a POP ETC Christmas

POP ETC – A POP ETC Christmas (2017)

Pop Etc Records
Buy: iTunes | Amazon MP3Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

POP ETC have been thinking about recording a Christmas songs for years, but kept getting too busy around the holidays and would eventually let the idea fall away. That was then, and this is now… when POP ETC is releasing not one, but three Christmas songs! The EP contains two covers, which bookend the release, leading off with the classic Vince Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time is Here.” Their version is very faithful to the original in most aspects – pacing, emphasis, etc. – with Christopher’s vocals floating on top of their minimal orchestration. This leadoff is quite nice, and nicely tees up their original tune, “All I Want for Xmas (Just My Baby).” The pace picks up a bit as Christopher kicks into the song that he’s been singing around the house since the day after Thanksgiving; This is not surprising, as the track is a subtle earworm. It’s a classic “I just want you for Christmas” jam, wrapped wonderfully with POP ETC’s excellent pop taste. Finally, POP ETC tackle the McCartney classic, “Wonderful Christmastime,” and their drummer Julian takes over vocal duties. Thankfully, they don’t go full Macca, and tone down those sugary-sweet moments to create a perfectly nice version. Believe me, that last sentence was a high compliment. In fact, there are some excellent vocals, as well as backing vocal harmonies on this track, and the ending is genuinely beautiful. Had I not heard Slow Dancer’s dramatic reinterpretation from the Amazon Indie for the Holidays playlist, I would likely be adding in even more flowery language in trying to describe this strong cover of a (IMHO) bad song. With three strong tracks on this EP, POP ETC’s first foray into Christmas tunes was worth the wait.

Bottom Line: POP ETC’s Christmas EP is strong throughout, with touches of true brilliance and beauty, and most certainly worth your time.

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the Christmas Cards

The Christmas Cards “Christmastime is Here” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

To what do my indiepop ears hear shuffling through my Soundcloud feed? Could that be a band formed by the members of “indie-pop darlings The Postcards and lo-fi teenage sensations Father?” Why by golly, it is! The Christmas Cards combined these two bands for a South London, basement recording session this past November and ran through 14 indiepop Christmas tunes! For those who love raw indiepop, this will be right up your alley. Being that it is a Saturday, and I have 3 different birthday/Hanukkah/Christmas parties to go to, I’m only going to single out one, “Christmastime is Here.” The Christmas Cards do it well – speeding up this classic in a jovial indiepop fashion.  It really was the handclaps that got me over the hump on this one being the track to highlight, as I then noticed that I was sincerely grooving and tapping my foot to their lovely cover. Of note, there are some solid, real deep cut covers in there too – but I think they’ll require multiple listens to really get into… so perhaps in a future post or two!

Bottom Line: A truly enjoyable cover for you indiepoppers out there! Check out the other tracks too if you like – some are great, others are good, and only one or two I wouldn’t press play on again (but Little Drummer Boy is pretty much my least favorite song ever). I threw all of them in a playlist below, for your perusing pleasure.

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Grapes & Friends "Wishlist"

Premiere: The Grapes & Friends “Wishlist” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

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).   an Austin, TX indie rock band created by smashing together members of DangeresqueThe 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.)

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Pauline Andrès "Christmas in Paris, TN"

Pauline Andrès “Christmas from Paris, TN” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Stream | Bandcamp

Originally “born in France a coal miner’s daughter,” then a Berlin-based country artist, Pauline Andrès has found a new home in Nashville to record her latest album, due in 2018. In the meantime, she has recorded this excellent new Christmas tune, “Christmas in Paris, TN.” The song begins as a intriguing title, and quickly expands into a melancholy, country-rock standout of this Christmas season. One would think that a track about Christmas in Paris would be a song of beauty, lights and romance – but add that Tennessee onto the end and you’ve got a wholly different scene. This song is about being extremely lonely on Christmas, where every reminder of Christmas makes it worse. So, she writes her family a postcard, “Alone for Christmas, Alone in Paris.” It takes a round or two of that line before she adds “Tennessee,” and that delay is so clever and effective – just wonderfully crafted. Her voice shares qualities with Lucinda Williams, and as with Lucinda, the rough edges compliment the lyrics beautifully. The production is wonderful, and the addition of country organ is the icing on the cake. I’m sure this song will find a place on someone’s mix out there, no doubt.

Bottom Line: Pauline has a very dark approach toward Christmas songs (check out her 2015, A Happy Christmas Song EP), and with “Christmas in Paris, TN,” she’s delivered her strongest song yet. Beautifully crafted, on all fronts.

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Bjéar Christmas

Bjéar “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Things are getting weird around these parts. We’re all about to get nuked, and I’m sitting here writing the second post in threee days about an instrumental Christmas song. Adelaide, Australia’s Bjéar has a Soundcloud stream full of solid, RIYL Bon Iver/Sufjan Stevens indie folk/rock. I initially heard his excellent Sufjan-esque “Big Sky” and really loved it; I think it was one of those “Soundcloud chooses another song” situations. So I click through to the profile, and discover these two Christmas songs – “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” These are two songs that rarely make appearances on this, very secular Christmas blog. However, there is a quality to them that leads me to this moment. Bjéar’s arrangements are the obvious strength of these songs. “Joy to the World” has subtle variations on the melodies you’d expect, and yet it sounds fresh to my bitter ears. “Silent Night” is extremely simple – pretty much a solo piano effort for the first minute. Then, more colors enter, and it opens up. Neither track reinvents these classic songs, but Bjéar’s choices have a sensibility that indie rock fans such as myself will certainly appreciate.

Bottom Line: I find myself in uneasy, instrumental and religious Christmas song waters, but Bjéar helps me swim.

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Cold Fins "It's Christmas Time"

Cold Fins “It’s Christmas Time” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

London’s Cold Fins specialize in reverb/organ pop, and while they are short on social media presence, they are long on musical taste. The classic, yet contemporary feel of “It’s Christmas Time” takes some basic “it won’t be Christmas without you” tropes and dresses them up in some interesting, fashionably worn new clothes. Cold Fins feel like a kind of band that could play Christmas hits at your favorite bar, and you would suddenly look up from your drink and realize you are at the fucking hippest Christmas party ever. Their organ, the guitar licks, and the steady beat will keep your head bobbing and feet tapping for many seasons to come.

Bottom Line: Soundcloud feeds you a winner every so often, and thankfully tonight, they were serving Cold Fins.

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Rosie Carney "Winter"

Rosie Carney “Winter” (2017)

Akira Records
Buy: 7Digital (MP3/FLAC) | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Sitting outside on a winter night, trying to forget a lover… this is where we find the narrator in Rosie Carney‘s “Winter.” The imagery is gorgeous, the simple guitar-picked melody is lovely and Rosie’s voice is truly genuine. She has the ability to put you there with her – her voice is not singing a song, but living it. This track was recently featured on NPR, and thankfully alerted me to the beauty that is Rosie Carney’s work. An Irish singer-songwriter, she is also an advocate for mental illness, having written quite openly about her battles with depression, sexual assault and eating disorders on her blog. Rosie is a story of survival – beautiful, wonderful survival. So, in this time when we give thanks, think of those who could use even more support, and lend an ear, lend a hand, and give some love.

Bottom Line: While not a Christmas song, this song certainly has a place on your winter/Christmas-themed mixes, as it is truly beautiful.  Listen to all her songs… they are all spectacular.

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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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Make Like Monkeys

Make Like Monkeys “Christmas Doesn’t Last” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Free!

HELL YEAH! Make Like Monkeys, whose back catalogue of Christmas tunes is vast, has made what I consider to be… his best Christmas song yet! This power pop jam of a boozy Christmas has a complex levity that I truly appreciate at this particular moment. “So screw the bills, the mortgage and the cat / you gotta grab it now, cause Christmas doesn’t last.” There is screaming along to Christmas songs, drunken joy and close friends, but also a reminder of those credit card bills waiting for you on the other side. You know, reality. But I FEEL that sentiment… you gotta grab it now, cause Christmas (hell, everything) doesn’t last.

Bottom Line: Make Like Monkeys has upped his game even higher. Truly pleased Mark reached out today. (Of note, I find this song best listened to loud… louder than your computer speakers might let you. Just gives it that extra bit of oomph.)

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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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