The Miserable Rich “Everything You Wanted” (2013)

The Miserable Rich

Snowflakes Singles Club
Buy: Snowflakes SC | Bandcamp

Not breaking any news here, but good songs sometimes need a little cheerleading before someone will listen. One of my favorite tracks from this season has been The Miserable Rich‘s “Everything You Wanted.” It is one of those songs that took me a few listens to absolutely love, but those are the kind of songs that last. I particularly like the chorus, where the music rises and the horns come in. His voice has a great emotional quality to it, which I feel is just something you have – and can’t really learn.

This is just one of four releases from the Snowflakes Singles Club, an excellent new project that I hope we see more of next year. They still have some 7-inches left through the Miserable Rich’s Bandcamp, as well as over at Snowflakes SC (where there are a few sets with the now sold out Smoke Fairies 7″ still available).

Bottom Line: You need to invest a few listens. Then fork over your money. 5/5

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Geoffrey and the Livingstones – A Song is For Life and Not Just For Christmas (2013)

Geoffrey and the Livingstones

House vs. Home Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Geoffrey and the Livingstones have gathered their friends and recorded three indiepop originals for us this Christmas season. Their friend list is quite long, including members of Allo Darlin’, The Middle Ones, The Heliogoats, The Smittens, The School, Captain Dangerous, and the list goes on and on. I’d imagine that most of them are on the title track, “A Song is For Life and Not Just For Christmas,” because it is reminiscent of one of those “everyone takes a verse” classic Christmas tunes of yore. Its really a great little song, with some very odd lyrics for those of you who love that sort of thing (I would include myself in that category). “Christmas is the season / we miss old friends the most. / We’re not visited by wisemen, / we’re visited by ghosts. / But instead of kissing corpses / under the mistletoe, / lets raise a glass of eggnog / for a merry memorial toast.”

The other two tracks on the single are certainly the B-sides, but not to put them down, they are just of noticeably smaller scope. “Communist Christmas” is wonderfully clever, and will fit the bill for someone out there’s mix. I would post some lyrics, but you really need to experience them for yourself. “Little Donkey Kong” is a reimagining of “Little Donkey” as video game music. Not my thing, but hey, perhaps yours! It’s short, which is always a bonus.

Bottom Line: Hey, did I mention this is for charity, and totally worth the money? 4.8/5

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Christmas Aguilera “This Sky” (2013)

Christmas Aguilera - THe Sky

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Christmas Aguilera can pretty much do no wrong in my book… and with very little additional information as to who this mysterious group is, here they go and put out another wonderful Christmas tune. “This Sky” is the A-side to their brand-spanking-new charity digital single (as in, there is a B-side), and it is glorious. With their trademark sense of humor, and wonderful ability to find an intriguing hook, this tale of an economic misfortune cockblock (pardon my language) is not to be missed. Oh, and all the net profits go to Crisis, the national charity for the homeless in the UK. So don’t be a jerk and buy everything they’ve ever put out, OK?

Bottom Line: I LOVE THIS SONG. Well done guys. Please keep the tradition alive next year. 5/5

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The Hard Ground “Keep Me For Christmas Time” (2013/2014)

The Hard Ground

FIFA Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Well, why not keep the new stuff coming. Cork Ireland’s The Hard Ground (brought to me via 2 U I Bestow) bring another melancholy folk tune to the holiday table with “Keep Me for Christmas Time.” Beautiful female voice + grizzly male vocals + winter + longing = you’ve got a slow-burner that might just tear your heart out. As an added bonus, there are two versions for you to sample! I don’t see a place where you can purchase it yet. But likely, some resourceful reader will let me know where this can be accomplished. Free for download on Soundcloud!

EDIT: The Hard Ground has re-recorded this song for 2014, and put it up on their Bandcamp for €1, with the proceeds benefitting The Irish Cancer Society. Hey… Hard Ground… Why not add the other two recordings of this song you’ve made and make a good ol’ fashioned maxi-single!

Bottom Line: A very beautiful song deserving of your attention. 4/5

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Haus of PINS presents Hymns (2013)

Haus of PINS

Haus of PINS
Buy: For 2014! Green Cassette Repress & Download

Haus of PINS has one of the more intriguing comps this year. I wish I had more funds to pick up the cassette version of the release, but adding in that overseas P&P has me settling for the download. I will ammend this entry at a later date when I have a moment to review it, but for now, here is what they have to say about it.

Reposted from Haus of PINS:

Haus of PINS are proud to present their last release of the year – a hand-crafted, limited edition Christmas complication cassette, titled ‘Hymns’. PINS have contributed their Christmas song, ‘Kiss Me Quickly (It’s Christmas)’ and collaborated with eleven other bands – some Haus of PINS artists, some Manchester bands, and some friends from elsewhere – to create a Christmas compliation tape of completely original material. Faith of PINS says, ‘Some of the bands already had the songs, other bands wrote a song exclusively for it, which I’m honoured by.’ Bands involve include Post War Glamour Girls, September Girls, Brown Brogues and many more.

All of the proceeds from ‘Hymns’ will be given to SWAP, a charity that helps refugees and asylum seekers in the North. Faith explains ‘My grandfather volunteers for the charity, he goes every week – he’s 81 years old and still chooses to spend his time doing this really admirable thing. I think he is an inspiration.’

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Colourmusic – A Very Special Colourmusic Christmas, Vol. 1 (2013)

A Very Special Colourmusic Christmas, Vol. 1

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Colourmusic has put together a very enjoyable, at times silly, collection of 7 original Christmas tunes for the 2013 Christmas season. As an added bonus, those of you who love a good piece of vinyl will be pleased – a limited translucent green vinyl edition is also available! There is really nothing on this record that I particularly dislike, and some tracks that I very much enjoy. I feel as though you could put this on at a party, and nobody would be a big whiner and ask you to change it.

Bottom Line: Certainly listenable, and you might just love it. 3.9/5

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An Indiecater Christmas (2008)

an Indiecater Christmas

Indiecater Records
Buy: Bandcamp7Digital MP3

An Indiecater Christmas was Indiecater Records‘ first foray into Christmas tunes, beginning a streak that ended in 2011. But wait… set your clocks for December 1, because 2013’s edition is not far away! But I digress – 2008 felt like a moment in time where a wealth of comprehensive indie Christmas comps were coming out (as opposed to the single tracks that I see more frequently now), and An Indiecater Christmas is one of those must-have releases of yesteryear.

There are plenty of good songs on this record, but I will call out a few for review’s sake. The Very Most, purveyors of generally excellent Christmas tunes, give us the jingle-bell heavy “This Year, Christmas Came on November 4th.”  A solid tune, that could sneak its way onto anyone’s Christmas mix without much trouble.

Jape and David Kitt (YES!) contribute an appropriately titled “I Will Cry this Christmas.” While I do enjoy the vibe, and even the song in general, I can’t bring myself to put it on a mix. Perhaps your mix will have different needs – because its an excellent song – and I f*ing love David Kitt. I wish he would do another Christmas tune…

My Teenage Stride‘s “Is it Christmastime Already,” has a vibe and production value that makes you think that it is already a Christmas classic. Any major-label band that wants to pick it up, cover it, and throw it on their platinum-selling Christmas record will likely make this song a holiday staple.

There are many other good songs on this record – but when it comes to large compilations, and with my job/child/computer problems, brevity shall be my mantra.

Bottom Line: Great price, great songs, why not? 4/5

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For Folk’s Sake it’s Christmas 2012 (2012)

For Folk's Sake 2012

For Folk’s Sake
Buy: Bandcamp

For Folk’s Sake has been putting out Christmas compilations for (including this year) four years now, and I do hope it continues into infinity. I can easily say that Folk Folk’s Sake it’s Christmas 2012 was the best compilation that I purchased last year. Entirely listenable with some complete gems, this comp was worth every cent. I was one of the lucky few with an actual CD, as I do love physical media, and that just adds to the luster in my eyes.

While I feel there are many 3’s and 4’s on this record, I don’t have enough time to go track-by-track. However, I will most certainly highlight my absolute favorites. Please keep in mind, some of those songs I don’t mention at this very moment may indeed, one day, become a favorite that should stand with these… but I cannot see the future.

Ellen and the Escapades “By the Fireside” has that classic percussion + jingle bells that we have all come to expect from Christmas songs, which is not a knock at all – its the Darlene Love formula, but updated to their own, modern purposes. This song is good enough to be covered for years to come… and while I can’t imagine a different production being better than this one… perhaps a stripped down, banjo version would do the trick. Beautiful song. Can’t stress that enough.

Gibson Bull and Carmen have made me a believer in “The Holly and the Ivy.” I’ve heard versions from Los Campensinos (a good one, maybe even a great one) that come close, but not as good as this. Their voices are good, but not TOO good, which means they don’t overpower the song. They compilment each other so well – his early Dylanish tone and her soft tone wrapping that like a scarf on a cool winters night – true perfection.

Tom Williams‘ “Christmas (So Much Better When You’re Here)” reminds me of Mason Jennings’ lackluster contributions to the Brushfire Christmas comps… and how much better they would be if he took Mr. Williams approach. Stripped down, melancholy and utterly beautiful, this track is for that late-middle section of your mix, before you pick it up a bit in the latter half. It might just be someone’s favorite song, if they are a Handsome Family fan or something of the sort.

I’ve been glowing about these early songs, but you and your buddies in Spinal Tap will have to turn the glow up to 11 for this one. Gerard & the Watchmen’s “The Road” was very much one of my favorite Christmas tunes of the last five years. Comparison is useful for description, so please don’t think that I’d rather have these artists perform the song… but if Bon Iver had released this song, everyone would have (pardon my vulgarity) shit their pants in approval. I love it when a song’s ending is my favorite part.

So, with very few exceptions (mainly the really traditional stuff… but that’s a personal preference), For Folk’s Sake 2012 is one of the strongest compilations in years. Do yourself a favor, send them some money and download it right now.

Bottom Line: These kinds of releases make my life infinitely more enjoyable. 4.7/5

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The Wave Pictures “I Love You Like a Madman” (2008)

Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby

Moshi Moshi / Little Teddy
Buy: Discogs (CD/LP) | 7Digital MP3 | iTunes

Every so often, I strike gold and pull out a double, as in I love the Christmas song and also find that I love the band. The Wave Pictures are indeed one of those true finds, that hooks me in the xmas and reels me in for the rest of their catalog. Their 2008 release, Instant Coffee Baby, contains “I Love You Like a Madman,” one of the most interesting and enjoyable Christmas songs I have ever experienced. Their style is as if Jonathan Richman had listened to a good bit of Dexys Midnight Runners while reading Raymond Carver stories (I am stretching here… I can’t find the perfect combo). The chorus begins with “The air in here is dead / But we’re not finished yet / Throw the back door open / Let me see your breath.” Its this kind of simple, visceral visual that I find in Evan Dando at his best and David Berman at his most poignant, and is indeed, a large part of why I love music.

Bottom Line: Like a weird short story that you can’t help but see yourself in. 5/5

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Haze “The River” (2013)

Haze

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I don’t consider this a blog that is there to inform you of HOT NEW MUSIC. The goal of Christmas Underground is more to ferret out those hidden gems that might have passed you by, or give an alternate take on a record that others have likely loved… not necessarily posting new stuff coming out with any real voracity.

However, I did come across a rather intriuging cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” that I thought I might share. Yes, yet another cover of “River.” However, I think Haze does a pretty great job with this song. Stripped down, with layered backing vocals that for a split second reminded me of Glasser, she takes “River” and with slight changes, does appear to make it her own. While the song normally bores me, she does little things to keep me engaged.

Bottom Line: While I’m not a huge fan of the song to begin with, Haze does it justice with a excellent arrangement. 4/5

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