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There are three Christmas events that are on the top of my bucket list: Lost Map Records’ Christmas Baubles, the party that Fowler VW throws every year celebrating their latest amazing Christmas compilation, and of course, The Grapes & Friends’ Annual Christmas Extravaganza! This Austin, Texas tradition is going into an 11th year this year – and if the party is anything like the energy that the Grapes & Friends infuse into their songs every year… it just must be the biggest party of the year.
Now, for the uninitiated, Grapes & Friends come together like Voltron every year, joining together members of Dangeresque, The Gorgeous Hands and Genuine Leather; they are an Austin version of our friends the Sunturns and Christmas Aguilera, a specifically Christmas supergroup. “Christmas in My Neighborhood” is the 6th original Christmas song from the Grapes & Friends. Staying true to their mantra of “making Christmas sexy,” the band finds themselves immersed in the genres of 90s boy band R&B and yacht rock-style production. The song is rich with layered harmonies, bells, synths, and more. There’s even a special treat at the end!
The lyrics are all about finding a sense of community and love in a place where you thought you were alone.
From Chris Galis, one of the lyricists: “One of the first times of the year you notice that its really Christmas season is when the lights go up on your street. That’s when you feel it. That’s what we wanted this song to vibe with.”
The Grapes & Friends will be hosting their 11th Annual Christmas Extravaganza in Austin, TX at the Hole in the Wall on Saturday, December 7th. Should you be in walking, driving, train, plane or teleportation distance, the details are below:
RSVP on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/440203936621398/
Bottom Line: The Grapes & Friends can always be relied on to spice up your Christmas, and this one is going to certainly entice your taste buds.
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The Heathen and the Holy, the seasonal project of classically-trained violinist Tom Hobden and musician/writer/producer Fred Abbott, who once recorded together in the much-missed folk/rock band Noah and the Whale, are back once again! The Heathen and the Holy are one of those Christmas treats that you hope for each year, as their songs always bring a bit of levity to what can become a very serious and earnest season. Not saying that these guys can’t be both serious and earnest, but there is always humor that helps take the edge off. So let this song be your snowy day, afternoon gin and tonic, and let’s premiere this great new Heathen and the Holy track together.
“It’s Just Not Christmas Without You (In It)” is about having to be apart for Christmas, and how that separation casts a pall over the entire holiday. Heavy! What was I just saying about levity? Well, no worries there – upbeat orchestration, along with Fred Abbott’s interjections keep you smiling through the pain. There are some truly fantastic parts; my favorite being when Tom and Fred begin trading lines toward the end of the song, culminating in a crescendo where they both sing “They take me back to Regent street to the Christmas lights tonightttttttt.” It is a theatrical moment, which if you have seen any of their previous videos, is no surprise. I love this band equally for their music, as well as for the brilliant videos that they have put together in the past. It is hard not to think of Tom and Fred, dressed in their holiday best with a drink in-hand… somehow still playing instrument… you know, because of the magic of Christmas. The Heathen and the Holy are truly the mulled wine of Christmas bands – a warm, cozy, delicious treat that somehow always seems to present itself at the exact right time. Cheers.
Bottom Line: The Heathen and the Holy have kept their Christmas flame burning bright with “It’s Just Not Christmas Without You (In It).”
Let me quickly introduce you to the Grapes and Friends, as there is the slight possibility that some of you have not been reading my blog all year. (FYI, I write about Christmas music all year… because I have problems, obviously). Grapes and Friends are an Austin, TX indie rock band created by smashing together members of Dangeresque, The Gorgeous Hands and Genuine Leather; they are an Austin version of our friends the Sunturns and Christmas Aguilera, a specifically indie-rock-christmas supergroup. TOMORROW NIGHT (Dec. 9) is their annual Xmas Extravaganza, and they just released their annual seasonal jam! “Wishlist” is exploding with cheeky funk, that special kind that will both get your ass moving and put a big smile on your face. When they bust this out at their xmas party – shit is going down. The song pairs perfectly with last year’s “Can I Come Home with You (For Christmas)?,” tickling those Midnight Vultures-era-Beck feelings of carefree youth. And those vocals… that delivery suggests something naughty is going down, and you know what? It just might. The day is just beginning… the possibilities are endless, and this is your holiday soundtrack.
Bottom Line: Slam your beer and start jumping around… or start evaluating whether you have any life left inside you – you choose. (Shit got deep there for a second.)
Yet another premiere! You may remember the Ornaments are the annual, non-religious Christmas music project of Mike Behrends and Lance Owens. They put out a fantastic square, lathe-cut 7″ & download last year, beginning a project specifically meant to get these two friends together. They swore to release a Christmas 7″ and play one show from now until to the end of time. Now… I have to warn everyone that time has indeed stopped, for the Ornaments are download-only this year, thus signaling the end of time to the rest of the world. However, I do not hold it against this fine band, for they have added yet another interesting Christmas song to their burgeoning Christmas portfolio. “The Ornaments Won’t Hang Themselves (Alone for the Holidays)” has lovely, simple orchestration – programmed beats, hammond organ, some guitar, bells and synths. I really, really enjoy the melody; it has certainly wormed its way in my head. The subject matter trades in, as the title suggests, the melancholy of Christmas. Let the Ornaments describe it…
Christmas isn’t as wonderfully fun and family-filled as we are all led to believe in old holiday movies and songs. Especially for our fictional protagonist from Cadott, Wisconsin, whose girl has left him alone with a car that can’t make it through the snow and a garage full of Christmas decorations they used to put up together. All he wants is one more Christmas dance. Is that too much to ask?
Sad, yet lovely. I think I like the ending the best.
Bottom Line: This is one of those songs to sit back with a glass of spiked eggnog, and sink into as if it were a short story. 4.5/5
HOW ABOUT THIS?!? Our first premiere, and a whopper at that! Manchester R&B duo Young War‘s “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas” was a highlight of the 2014 Christmas season, and Christmas Underground is proud to present their beautiful new track, “Winter in the City.” The duo of Thom Stone and Simon Facey have found their own rich vein of Christmas longing, and continue to mine it expertly. “Winter in the City” leans more toward Young War’s R&B roots than last year’s track, and the sparse beats, ringing guitar lines and beautiful melody perfectly compliment the conflicted narrator’s sense of yearning and loss: “I’m losing my mind and I tried to warn you. / Now you’re spending Christmas in California. / I can’t be sad, I don’t have the right, / but when it started to snow, I think I started to cry.” Young War create an atmosphere which envelops the listener to walk the city streets alone, snow dancing in the moonlight, missing the one you love. Just plain beautiful.
Bottom Line: Young War + Christmas = Perfection. This is modern R&B Christmas at its finest. This song deserves a wide audience, so join me and spread its reach far and wide. 5/5