PREORDER: Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club (2013)

Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club

Be sure to head over to the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club blog to check out the latest posts. There is a rundown of all the singles, A + B side tracklists, and I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED.

PREORDER HERE: http://snowflakes.bigcartel.com/product/all-4-singles-of-the-2013-edition-of-the-snowflakes-christmas-club

P.S. – Don’t buy them all before I get some money together. I will be quite sad.

This Christmas (with Anthologies and Hide & Seek) (2012)

This Christmas (with Anthologies and Hide & Seek) (2012)

Anthologies / Hide & Seek Records
Buy: Donate

A very admirable, and higher quality (than most) charity compilation by Anthologies has come out two years in a row now, and I do hope it becomes a yearly seasonal occurrence. Donation amounts are left up to the giver, and all proceeds go towards supporting the homeless.

While I must admit, there was nothing that I fell in love with, I found it a very listenable compilation. The Birthday Kiss‘ “Sentimental Christmastime” was released outside of this compilation first, but is certainly a welcome addition. I happen to be a fan of The Lodger, so a Lodger side-project (The Birthday Kiss) will always garner a bit more attention from me. Dancing Club’s “Silent Night” brings new phrasing and instrumentation to what I normally find a very boring song. His voice is odd, yet good enough to be interesting – and I do love a banjo. Finally, These Men‘s “How Come You’re Only Nice to Me at Christmas,” is another to check out – great lyrics, nice music and short – always a bonus. The rest of the record is certainly listenable, and your personal song preferences will likely direct you to like songs that I might simply cross off out of my personal prejudices. For example, I hate “Wonderful Christmastime.” HATE it. So, that’s me.

Bottom Line: Good cause and overall very listenable. Keep em coming Anthologies. 3.8/5

LISTEN

Super Furry Animals “The Gift that Keeps Giving” (2007)

Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus

Rough Trade
Buy: Discogs (CD/LP) | 7Digital FLAC/MP3 | iTunes

Super Furry Animals have a wonderful little Christmas song hidden away on their 2007 release, Hey Venus, which you need to become aquatinted with. Also released as a Dec. 25, 2007 free download from their website, “The Gift that Keeps Giving” is the Christmas single that Gruff Rhys believed needed to be on a SFA “pop record.” Its such a sweet song, but of course, Gruff Rhys and the SFA can’t be believed as sweet, sentimental artists. The video certainly expresses their true intentions, a disturbing sendup of commercial Christmas, which makes it much more fun.

Bottom Line: Love this song. Love this band. Buy the whole record: It’s all good. 5/5

LISTEN

Faye and The Scrooges “Fancy Postman” (2012) and “Terrible Presents” (2011)

Faye and the Scrooges

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

Two excellent little songs from the rather mysterious Faye and The Scrooges have come across my Soundcloud searches of late. Before I inquired, very little could be found about them. Google searches led to nothing. I thought, perhaps, there was an odd Aluna George connection, since that is the only band they followed. They had 2 songs up, and by all measures, were quite obscure with two very modest play counts (as of now, 80/768). I took a moment and asked them who they heck they were, and learned that this is the product of a group of friends who get together and write/record a Christmas song with just enough time to give them to friends at the pub on Christmas eve. Judging by the production value, this group of friends knows their way around a recording – they sound great. Both songs are silly, but not too silly as to be annoying. They are simply quite clever, and extremely enjoyable. Jump on this bandwagon and add to their 4 followers, and while you’re at it, follow Pluto Rise on Facebook and Soundcloud – because two of the members of this trio have started a band, and its bound to be pretty damn good.

Bottom Line: Faye and The Scrooges have my vote. They are one year away from writing an indie classic. Perhaps set up a Bandcamp to allow FLAC downloads? 4/5

UPCOMING: Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club (2013)

Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club

I will no doubt be talking more about this upcoming project as it unfolds, but just to wet your appetite, a repost below from their website, with handy hyperlinks to the featured bands. Thank you Robert for sending this my way, and best of luck with this AMAZING project.

From snowflakes-christmas-singles.blogspot.nl

In November, the four singles of the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, edition 2013, will be released.

All singles come in a full colour picture sleeve on white vinyl, limited to 500 copies. On the A-side, the singles will have an original, on the B-side a cover.

On the first single, London folk/blues duo Smoke Fairies, joined on violin by Neil Walsh, sing about how celebrating Christmas with friends and loved ones makes one feel at home in their ‘Simple Feeling’. On the flipside they do a haunting and beautiful rendition of ‘I Wonder As I Wander’, a Christmas carol written by singer John Jacob Niles, based on some lines of a folk song he once heard a little girl sing in a small village in Appalachian North Carolina.

Stockholm, Swedens’ indie poppers The Garlands have rearranged and rerecorded their ‘Christmas Song’, prevously released as a download only in 2008, for the second single. This Chrismas love song has the sound of the swinging 60s, with bells, piano, sweet harmonies and all. Their cover of ‘I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You’, written in 1967 by Margo Guyan for French actrice, singer and dancer Claudine Longet, is a perfect fit with their original song, has the same hip 60s vibe, but still with a indiepop bite.

The third single has chamber popband The Miserable Rich from Brighton with an uplifting original, ‘Everything You Want’, in which singer James is out to buy a Christmas present for this lover and finds himself – and the present – with friends in the pub at the end of the day. The Miserable Rich cover the antiwar protest song ‘Stop The Cavalry’, written and made into one of the most loved Christmas songs from the early 1980s by Jona Lewie.

Surf pop band The Silhouettes from Amsterdam are featured on the fourth single. The Silhouettes have written an very Christmas sounding song, about looking forward to sit with your lover ‘Under The Mistletoe’. They back it with a surf version of the Christmas standard ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and first sung by the legendary Judy Garland in the classic 1944 musical ‘Meet Me In St. Louis’.

Pre-orders going up later this month!
Check http://snowflakes-christmas-singles.blogspot.nl/ or http://www.facebook.com/Snowflakes.Christmas.Singles for updates!

Silent Night, Tiny Lights (2012)

Silent Night, Tiny Lights

Tiny Lights
Buy: Bandcamp

A generally solid compilation with some definite highlights, but keep in mind one can’t be toooo tough on something that benefits kids. I was able to get ahold of one of the very-limited CD versions of this release, though consider that a personal failing of mine (the urge for the physical object, not just buying bytes). I bought it on spec… I think there were only about 100 or so, and the price was not more than the download if I remember correctly… bonus points for that.

This is a big one (19 tracks), so were are really only going to go through the highlights:

The Futureheads‘ “Christmas Was Better in the 80s” came out a few years ago, but remains a personal favorite. This is a nice bonus, being that I had only been able to previously purchase an MP3, and have now since upgraded to CD/FLAC. Certainly mix-worthy, and if you live in the states, you may even impress a friend or two who haven’t heard it and/or have no clue who the Futureheads are.

Blank Maps‘ “Stollen” is the kind of track that I like to have about 3/4 through the disc, slow, pretty and dramatic. Perhaps I haven’t listened closely enough yet… but having a tough time connecting it to Christmas though. Lionhall’s “Angel” falls into the same category. Loose if any Christmas connection at all, with the same pace and beauty. These are not necessarily something I would put on a mix, but certainly better songs than most.

The Railway Club slow down “Baby, Please Come Home” with excellent results. Acoustic guitars, an organ, bass, jingle bells (perhaps a mandolin too) and nice harmonies created a nice warm atmosphere. The original overpowers with a wall of sound, while this version invites you in for some cocoa.

A Woman of No Importance‘s “That’ll be Christmas” is one of the more interesting originals covers on the record. Thea Gilmore’s tune is very engaging; the lyrics can be funny or sad, sentimental or daft, all within one verse. I have not heard the original yet, but will no doubt do so. Certainly worth a listen. (Thanks for the clarification onedaywhen. Feel free to throw some listening suggestions my way too!)

Fawn Spots‘ “Santa Won’t Get Away with it This Year,” is noise rock with synths, and it works. Certainly something to consider for your Christmas mix, if you need something to up the pace. I know that I’ve had years where I was scrounging for something that wasn’t mid-to-low tempo and pretty… just hoping to find that dirty rock n’ roll to spice it up a bit. If I remember correctly, they also won Fat Cat Records Christmas song contest with this song as well.

While there are still some very listenable other tracks on the disc, these are the main ones that I wanted to call out. I just can’t do track-by-track for 19 tracks. I have a baby, and there just isn’t enough time in the day.

Bottom Line: Some good stuff, but only 2-3 songs that I would consider mix-worthy (and one of them has already been on one). 3.5/5

LISTEN:

Avalanche Records’ Alternative Christmas (2009)

Avalanche Records (Edinburgh)
Buy: Good luck!

One of the biggest challenges with reviewing Christmas records, is that so many are released to benefit charities. I certainly don’t want to crap all over a record that benefits sick kids, and thankfully, I don’t have to.

Avalanche Records in Edinburgh, Scotland released a very DIY Christmas record back in 2009. Simply titled Alternative Christmas, this compilation features mainly Scottish artists each submitting an original song, with only a few exceptions. So, for those out there who love originals (like me), this is a good start.

I originally purchased this to have an audio master for There Will Be Fireworks‘ “In Excelsis Deo,” which is a dramatic, and fantastic song; a perfect ending to my 2010 Christmas Mix. This used to be the only place you could buy this track, and of course it has since been released elsewhere. Fellow dramatic Scots Frightened Rabbit also lend their (by now) classic track, “Its Christmas So We’ll Stop.” I think this may be the only official CD release of the track, beyond a promo that they sent to radio stations back in 2008.

A large chunk of this record is terribly sad. The Savings and Loan contribute a serviceable cover of the Palace Brothers’ lament “Christmastime in the Mountains,” but it does not improve upon the original – which is a must if you are going to perform it in a similar style. Withered Hand gives us an emotional “Its a Wonderful Lie,” and while it certainly has its moments, it is just too dreary for me. Really, this one could be you favorite tune on the record if you really love a Christmas dirge. Another rather brutal, but well-done song is the Phil Ochs tune, “No Christmas in Kentucky”, retitled “Christmas in Kirkcaldy,” and performed by Meursault. Scots singing about the Southeast United States… and the poverty that is Appalachia. I have heard it all.

Two final tracks that are certainly worth a listen are Emily Scott‘s “Holy,” and X-Lion Tamer‘s stab at Beck’s “Little Drum Machine Boy.” Both are done well, and “Holy” is an extremely pretty, sparse folk song with excellent vocal layers.

Bottom Line: Can be quite sad, but has a higher percentage of good songs than most comps out there. 3.8/5

LISTEN:


12 Days of Christmas (2009)

12 Days of Christmas cover

Bubblewrap Collective
Buy: CD | Bandcamp

The concept is intriguing. 12 bands were selected and given 31 days to write and record a song, each based on a particular day in the “12 Days of Christmas.” It was intriguing enough to compel me to preorder it many moons ago. As with nearly every single Christmas compilation, there is a WIDE variety of quality on this record. The tracks that rise above the rest are all female-fronted indie bands – one might think that I have a type. The first notable track is “Five Golden Rings from the Hi Five Kings” by The Rocky Nest. They have a great musical aesthetic – everything works well together. The second track I would like to highlight is “Silver Swans in NYC” by Allo, Darlin’ (Look them up – they put out a fantastic record this year). This was the one I was anticipating… and perhaps it was that anticipation that raised the expectations a bit too high. Its a lovely little song… but for some reason I wish it was a more fleshed-out production. There are a few other tracks on there that are ok, but largely, I was not a huge fan.

Bottom Line: So much potential, but not enough quality payoff. 2/5

LISTEN:


Glasvegas – A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) (2008)

Glasvegas - A Snowflake Fell cover

Columbia
Buy: Discogs (CD) | iTunes
icon

So, yes, they are on a major label. However, talk to most people in America, and ask them if they know who Glasvegas are, and you may be asking around a good bit. This is unfortunate – because they put out a very solid debut, and an absolutely stellar Christmas EP, A Snowflake Fell (And it Felt Like a Kiss).

I honestly do not have a song that I do not care for on this EP – though I do have some favorites. Standouts are “Fuck You, It’s Over,” “Please Come Back Home,” and the title track, “A Snowflake Fell (And it Felt Like a Kiss).” Two of those tracks have made my personal Christmas mixes (not in the same year), and one is always in the running… though likely less so as I will soon have a child in the house.

Available as a second disc in a special edition-version of their debut, it was also given away at indie record stores in the US. Hunt one down for about $10 and you are doing splendidly.

Bottom Line: A fantastic, moody Scottish rock record that I could listen to (and do) outside the holiday season. 5/5

LISTEN:



Kitty Kitten Kristmas (2010)

Kitty Kitten Kristmas

Kingem Records
Buy: CD | iTunes

Tiny Tide’s “Left Alone for Christmas Time” begins with the line “Do I have to wait and cry,” which sums up a lot of indie pop Christmas tunes–Dreary lyrics with a danceable beat. The rest of the disc does not follow quite the same formula, and for that, I am appreciative. The tone is pretty similar though – its all indie pop. “M.I.S.T.L.E.T.O.E.” is a solid song about office-party romance… not quite catchy enough for me to consider for my own mix. Cherry Berry has two songs on this release… which is unfortunate (for my taste). “Berry Xmas” is the weakest track on this record, and its on there twice. The vocals are just distracting, and make it impossible to get into – though their English is no doubt much better than my Indonesian.

Without giving a rundown of EVERY track on this 8-song release, I would like to highlight the two bright spots. Paisley and Charlie offer a beautiful slice of holiday melancholy with “Unhappy New Year.” Perhaps a bit too dreary for my wife to stand, I really enjoy the groove the music creates (and you, oddly, really need to listen to it LOUD). Stars in Coma also have a standout with “The Frozen Spectacle.” With harmonies that are reminiscent of the Fleet Foxes, these Swedes have created a track 2:36 of subtle beauty. Brevity is often an asset when it comes to a good Christmas song… and Stars in Coma do not wear out their welcome.

Bottom Line: Inexpensive, with two very-solid tracks makes this release better than most. 3.7/5

LISTEN

UPDATE! Stars in Coma have re-recorded “The Frozen Spectacle” for their upcoming, Christmas Eve release of You, Me and a Nuance of Arctic Air. This is a slightly different mix, so its all a matter of personal taste as to which one you like. For fun, I’m also posting their demo of this, fantastic track GONE (which is a highlight of my personal mix this year!).