Faye and the Scrooges "It's Christmas Time"

Faye and the Scrooges “Time for Christmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

I walk in from wassailing at our local pub, and find I’ve been tweeted at! Faye and the Scrooges have released their 2016 Christmas song in 2016! I usually get their song well into the next year, but to my delight, here it is! I believe this is the first time that they’ve tackled what I’d consider to be a dance track, as “Time for Christmas” is meant to move your fucking ass. There is the humor you expect from a F&TS Christmas song, which I absolutely love. Between the verses of cheeky holiday observations and frustrations, the chorus swings in with a full embrace of the season. It’s how many of us feel about the holiday – nothing is quite perfect, but you can still fucking love it. In closing, as Faye and the Scrooges say, “It’s Christmas time / lets all get wasted.” I certainly took a page from that book last night…

Bottom Line: Faye and the Scrooges have my ass moving and grooving with this Christmas jam. Now, you might wonder why I’m swearing so much in this review… it’s to make up for the “Where the f***’s that f***in Sellotape?” that F&TS dropped. Hey Faye! Release a parental-advisory version too! I love a good ‘ol profane Christmas song!

EDIT: Look below! 2 versions, one with all the 4-letter words you could want!

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Daniel Woolhouse "Fairytale of New York" (2016)

Daniel Woolhouse “Fairytale of New York” (2016)

37 Adventures
Buy: Stream (for now)

The Line of Best Fit hipped me to this fantastic new cover of the holiday classic (well, in the UK), “Fairytale of New York.” Daniel Woolhouse, AKA Deptford Goth, begins this classic Pogues’ track with an ethereal a cappella intro, and eases it into a beautiful, electro-pop room. Daniel also makes some refreshing choices in where he adds weight to the lyrics; he accents words where you would not expect it. I truly appreciate that, by every metric, this is far from a straightforward cover. This includes Daniel’s choice to exclude that one, problematic part of the song. He doesn’t change the lyrics, as some do, he just doesn’t even walk down that street. I’m cool with that, and I’m loving this song.

Bottom Line: Finally, a fresh version of “Fairytale of New York” that I feel 100% fine adding to a mix, minus that particular shitty word.

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Shelter Scotland Home for the Holidays

Home For The Holidays: A Christmas Songbook (2016)

Shelter Scotland
Buy: Bandcamp

I’ve been following the progression of this project for a little while now, and it is finally out. This MASSIVE compilation of Scottish/UK bands had their release party just a few days back, and I had no idea as to the extent of this collection. 37 tracks… 37 tracks… some of which you’ll recognize, such as “Cheap Gold” by Frightened Rabbit, or Allo Darlin’s “Will You Please Spend New Years With Me,” but there is still plenty of new stuff to discover here! And hey, I don’t think that Frightened Rabbit track was ever available as something other than a MP3. I seriously can’t take the time to give a full review of the entire collection, it’s just so massive (and so nicely priced!), but who knows… maybe sometime in July? So check out the likes of Broken Records, Kid Canaveral, Withered Hand, Sweet Baboo, This is the Kit, The Spook School, Jonnie Common, De Rosa, and many many many more.

Bottom Line: I’m six tracks in… and there is not a clunker in the bunch so far. And every sale benefits Shelter Scotland, which helps “over half a million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness

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Golden Dregs "Blue Christmas"

The Golden Dregs “Blue Christmas” (2016/2011)

Art is Hard Records
Buy: Free on Soundcloud!

The Golden Dregs are working on a theme here… they began with “White Christmas,” and have now moved on to “Blue Christmas,” I am waiting for “Green Christmas,” or as the title would suggest “Gold Christmas.” Well, as we wait to see if this project is bigger than two songs in the Art Is Hard Advent Calendar, lets take a listen to “Blue Christmas.” So… I’m not as enamored of this version as I was of their take on “White Christmas.” The Golden Dregs excel when they tackle material that is outside their normal aesthetic, and “Blue Christmas'” country roots are just a bit too close. This is actually their second take on “Blue Christmas,” as you can find a version on their Soundcloud from 5 years ago… (EDIT, they took it down) with oddly less listens than this year’s! That one is even more lo-fi, but has essentially the same approach to the material. All this said, “Blue Christmas” is not even close to being a personal favorite in my house… I have never included it on a mix, as I often find it terribly boring. So, The Golden Dregs may have been fighting a losing battle with this song.

Bottom Line: “Blue Christmas” may leave me feeling blue, but I very much enjoy The Golden Dregs holiday efforts and would LOVE to hear their take on some more adventuresome/against-type material.

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Charlie's Hand Movements - Be, Be Together

Charlie’s Hand Movements – Be, Be Together (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (FREE!)

What the what?!?!?! How come Bandcamp didn’t let me know that there was a new Charlie’s Hand Movements release? I had to find it in my Twitter feed?? HUSSAH! The boys are back, and as great as ever with this new 3-track EP, Be, Be Together. The leadoff track “Snow Globe” is a fuzzed-out guitar, flippin’ good time. “We can block the hold world out and be together.” Awesome.

“Until the 25th Came” is one of CHM’s most interesting Christmas songs to date. The musical movements, as well as the lyrics, take a journey that culminates with the some of the most beautiful lyrics they have written. “Forget the jealousy, forget the misery, embrace the melody, take pleasure from the small things like giving more than you get, appreciating friends, tell people that you love that you love them.” The ending is warm, cathartic and gorgeous.

“Fairy Lights & Cheap Beer” finds CHM pinpointing a simple moment. “Get together every year, fill the room with fairy lights and drink cheap beer. Drink cheap beer. Talk about nothing. So glad you’re here. We don’t need to talk about anything. Our hopes, jobs, or fear. No, we don’t need to talk about anything, just be together. Don’t leave me hanging.” There is something so perfectly human about this moment. There is the warmth of connection that you have with those few people in your life, where you don’t even need to speak, a mere presence is enough. But that final line, “Don’t leave me hanging,” there is something so fragile there that everyone can relate to. Those who we love the most can break us the easiest.

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements have given us their most beautiful Christmas record to date. Of note, their past two releases are back up on Bandcamp as well, so I’d grab them while you can.

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Shy Nature - My Christmas Tree is Looking at Me

Shy Nature “My Christmas Tree (Is Looking At Me)” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream (for now)

YES! Shy Nature is back, and thus, a tradition is set in stone, and they will have to do some serious negotiating to get out of this gentlemen’s agreement to put out a Christmas song every year. “My Christmas Tree (Is Looking at Me)” shares some emotional complexity with last year’s “Christmas Lullaby.” It starts out sweet, with excited children wanting to go down to the tree. The food, the fun, the battleground of presents. However, as the song progresses, it gets darker. No one wants to sing, you’re losing your hair, and it’s getting colder. “Those magic times / Won’t be magic forever.” The emotional arc is quick, poignant and most certainly relatable. The magic we have as children never lasts, no matter how much we still love Christmas. It will never be the same.

Hold on to it for as long as you can.

Bottom Line: Shy Nature excel at writing emotional, thoughtful Christmas songs, and “My Christmas Tree (Is Looking at Me)” is a wonderful addition to their Christmas collection.

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Winterval - At Christmas Time

Winterval – At Christmas Time (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

So… lots of folks tweet at me with Christmas tunes. I do appreciate it – please keep doing it! The nature of the beast is that I’m never going to be able to listen to them all, nor give them all the proper time that they may deserve. Why? Because all the music comes out in a span of only 3 weeks… it’s nuts. But damn… I found myself with a little time and listened to one today while walking to my car, picked a random track, and found myself transfixed. Winterval, a home recording project from Moseley, UK, has written a whole album of Christmas originals over the past 7 years… and it is pretty damn fantastic. The production perfectly captures his voice, which has a touching sincerity during the more contemplative songs. The song that I randomly chose was “Hang the Lights on the Tree,” and the way his voice floats amongst the ringing guitars is just perfection. “Hang the lights on the tree / one for every memory.” The simplicity of these captured moments aren’t anything grand, but that is where their power comes from. I honestly haven’t had the time to give this record the deep listen it deserves, though rarely does an entire release reveal itself so quickly to be worthy of attention. I mean… I didn’t even have to dig. Shoot at another song – “Christmas Every Day” – just fantastic. “At Christmas Time” – beautiful. “Puffy’s Song” – even that elf song is great! Truly, this record has been an absolute indiepop pleasure.

Bottom Line: This is a modest, home recording project that is fighting well above its weight class.

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Night Flowers - Christmas

Night Flowers – Christmas (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

London’s Night Flowers have just released a fantastic 2-track indiepop Christmas digital single (of originals!) that continues this year’s trend of beautifully written indiepop Christmas songs. I’m going to jump straight into the lyrics of track 2, “Christmas Eve,” the uptempo stomper that I just adore:

I broke the silence with a beating heart
hoping I wouldn’t break the spell
you whispered softy in my ear
a song I’ve never heard again and disappeared
the seasons pass
slowly my dear
I wonder where you’re gonna be on Christmas eve?

That is some seriously beautiful writing. It leaves enough space for you to put yourself into the song, and thus you feel it more. Just beautiful.

The leadoff track “To Rest” is much more in the classic, slow, chiming sound of treble-heavy indiepop. Certainly beautiful as well, but perhaps without the crossover (from indiepop) appeal that “Christmas Eve” may have. That said, this could be a highlight for your indiepop Christmas mix – which is a mix I’d like you to send me. Because I dig that shit, obviously 🙂

I really have to stop qualifying with “only for those who love indiepop” when dealing with fantastic indiepop singles. I mean… duh. If you like it you’ll like it. Indiepop is the flipside to punk, and punk means to reject mass appeal. Indiepop sort of is too… it’s almost recorded as if it’s meant to be a secret between you and the band. And here I am… spillin’ secrets.

Bottom Line: 2 great indiepop tracks, a name-your-own price on Bandcamp, and all proceeds going to Mind and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Take my money, please.

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The Golden Dregs "White Christmas"

The Golden Dregs “White Christmas” (2016)

Art is Hard Records
Buy: Free on Soundcloud!

“White Christmas” is one of those songs that is always just so… cute. It tends to lend itself to ukuleles and pretty voices… you know the type. Every so often, someone can perform a song in a way that will refresh you, make you less cynical about this whole Christmas-music game. The Golden Dregs have performed “White Christmas” admirably, but more importantly, they have delivered a ramshackle version that takes the sheen off, making for a much more interesting listening experience. There is going to be more too… Art is Hard suggests that this is just the tip of an E.P., which the artwork suggests is called “A Very Golden Christmas.” This E.P. can’t come quickly enough, because I’m close to the end of my mix, and I need some gold(en) hits.

Bottom Line: “White Christmas” is the tip of a shabby iceburg that I would like to hear more from.

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Nim Chimpsky "Avocado for Christmas"

Nim Chimpsky “Avocado For Christmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Free!

I just learned something about Nim Chimpsky. I thought that their band name was a clever, chimp-themed play of Noam Chomsky, but alas, Nim Chimpsky is a famous chimpanzee (and yes, also clever play on Noam Chomsky) who took part in language acquisition studies at Columbia for decades, and passed away in 2000. I learned something new because I had to work to find this band’s website, and someday I may need that nugget of information in a conversation. It’s gonna be amazing. Now, back to the music. Our present-day Nim Chimpsky are a wonderful female duo from Coventry, UK, and they have gifted us a fantastic, somewhat cheeky new Christmas song, “Avocado for Christmas.” The song is about calling your grandma at Christmastime. “Grandma didn’t live through the war / but is prepared to tell you nonsense.” Hehehe. As with a good number of songs, I honestly can’t decipher all the lyrics, but I dig the music, dig the attitude, and just plain found it lots of fun. Clocking in at not even a minute, Nim Chimpsky are adhering to the essential Christmas music tenant of “don’t wear out your welcome, and keep them wanting more,” that I am always espousing to whoever will listen. There are way too many songs that would be good if you chopped off a minute or two… and Nim Chimpsky nip that in the bud right away. It’s like a tasty, tasty snack.

Bottom Line: Nim Chimpsky have snuck onto my Soundcloud feed and into my heart with their short burst of Christmas fun, and their free WAV download!

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