
Buy: Bandcamp (Full EP) | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Jen and Stu over at Emotional Response Records have a well-known affinity for Christmas music. They released a bunch of records as Boyracer (including a wealth of Christmas tunes – google em), as well as two recent Christmas Comps, and they continue with this latest split by Terry Malts and Kids on a Crime Spree. As they said in the writeup of this 10″, they snatched a couple songs out from underneath Slumberland Records’ (TM & KoaCS’s usual label) watchful eye and luckily for us, one of those songs is a Christmas song! Kids on a Crime Spree’s “The Saddest Time of Year” is a great, lo-fi indiepop jam about desperately needing your love at Christmas. There is a beautiful simplicity to the main thesis of the song: “It’s the saddest time of year / and I want to make it clear /  you’re all I want and / always, like the setting sun, / and always, out of everyone.” A perfect palette cleanser if your mix has gotten a bit too optimistic and cheery… not quite a dirge, but not quite happy. Delicious! (and thanks to Bennett for the tip!)

Bottom Line: Kids on a Crime Spree have slipped a great lo-fi Christmas song under the Christmas tree, and a bit early too!

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Jay Stansfield's "Christmas is..."

UPCOMING: Jay Stansfield & SAY – Christmas is… (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (Preorder)

Popping over to Bandcamp for a second to find something new on the top of the new arrivals list, I don’t normally expect to find something I haven’t seen (there is not a lot of turnover this time of year), let alone something this promising. I often judge Christmas tunes by their covers, and it rarely surprises me. Jay Stansfield‘s Christmas is… sports a simple cover of the decapitated snowman, which was odd enough to get me curious, even as I thought the typography could be a bit more interesting (sorry Jay, I can’t get the graphic design snob out of me). The cover may have gotten me in the door, but it was the description that convinced me to press play.

“Over the years I have written many happy, optimistic Christmas songs featuring death, homelessness, zombies and old people burning alive. This album celebrates those moments along with four miserable tracks from the SAY Archives.”

Well that sounds interesting! Only two tracks are available to preview, and both are solid. The Beach Boys’ harmonies of “Wake up the Children” bloom into some lovely holiday sentiment that could inspire any Grinch to feel optimistic. The second track, “The Man in Red” has moments when you imagine Vampire Weekend has put out a Christmas record, which would no doubt light up any indie-kid’s holiday season. Both these tracks are really strong – from the lyrics, to the music and the production – this may be the Winterval of 2017. (Of note, Jay’s got another from 2014, “Christma$ Twenty Fourteen,” and while it has its moments, it is not quite as strong as these two tracks… but worth a listen too!)

Bottom Line: Two tracks in and I’m willing to call Jay Stansfield’s Christmas is… a winner. Can’t wait to hear more, but we’ll have to wait till Dec. 1.

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MC Paquin "Noël Song" (2016)

MC Paquin “Noël Song” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes

Montreal’s MC Paquin’s “Noël Song” is one of the more breezy Christmas tunes I’ve heard in a long time. Splitting time between solo work and being a member of the folk-pop band Jolie Jumper, MC Paquin’s finds the sweet spot between folk-pop and indiepop with “Noël Song.” The airy production, strolling beat, and lovely brass accents will leave you tapping your foot (unless you have no feet). Readers of this blog will know I normally gravitate toward the rougher edges of Christmas tunes, looking for those tracks that don’t quite buy into everything being perfect and snow-covered. However, lines like, “Drove all those miles just to leave them with a smile,” capture a particular sentiment that I just haven’t heard before… and I loved it.

Bottom Line: I’ve always known that Montreal is a hotbed for fantastic music, and MC Paquin has not let her city down. (However, her city let me down this summer when my car was stolen on the FIRST NIGHT OF VACATION. Booooo Montreal, BOOOOOO!)

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