Vol. 9 Issue 111 December 2014
Before the entire month of December goes racing by you like a Bugatti on the West Side Highway while you wave a rolled up newspaper frantically at your overheated Pinto, take some time to relax. Here, sit a spell, I made you some Hot Chocolate. What, these? Oh, just a few little reminders of holiday seasons past, some re-up tunes from She & Him, Erasure and more. Plus, a new one from Mark Kozelek. Happy Holidays!
Posted by John On Dec 19, 2014
First off, Happy Holidays everyone! We just finished a huge... Read More
"Sings Christmas Carols"
“Of all the Mark Kozeleks in the world, you’re the Mark Kozelek-iest.” That statement is tough to argue with. Sure, Mark has been in the press lately for being a bit, shall we say, cranky? But isn’t that Mark’s thing? After all, when you heard that he was putting out a Christmas album, didn’t you chuckle a little bit to yourself. He’s not a person you would expect to be releasing an album called Sings Christmas Carols (Caldo Verde). Maybe that’s the point? It’s hard to say, because once Mark’s tenor starts crooning these classics, you quickly forget about everything except for why you loved Mark Kozelek in the first place. Every song is doused with a wistful tinge, as is everything that comes out of Mr. Kozelek’s mouth. Take, for instance, his version of “Christmas Time Is Here,” highlighted by that quote from the beginning of the blurb.
"Tinsel & Lights"
Tracey Thorn followed her acclaimed 2010 album Love and Its Opposite with a Christmas album, Tinsel and Lights, featuring ten seasonal cover versions, two new original tracks, and Green from Scritti Politti. Backtracking, it is hard to find a decade recently where Tracey Thorn’s voice and songwriting has not been influential. Fresh out of school in the UK in the early 1980s, she formed the cult girl band Marine Girls, whose two-album career of edgy teen love songs has influenced lo-fi indie bands ever since. Among noted Marine Girls fans you’ll find Kurt Cobain (Nirvana was reportedly rehearsing “In Love” before Cobain’s death). In 1982, Tracey followed it with her own eight-song mini-classic, A Distant Shore, which catapulted her to the top of the UK indie charts. Throughout the 1980s, she shared writing with partner Ben Watt in the British duo Everything But The Girl (EBTG). In the ’90s, she co-wrote EBTG’s global smash “Missing” before delivering lyrics, melody, and vocals for one of the decade’s seminal ballads, Massive Attack’s “Protection,” and contributing centrally to EBTG’s best-selling electronica crossover albums Walking Wounded and Temperamental. After a self-imposed hiatus to start a family, she returned in 2007 with the glittering folk-disco of Out of the Woods and followed it with the starkly beautiful Love and Its Opposite in 2010.
She & Him
"A Very She & Him Christmas"
Hey. She & Him have recorded a Christmas album. Guess what? It’s adorable. M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel have stripped back the lush production from Volumes 1 & 2 of their catalog and let these timeless melodies do most of the heavy lifting on A Very She & Him Christmas (Merge). So Vince Guaraldi albums can relax, because now there are 2 holiday albums that can be played at all the hipster x-mas parties this year. Cuddle up around the fire with “Little Saint Nick.”
English synth-pop duo Erasure have been touring the globe for nearly 30 years with their wildly popular dancable grooves. This time, however, they are concentrating on a different globe. No, this isn’t a concept album synthesizing Holstz’s Planets (but if they ever do get around to recording that, I’d be sure to check it out. “Mars: The Bringer Of War” is my jam!) No, this time Andy Bell & Vince Clarke are sitting around the snow globe. Get it? Their new album is called Snow Globe (Mute)! *comedic rim shot* (I’ll be here all week, try the veal) And no, this isn’t a metaphorical snow globe falling out of dying hands, the word “rosebud” hanging in the air. This is the holiday kind of snow globe. I’m pretty sure they are just a metaphor for, you know, snow and stuff. Their signature chilly keyboards and more toned down than normal beats fit snugly (like around a fireplace. Brrr… December!) behind their almost operatic delivery of some of the most known songs on the globe (this or any other. I’m sure Venetians are as into Christmas music as Earthlings are.) Check out the haunting beauty of “Gaudete.”
"Christmas Tree Island"
Sure, everybody knows what the gifts are for “The 12 Days Of Christmas.” But do you know that there is a rare extended version that gives you gifts for “The 36 Days Of Christmas?” It can only be found on some live bootlegs from the ‘70s, but it’s worth it if you can find it. For our purposes, we only need to examine through 15 days of Christmas. They skip the 13th day of Christmas, because that’s bad luck (like a 13th floor), the 14th day is an oddly specific $25 gift card to the Cheesecake Factory. But the 15th day? The 15th day is a quirky collection of holiday songs from one time married couple Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard, better known as The Rosebuds. Christmas Tree Island (Ocean Isle) is not your typical Christmas album, it’s more like a Christmas concept album. There are no covers of holiday standards, but 12 bouncy, purely Rosebuds songs that just happen to be about Christmas. If Michael McDonalds’ beard was ironic, this is the kind of Christmas album he would record.
John Roderick & Jonathan Coulton
"One Christmas At A Time"
Not since Weird Al’s “Christmas At Ground Zero” has the snarky holiday celebrator had such an appropriately warped look at the month of December as John Roderick & Jonathan Coulton’s One Christmas At A Time. John Roderick from The Long Winters (sounds like someone has an end of the year fixation, huh?) and solo geek Jonathan Coulton (take a listen to his theme song from Code Monkeys if you’re not familiar) have put together a silly, black comedy album of Christmas songs (and the one token Hanukkah tune). With sounds ranging from folk, country and wonderfully messy rock, it comes off as the Christmas album Ween never got to record. Written in under a week, and recorded in even less time, this practically instant album is too much fun to listen to only once a year. Check out the mantra-rock of title track “One Christmas At A Time”…