Sufjan Stevens “Lonely Man of Winter” (2007/2018)

Asthmatic Kitty
Buy: Bandcamp | Vinyl 7″ (Limited to 1000) (Looks to be sold out at the label – in retailers Nov. 9)

WHAT?!?! HERE IT IS!

From Asthmatic Kitty:

In 2007, Sufjan Stevens wrote and recorded “Lonely Man of Winter” and, as part of a holiday marketing contest to promote Stevens’ Songs for Christmas boxset, traded ownership of the song to the winner, Alec Duffy. In turn Duffy gifted his song, “Every Day is Christmas,” to Stevens.

But instead of widely releasing “Lonely Man of Winter,” Duffy held listening sessions in his home and around the world, sometimes pairing the private listenings with cookies and hot chocolate.

In an end to that years-long project, Duffy – now founder/Artistic Director of the non-profit Brooklyn performance venue JACK – has decided to release the song “Lonely Man of Winter” on Asthmatic Kitty Records, digitally and on limited edition 7 inch, with funds going to support JACK’s mission of fueling experiments in art and activism.

So. I have heard it now. And yes, it is a Sufjan Stevens Christmas song, so it will obviously be much, much better than 97% of other Christmas songs. I particularly like the new mix – the electronic percussive touches especially. Had I only heard the first, original version, I might have come out and said that this could be a “filler track” on one of his Christmas EPs; It just didn’t hit me. This is the blessing and the curse of Sufjan, as he has raised expectations of his work by creating a vast, incredible back catalog with such amazing songs like “Christmas in the Room” and “Sister Winter.” Criticism in comparison to his previous work is frankly unfair; I certainly compare most songs against their Christmas music genre, rather than the artist’s past work. Don’t get me wrong, despite my waffling, I’m still damn pleased, and I am so happy to hear that mystery track from long ago. You know what would be an incredible finish to Sufjan’s holiday season though? How about a cover of Alec Duffy’s track, “Everyday is Christmas.” I kinda feel like Sufjan could knock that out of the park…

Bottom Line: Sufjan’s 2018 recording of this mysterious track from 2007 is indeed a worthy improvement.

LISTEN

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UPCOMING: Say Sue Me – Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie (2018)

Say Sue Me - Christmas, It's Not a Biggie

Damnably
Buy: Vinyl + Digital at Bandcamp

I am terribly torn as to when I should write about this record, and have been putting it off for well over a week now. I have been wrestling with buying a copy, but just cannot bring myself to pay for the shipping. I’m feeling quite poor at the moment, and just can’t do it. I wish I knew of a place in the US that might be carrying this! I will sure update my post if I find one, that is for sure. All I am left with is hope; Hope that I might get a copy for Christmas – and that Santa grabs one before it inevitably sells out – BECAUSE IT WILL. Simply said… if Say Sue Me’s back catalogue is any indication of how good Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie might be – it is going to be stellar. EDIT: I ordered a copy! Bless you Jim!

For the uninitiated, Say Sue Me are an indiepop band from South Korea, and have released a string of fantastic EPs and full-lengths starting in 2014 on a South Korean label, Vitamin Entertainment, and more recently on Damnably out of London. Their most recent (and absolutely excellent) LP, Where We Were Together, is already on its fourth pressing… this band has some heat… and this Christmas EP is limited to 500. IT WILL NOT LAST LONG. Our only glimpse into what the record will sound like is with the title track, “Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie,” having appeared back in 2015 on the South Korean comp, 허수아비들의 성탄절 Heosuabi Christmas. That is one of those releases that I’ve had as a draft post for way too long… so long I forgot I had it as a draft post! Entire comps can bog me down when I normally have just 30 min here and there to try to knock out a post, and I have the thoroughly-encyclopedic Stubby as a role model, which gets me thinking I need to provide much more thoughtful, and complete information on every band. (I am full of tangents today.) Back to the song: The indie/surf pop is jangly and refreshing – a sorbet between courses of sorts – yet the lyrics are melancholy and detached. I totally dig it… but the thing is… I suspect that it is not going to be the best track on the record. Again – just based on how great their last record was, I think this EP is going to be a total highlight of the season.

Bottom Line: BLARG! I want to hear this thing. Perhaps I will do a proper (well, as proper as I do) review when I do.

LISTEN

 

UPCOMING: Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert – Ghost Stories for Christmas (2018)

Rock Action
Buy: Preorder | Preorder + Tickets to the release show if you live in/near Glasgow

Aidan Moffat (ex-Arab Strap) and RM Hubbert (ex-El Hombre Trajeado), both known for their prolific solo careers as well as their past bands, have hooked up of late, releasing the excellent Here Lies the Body back in May. Certainly Aidan is no stranger to Christmas songs, with Arab Strap releasing a few throughout their run, as well as having his own solo Christmas EP back in 2011. Thus, the two began with an idea for one Christmas song, meant to be a one-off seasonal treat. It soon developed into an EP, and eventually ballooned into a full album. The description sounds fascinating:

“These are the ghosts of love, haunting happy homes and fairy-lit bars; these are the ghosts of memory, of haunted mirrors, pagan festivities, and unforgettable friends. As with this year’s critically acclaimed debut album, Here Lies The Body, Moffat’s quiet, pensive storytelling finds a perfect partner in Hubbert’s intimately intricate, flamenco-flavoured guitar. Across eight new original compositions and two deftly executed covers, here they offer an alternative view on the Season To Be Jolly.”

This is certainly one to be checked out! Available for preorder now and will be released on Dec. 7, which is unfortunately a bit late for my mix. However, if you live in the Glasgow area, you can order from Monorail Music and grab a ticket to their special Christmas release party on Dec. 6!

Unfortunately, they have not released a true Christmas song to preview, only a cover of Yazoo’s “Only You,” which was a Christmas #1 in the UK. The original intended one-off, “A Ghost Story for Christmas,” is the forthcoming single and will likely be released in short order. BTW, I don’t consider Christmas #1’s to be appropriate holiday listening… their version here is very nice, but it should have been a digital extra or something 🙂

LISTEN

UPCOMING: Fowler VW Presents A Blackwatch Christmas Volume 5 (2015)

Fowler VW Volume 5

Fowler Volkswagon
Buy: Bandcamp

YES YES YES! After what I erroneously feared was an end to the Fowler VW/Blackwatch Christmas tradition (silent social media and a few bounced e-mails), I was kindly corrected by the wonderful folks over at Fowler VW that one was indeed in the works – and here it comes! The first track was just released, a fantastic cover of “Mele Kalikimaka” by Oklahoma City’s Horse Thief. The song has a great swagger to it, perhaps only matched by Golden Boots’ version from the Comfort & Joy comp. These Fowler VW/Blackwatch compilations get better and better every year, and this tracklist has me salivating. BRONCHO makes an appearance as a full band this year, along with Barcelona, Bronze Radio Return, Sherree Chamberlain, Jacob Tovar, Samantha Crain, Brine Webb, Sports and Hector Comancho. I truly can’t wait – and I won’t have to wait long, since the full release is supposed to drop later today!

For those who live in the Norman, Oklahoma area, Fowler VW will host a free concert and Christmas party Dec. 13 from 8 p.m. to midnight at Stash, 412 E Main St., in Norman. The first 50 people will get a free copy on vinyl!!

Bottom Line: Too soon to tell, but these guys are killer.

LISTEN

UPCOMING: Indie for the Holidays, An Amazon Original Playlist (2015)

Indie for the Holidays cover

Amazon
Buy: Stream

Amazon has announced a follow-up to their (IMHO) “meh” 2014 playlist, All is Bright. Their playlist was expansive, 43 songs, and with such a wide scope, there was no way that they were going to make this indie grinch happy. Too many expected covers from too many a coffee-shop friendly artist. This year, however, Amazon has tweaked their formula, and decided to curate a more adventurous playlist. The first song, Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff‘s “Surviving Christmas” is presently streaming exclusively over at Stereogum. Its lovely throwback production is unsurprising, as I feel Sondre has been moving toward crooner for a years now (certainly not a bad thing – he’s great!). The lyrics are most certainly poignant, while sometimes remaining playful – Frank Sinatra would be proud. I am, however, very curious what electropop wildcard YACHT‘s track will be like, or serially grumpy Guided by Voices frontman Bob Pollard‘s What Begins New Year’s Day.” Rogue Wave have tried their hand at Christmas tracks before, as has (to a lesser extent) Langhorne Slim. There are also some newcomers (to me), such as Irish singer/songwriter SOAK, Seattle folk-pop band Ivan and Alyosha, and Swedish gothic pop singer Anna von Hausswolff that all have interesting biographies that make me want to hear more. I am most definitely intrigued, and hope that something great will come out of this for my 2015 mix. The entire playlist will be released on November 20th, so until then… just gotta wait.

LISTEN

EDIT: I’ve added all available (free) streaming songs to a playlist.

UPCOMING: Phoenix – Alone on Christmas Day 7″ (2015)

Phoenix - All Alone on Christmas Day

Glassnote Records
Buy 7″: Amazon.UK | Bull Moose

Stubby! I heard that Phoenix was the push behind the new Mike Love (god I hate Mike Love) Christmas tune… why the heck didn’t I do a cursory search to see if they were going to release anything??!!  The realization of a Phoenix Christmas 7″ has pretty much made my day. I can’t wait for the Bill Murray Christmas special that it will, no doubt, feature in. Why? Cuz Sofia Coppola directed it!

Well, I’m excited, are you? I’m even excited, despite the fact that I believe its a Mike Love cover!

UPDATE: So… nearly all the listings have disappeared. Where did you go, Phoenix 7″? It’s back! Links above!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf_dgbBK25o%5B/embed%5D

UPCOMING: It’s Coming on Christmas 2 (2014)

It's Coming on Christmas

Daisy Digital
Buy: Bandcamp | Bandcamp Deluxe Edition

One of the most anticipated releases (for me) this year is Daisy Digital‘s charity compilation, It’s Coming on Christmas 2. She just released the lineup of bands, and it includes a NEW Slow Club song, as well as tracks from Summer Camp, Shy Nature and The Districts to name a few (there are a TON of bands on this list). I’m damn excited, and can’t wait to hear it. While it may be coming out too late for this year’s mix (for me at least)… I’m going to have an eye on next year for sure. More to come on this release as it develops.

Be sure to check out last year’s compilation as well – all proceeds are donated to CoppaFeel! a charity that helps breast cancer awareness, educating young people on the importance of checking their boobs regularly and knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

UPDATE: There is now a deluxe version available as well, with 3 additional tracks, outtakes, bonus photos, and a PDF booklet. And they both come out on December 10th!

UPCOMING: A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sketch For Winter I: New Christmas Classics (2014)

A Sunny Day in Glasgow “New Christmas Classics”

So, when I tweeted at A Sunny Day in Glasgow the other day, kindly suggesting that they make some more Christmas tunes… I received a cryptic response:

They were NOT joking. Jump on this quick – there are only 300 of this, the first in a series of cassettes by Geographic North, with four bands taking on winter themes. A Sunny Day in Glasgow has gotten the ball rolling with Sketch For Winter I: New Christmas Classics. I only wish they had contacted me first – thankfully I got one! GET ONE NOW!

Tracklist: 
1. Shut Your Mouth, It’s Christmas
2. Saturn Pulls Me Apart (Death of the Unconquerable Night)
3. Fantasia on Xmas (From Vaughan Williams)
4. The Strange Presents of Idols (Merry Christmas!)
5. All I Want for Christmas Is You (This is Peter McCallister, The Father Version) [Mariah Carey cover]

UPCOMING: Los Campesinos – A Los Campesinos! Christmas (2014)

Los Campesinos! Christmas

Stubby, I don’t know how you pipped me on this. I don’t even see it on their website… YOU ARE THE MAN.

YES, Los Campesinos! is going to put out a Christmas 12″, which will no doubt become an indie classic. It compiles their three previous WONDERFUL efforts with three more holiday tracks. I can’t imagine they’ll be pressing too many of these, so I would order early and often.

Los Campesinos! have finally confirmed the release of this new EP – and they will have a new track streaming, as well as a direct-from-band preorder (which they will have some in the US store too) on Monday. This also confirms that this release will also be available digitally, and my fingers are crossed that the digital copies may be available slightly earlier than the vinyl (for my mix!).

EDIT: Both the EU and US preorders are sold out. We have learned that the vinyl will include a CD inside it as well, and if you were one of the lucky 400 to get a copy from the band, it will apparently ship well before the official release date. Hooray!

Side A:
1. When Christmas Comes
2. A Doe To A Deer*
3. The Holly & The Ivy*

Side B:
4. Kindle A Flame In Her Heart*
5. The Trains Don’t Run (It’s Christmas Day)
6. Lonely This Christmas

*previously released

 

UPCOMING: Mark Kozelek – Sings Christmas Carols (2014)

Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols Cover

So, its not out yet, and you can only hear two tracks (see below), but it was made official overnight (in that you can now preorder it)… that yes, indeed, Mark Kozelek’s first stab at a true Christmas record will be coming out November 4th. The preorder is live. It is real and it is limited. Those unfamiliar with Mark, or more likely, those with that little bit of familiarity with Mark, may say – hey – he has 2 other Christmas albums! No, no… they are just deceptive titles for live shows with minimal Christmas representation. So, be sure to purchase this new album, not White Christmas Live or Little Drummer Boy Live if you want the full thing.

All that said – I’m looking forward to this. This is certainly an album that will be heavily reviewed by major publications, and could very well be the indie-christmas-du-jour release (unless Sufjan releases another). However, I don’t have my hopes too high up – as the only tracks I’ve heard aren’t quite my bag, but that’s just my personal prejudices toward really religious tunes during Christmas (I understand the irony). I do very much love Mark, Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters though…

The CD version has begun showing up at other retailers (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Amazon UK), but if you purchase direct from Caldo Verde, you get a bonus CD, Mark Kozelek: The Kids – Live in London. In addition, there is also a vinyl pressing that has popped up. The numbers are in, and its official – red, green, black and white editions will all be limited to 500 copies each. The red is available exclusively from Caldo Verde (and its live now… likely for 24 hours or so), while the green, white and black are already available for preorder on Bull Moose’s website, as well as on Amazon (Edit: I don’t think any Amazon copies actually shipped – they kind of suck for limited stuff).

Sings Christmas Carols:

  1. Christmas Time Is Here (Listen via Stereogum)
  2. Do You Hear What I Hear
  3. 2,000 Miles
  4. O Come All Ye Faithful (Listen below or listen at this link)
  5. O Christmas Tree
  6. Away In A Manger
  7. Silent Night
  8. Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  9. What Child Is This
  10. I Believe In Father Christmas
  11. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Listen via Stereogum)
  12. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
  13. The First Noel
  14. The Christmas Song

Proper review to follow, of course.

LISTEN:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXOhzykofK4]