Lonelyspeck "Happy New Year"

Lonelyspeck “Happy New Year” (2017)

TEEF
Buy: Bandcamp | Vinyl (Edition of 50!)

Adelaide, Australia’s Lonelyspeck has released one of the most beautiful New Years’ tunes I’ve heard in years. A highlight on an already stellar new EP, Lave, “Happy New Year” is a shimmering song of seismic beauty. This song resides on the other side of the new year, as there are no parties or celebrations, but a reflection on the core of his being.  There are a lot of volcanic references, and that is with purpose; Sione Teumohenga (Lonelyspeck) was inspired by volcanoes when developing the Lave EP, and the metaphor works beautifully.

unfold me
there are still things that i am trying to rinse
poke a leak
to let them flow out and in
put a river in me
i feel okay but tired a lot
it’s too quiet with the window shut
i opened it to hear the air caught in the leaves
and then in my breathing
scoop out the core
and lather it onto the mantle
no one has lived here before
i gather it was inhospitable
i feel okay but tired a lot
it’s too quiet with the window shut
i was walking through the park and i thought
i don’t hate myself
i don’t berate myself like i used to

The lyrics are poignant and moving, but the song is truly made in the music that carries it. I can’t imagine changing a thing about it. It begins sparse, and slowly builds… till “scoop out the core,” where the vocal layers appear alongside the bassline… and you may get goosebumps. This song is just beautiful.

Bottom Line: Daaaaaaammmmmmn this is spectacular. Discoveries like this are the reason for doing this gig.

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Young War - Winter in the City

Premiere: Young War “Winter in the City” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

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

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Young War "I Won't Come Back For Christmas (I'm Serious)"

Young War “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas (I’m Serious)” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Young War‘s “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas (I’m Serious)” is a great blend of indie rock and R&B. I love the whole concept of the song – he is not coming back for Christmas just so you know he’s serious. Its beautifully done, and very much worth your time. But don’t take my word for it. Take Lie in the Sound or Christmas A-Go-Go’s advice, and give it a listen (and/or download it via some nefarious Firefox plugin… or something). They gave it so much love last year, so much that I didn’t really find myself needing to help too much. I saw this on numerous mixes last year – it was certainly deemed a highlight of the season. That said, the song is good enough that I knew I’d be compelled to write about it at some point. Hey Young War – I hope this comes back around next year via Bandcamp.

Bottom Line: Wonderfully produced, great lyrics, great vocals and (was) free. 4.8/5

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Young War has been kind enough to give me permission to upload and stream their wonderful Christmas song. It had previously been a free download via their Soundcloud page, but they took it down from their own feed.

Lapland

Lapland “Maybe on Christmas” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Lapland, the moniker of Brooklyn singer/songwriter Josh Mease, just released a nice indiepop “original song hastily recorded” today, and I rather dig it. Synths flutter as a flickering flame as Mease sings about staying safe & sound by the fire on Christmas – in a tone that I’d equate to a Mark Mothersbaugh-scored scene in Life Aquatic. So, turn off your “Switched on Santa” and give this modern-synth Christmas a spin.

Bottom Line: Certainly growing on me – would love to have an actual download of it somewhere. 3.9/5

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Beans & Fatback "Tonight Girl I'm Coming Back Home"

Beans & Fatback “Tonight Girl I’m Coming Back Home (X-Mas Edit)” (2010)

Excelsior Recordings
Buy: Stream

The Netherlands’ own Beans & Fatback have just dropped a (I stand corrected – thanks Christmas A Go Go!) have a Christmas edit of “Tonight Girl I’m Coming Back Home,” and its a rocking, bar-band R&B good time. While it wasn’t originally a Christmas song, it very much works in the “Coming home for Christmas” milieu. They’ve even adjusted the lyrics very slightly to place it at Christmas, and it works perfectly. Check out this tune, then go down the rabbit-hole to their other stuff – its really pretty great.

Bottom Line: Solid Christmas R&B that could easily find a place on your mix. Points shaved off for no obvious way of purchasing or downloading this great song! 4.6/5

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The Guardian Christmas

Sing a Song of Christmas: Three New Tunes Exclusive to the Guardian (2013)

The Guardian
Buy: Stream

Last year, The Guardian newspaper asked three singer/songwriters to write an original Christmas song, with the only rule to include five provided phrases they felt “sum up the spirit of the holiday:”

“Do I have to wear this paper crown all day?”, “No really, sprouts do make me sick”, “The trains are pathetic on Boxing Day”, “I think you threw away the gift vouchers” and “Will someone turn the heating down?”

Their website provides the whole background on the songs, including interviews with the performers. I like the concept, and very much hope they do it again.

Dan Croll‘s “A Guardian Christmas,” is my favorite of the bunch. The sparse beats and R&B vocals are very much a sound-of-the-moment (and a sound which I like), and he does it well. I would certainly edit out the “Ho, ho, hos,” and everything after the second set of jolly laughs – and that 1:30 running time would be easy to squeeze into any mix. I really like the feeling of the final bit – that’s what sold me.

Gabrielle Alpin‘s “Untitled Christmas Song” also has some of the elements I like to look for – a sense of the melancholy of Christmas, and a bit of humor. She has a lovely voice, and the song is well done and quite short (bonus!). I suppose the only thing that would make it better would be a more fleshed-out production. Otherwise, really quite good.

Lewis Watson‘s “Home Alone (at, or before, Christmas) here” is my least favorite of the three, but it most certainly has some redeeming factors. The song is an ode the the McCallister family of the Home Alone movies – and tickles the bit in me that associates my own Christmas experience with Christmas TV and movies. However, it remains the least satisfying by having a low production value, and a part where he throws as many lyrics in as possible. Still good enough to be listenable, no doubt.

Bottom Line: All these songs are enjoyable enough to play in the background at a party – so perhaps consider adding them to your Soundcloud playlist, or use one of those fancy websites to download the MP3s. Most certainly an above-average collection, and had they offered easy, free downloads, may have scored higher. 3.8/5

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