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September 2009 Archives

Like Flight of the Concords but wish they were more, say, female? Welcome Garfunkel and Oates, nee Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, native Pennsylvanians who found their way to LA and acting careers specializing in comedy. I doubt I have to explain the name to music fans, nor will much annotation of this excellent video be necessary once you watch it all the way through. "Present Face," this 2008 ode to the disappointment following the opening of a Christmas fruitcake or other unwelcome gift, unfortunately is not on their Music Songs album. UPDATE: However, it did finally become available on its own to download.


Dylan Christmas album leak

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Dylan2.jpgThanks to New York magazine, we get listening snippets of Bob Dylan's first holiday album at this link. The short article is pure snark, and well, it's not wholly out of place, as the snippets reveal a heavily produced album featuring some definitely retro backup singing over a bed of Americana/country instrumentation. Song selection is pretty conventional too, and Dylan sounds, well, like Dylan. On the other hand, this 2009 album is intended to benefit a hunger charity, and if he's sincere about being helpful he's probably going to make this as wildly commercial as possible. Still, "Must Be Santa" is great fun no matter which side you come down on.
killjosf.jpgThe Killers maintain their Christmas single streak with their third entry in a row for 2008, this time bringing along Elton John and Neil Tennant from Pet Shop Boys for the ride. Starting with just voice and what is almost certainly Elton's piano playing, this remarkably insightful song builds to a big rock ballad climax with strings and horns. The guests almost hijack the band's big moment, but what the heck, it works. Proceeds benefit the Global Fund for AIDS.

... From All of Me, Vibeke (Pop Detective)

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vibeke.jpgThis is my first exposure to Vibeke Saugestad, a Norwegian singer-songwriter who's been active in bands since 1992 and went solo in 2001. This 2008 EP features five holiday originals, all or partly written by Vibeke, and you power pop fans will be excited to get your hands on this. It's quite the rock 'n roll workout, with four of the five being midtempo or faster. "A Christmas Carol (For the Losers in Love)" starts out a little reflective but picks up the beat quickly behind this tale of lost love on the holidays. "Jingle Jangle Christmas" is practically self-explanatory, "I Must Have Been So Good" opens the disc in grand style, with the gift of love, and "Mistletoe Kissing" is a galloping rave-up. The disc ends downtempo with a guitar ballad, "Christmas Is Calling Me Home." Only place I ran into this was at Not Lame, and it's worth whatever effort it takes to track it down. UPDATE: Click on the cover and grab it from Amazon.
beglrnch.jpgThis Canadian band ("where it snows until June," says the liner notes) put out a pop-rock EP for 2008 that is just the bee's knees, though only the title song is a holiday tune. It's a nice mid-tempo song about holiday anticipation, worthy of a mix disc berth. The rest of the tunes are in the same vein, a mix of acoustic and electric guitars offering a mellower version of power pop. Found this at Not Lame while I was snapping up Vibeke's disc. UPDATE: Click the cover to grab it from Amazon.

"I Believe in Father Christmas," U2 (Island)

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u2faxmas.jpgA sparse but stately version of the Greg Lake classic recorded in 2008 was distributed with the new (Red)Wire music magazine created by The Global Fund for AIDS. The same download also included a free copy of "Joseph, Better You Than Me" by the Killers with Elton John and Neil Tennant, and you also get videos as well as clean mp3s of the songs. This downloadable magazine is slated to come out weekly, with similar free deals from a bunch of name brand artists in exchange for a subscription fee that benefits The Global Fund. The opportunity is now past, so we're awaiting another availability of this track. Updated with the video, below.

warmdec.jpgA charity compilation on behalf of children's music education featuring alt-pop-folkies, only this time it's dominated by guys, making this the male counterpart to the Hotel Cafe album. Five of the 11 cuts are originals, and the cover choices exhibit some original thinking, starting with Jack Johnson's "Someday at Christmas," the Stevie Wonder song, going on to Rogue Wave's version of the Who's "Christmas" and Neil Halstead's acoustic take on Fountains of Wayne's "The Man in the Santa Suit." Johnson's version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from the Nettwerk compilations makes a return appearance here, and Mason Jennings does an acoustic "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Matt Costa performs his "All I Want For Christmas," an acoustic singalong song, G. Love brings his Philly funk to "Christmas Baby," ALO does their own "Christmas Time" in a full band arrangement, Money Mark's "Stuck at the Airport" is a season-appropriate tune you could play all year round, and Zee Avi breaks up the testosterone party with her sexy "No Christmas For Me." All told, a nice compilation from some up-and-coming acts.

Winter, Adrienne Pierce (Insect Girl)

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apierce.jpgThis Canadian songstress, recently dumped by a major label, put this holiday EP out for 2008. Four originals, "All That We Want," "Raise Our Voices Up," "Making Angels" and "Joy Is Within Reach" are joined by a cover of "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Put a Little Love In Your Heart," the Jackie DeShannon song that became associated with the holiday through the Annie Lennox/Al Green duet in the movie "Scrooged." Pierce has a "girly" voice and she sets it to mainly upbeat sounds, a trait that got her onto the soundtrack of "Grey's Anatomy" (that show's coming up a lot here lately). "Making Angels" is the single here, with its distorted piano and electronic drums propelling the tune along nicely.
snopatrl.jpgThis goes all the way back to 2000, an original grungy rock ballad by this popular modern rock band about returning home for the holiday, a universal sentiment in a suspenseful setting.

"Fuck Christmas," Eric Idle (self-issued)

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ericidle.jpgThe Monty Python stalwart put this up on iTunes for 2006, but I just stumbled over it this year. If you're familiar with that comedy team's songcraft, you know what to expect, and this is an ever lovin' hoot.

Christmas Present, various artists (Lojinx)

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lojinxEP.jpgDownload this free Christmas album from 2008 from the British label's website. Nate Campany kicks things off with "Be Home For Christmas," a ballad with light strings and horns asking a lover to return for the holidays. Nightlights get off a folky original in "Christmas Time (I Wish I Was Near You)," a similar sentiment, and Henrik gets a little help from Nashville songwriter Kim Richey on "It's Christmas But Listen!," a bit of nostalgia for the holiday. The Wellingtons rock out with the power pop song "I Guess it's Christmas" and The Bad Machines break out a fake kiddie choir (sounds more like an adult woman multi-tracked) for "Not This Time," a whispered declaration that she won't be home for Christmas. Farrah bangs out a blue-eyed soul number, "Santa Don't Go," and Caroline Lost wraps things up with a drone-y ballad, "Say You're Mine." This is a nice collection, better than some I've paid real money for.

"Hajen Juls," Hajen (Knoppar)

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hajen.jpgThis Swedish singer offers for 2008 this plaintive ballad, led by piano and accordion, as a benefit for Stadsmissionen Goteborg, whatever that is. I assume it's a charity in her home town, but since her MySpace blog is entirely in Swedish, I'm just guessing. The song's sung in English in a voice that might remind you a little bit of Bjork.
academy.jpgA wintertime breakup song for 2008 from this Chicago-area band, this has a contemporary arena-rock sound, uptempo and dramatic. Off-topic, but based on their second album Santi their fan club is called Santi's Little Helpers.

Hi-Voltage Christmas Rock, Nerf Herder (Cool CDs)

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nerfherd.jpgThis alt-rock band put out an EP for Christmas 2000 that I copped off iTunes. They were on the disc A Santa Cause with a song that appears here, the comic "Santa's Got a Mullet," and they add to the rock attitude with "I Got a Boner For Christmas," "I Know What You're Getting For Christmas," and a brief thrash through "Deck the Halls." There's also a bit of banter in between tunes, nothing remarkable, but since the tunes are so good, it doesn't matter. Update: I made a typo in the year of release, but Martin Johns kindly pointed out the error.

... And a Happy New Year, The Maine (Fearless)

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maine.jpgThese guys don't have their high school days much behind them, but they have a mature, fully formed rock sound. For 2008 they put out this EP with such originals as the ballad "Ho Ho Hopefully," the acoustic lament of lost love "Santa Stole My Girlfriend," the hard rocker "Mr. Winter," and a cover of Wham's "Last Christmas." Nice work.
altaddic.jpgThis 2008 collection is tapped to benefit some undefined charity and it's a download-only piece. Many of the songs on here have been out before, like Lifehouse's "Silent Night," Thriving Ivory's "Our December," "Merry Christmas Eve" by Better Than Ezra, "She's a Ho, Ho, Ho Merry Christmas" by Patent Pending and Negative Space's "I'll Be Home," but I haven't seen the other tunes anywhere. Ernie Halter does a nice simple two-voice version of "Angels We Have Heard On High," Safetysuit's "Anywhere But Here" is an original miss-you song in that mid-tempo arena-rock flavor, and Honor By August does a downcast ballad with the deceptive title "Happy Holidays." Needtobreathe does a kind of U2-sincere take on "Go Tell It on the Mountain," Honeyhoney offers "The Naughtiness of Me," a jazzy original featuring a 60s-style chanteuse confessing her failures, Schaefer and Ryan Star offer predictable versions of "Last Christmas" and "River," respectively, and Shinedown filters "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" through a 21st-century rock band prism. Evans Blue does a doomy "O Holy Night," and if you download this from the distributor you get a 16th track, "For Christmas" by 16 Frames, a ballad about being with the one you love most. Good collection if you don't have the majority of the tunes already.
doghouse.jpgSome more fresh hip-hop holiday music, this time from tha Doggfather and his pals, for 2008. Following a Snoopified intro, J-Black kicks off with "Xmas On Soul," a smooth groove with a Snoop rap over the bridge. "This Christmas" by Tha Dogg Pound with Chris Starr is more of a rap over backing singers, though it picks up the riff from the Donny Hathaway classic. "A Gift That Keeps On Giving" is love, says Damani with Chris Starr again, although the story line to this tune is rather darker than that sentiment. "Twas the Night Before Xmas" is also by Damani with Snoop Dogg, though I'm not sure if this is the same performance that was out a decade ago under Snoop's name. Soopafly's "I Miss Those Days" puts a little nostalgia over the gangsta groove, and Bad Lucc raps about "My Little Mama Trippin' On Xmas." Snoop wraps things up with an outro followed by "The Pimp's Christmas Song." Other artists on hand include Half Dead and the Twinz, Lil Gee, Kurupt, The Hustle Boyz and Uncle Chucc. Every song is tagged "explicit" on iTunes, although I think there's also a clean version.
xmasnert.jpgFrom 2003, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of information still around about this collection other than its status as a group of artists who share a label. It's a bunch of alt-rock-punk performers celebrating the holiday, and five years on it still sounds fresh. Phil Hendricks and The Stiffs (UK) take on Elvis Presley's "If Every Day Was Like Christmas," giving an Elvis-like delivery over an uptempo rock beat. Crawlspace rumble through the Beatles' "Christmastime Is Here Again," Mach Bell & His Elves offer "Come On, Santa," a walk through a Christmas list harkening back to the surf-rock days, and Kenne Highland and his Vatican Sex Kittens ask "Can I Please Crawl Down Your Chimney," complete with unwanted advances at the end. Angel Corpus Christi open things with the gentle "Still Feels Like Christmas," the Automatics' "Merry Christmas" makes another appearance here, as does Pansy Division's "Homo Christmas." Monsterpop is "Coming Home For Christmas" and MX-80 says "(I Spent) Christmas With the Devil," with its deathless line, "Satan says Santa came from the same folks who brought us Coke," which is not that far from the truth. X-Ray Tango give us a surf-rock take on "We Three Kings" and The Walking Ruins wish us a "Happy Hardcore New Year," thrashing to the melody of "Auld Lang Syne." Some tunes don't bear a second listen, but the majority of this is quite listenable. Gulcher Records is almost impossible to find online, but this is on iTunes.

kinder4.jpgThe indie alternative label Kindercore has had three previous Christmas collections on CD. For 2008, they kept their hand in with four downloadable tracks. "Wrap It Up" is by The Sad Cobras and the Magic Twig Family; it's a bit of busking with guitar and chimes about "Christmas in my heart." Grape Soda contributes the Hanukkah portion of the title with two songs, "Rock of Ages" and "All Walls Fall," the former sounding like a quick improvisation and the latter being a bit of electronic pop that sounds like a traditional song for that holiday. The Young Sinclairs wrap things up with a shambling cover of Tom Petty's "It's Christmas All Over Again." Check 'em out while they're still free.
kinder3.jpgThis is Kindercore's third Christmas compilation of alt-punk-rockers taking on the holiday, released in 2007. Kicking things off is a hardcore "Carol of the Manbarks" by Rump Posse, the one that's normally about the bells. Folklore busks on the whimsical "Xmas Ape Goes To the Moon," The Observatory goes to the toy piano for "Xmastime (Is Xmastime)," and Fabulous Bird confirms with "Everybody Knows It's Christmas Time Again," more of a power pop ballad. Ruby Isle takes on "Jack's Obsession" from "The Nightmare Before Christmas," rendering it in a more rocked-out version, and The Buddy System celebrates "Xmas on TV" with some of your favorite specials getting name-checked. And you gotta sympathize with Je Suis France when they plead, "Baby Please Don't Get Stoned (It's Xmas)," especially the lyric, "You can give your gifts to charity / All I want is your clarity." Another great line is in Bunnygrunt's "Got the Blues For Christmas": "Happy birthday Jesus, guess I'll have another beer." There's quite a bit more, so you may want to wade through this yourself.

"This Christmas," Sariah (Alternative Addiction)

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Sariah.jpgA free download from her label, this is a straight cover of the Donny Hathaway classic from 2008. Sariah is a dancer/singer, formerly of Massachusetts and now of New York, who emphasizes a dance/r'nb style in her non-holiday work and is preparing her first album.
blackhrt.jpgThis 2008 collection is a collection from the artists on Joan Jett's record label, including her own take on "Little Drummer Boy" that was issued back around 1980 and isn't all that easy to find. Girl in a Coma puts a bit of a country shine on "Blue Christmas" and thrashes out on "I'll Be Home For Christmas." The Vacancies rock out on "The Elf Song" and the Kinks' "Father Christmas" while The Cute Lepers take on Billy Squier's "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You" and what I think is their own "All I Ever Want (Under the Christmas Tree)." The Dollyrots do a crunchy rock take on "Santa Baby," and rock legend Kenny Laguna turns up with his "Home For Christmas." A full cast rendition of "Silent Night" in a rock waltz time, throwing in some speechifying by Barack Obama along with John McCain's concession, wraps things up, unless Sean Hannity gets wind of this, anyway. If you love rock 'n roll, you'll probably love this.
hivescyn.jpgNow this was worth waiting for. A broken relationship song, in which the man starts out by admitting he was a bad boy to tinkling piano, and Lauper chiming in that she was even worse over a big-room rock beat. How much worse? Well, this hot little number is in Parental Advisory territory for language. Ah, go ahead, put it on your mix disc anyway. Was a free download over the 2008 Thanksgiving weekend at The Hives' site, ahead of migrating to all the usual pay-download sites.
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