First up, an anti-Christmas tune for the seasonally depressed and distressed. We were alerted to this one by a reader but I'll tell you honestly, it's just dumb luck I read it timely. I get so much mail about Christmas music this time of year, its like a game show as to which ones I'll read on any given day.
I'm unfamiliar with Whissell, though she's apparently a Nashville based Alt Pop artist. But the song--"All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue"--is, if I recall correctly, an Over The Rhine song featured on "Snow Angels", which was easily my favorite Over The Rhine Christmas album. And Whissell does it up nice and dreary, like it should be. She also gets an assist from Matthew Perryman Jones.
"All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue" is available at the usual spots (such as Amazon).
As a musical style, its still a lot of fun and kicks ass when done properly. Brenna Red used to be the lead vocalist for Fiction Reform. After a couple of well received records, it looks like Fiction Reform split up in 2013 and Brenna's been going it solo (well, she's also the vocalist for The Last Gang). It helps when you have friends, though, and Brenna's gathered a bit of an All-Star band for her Christmas single, "Punk Rock Christmas". On guitar is Greg Hetson of Bad Religion and Circle Jerks. Producing and on the bass is Brian Thoryk of BT and Big Tank. On the drums, we've got Danny Thompson of Face to Face. And handling the mixing is Hoobastank's Chris Hesse.
As a song, "Punk Rock Christmas" is a lot of fun. In the land of Trump, though, I'd like to see some of that old political fire from the genre. Amazon has this as a CD-R single, in addition to the digital.
So I came across this beautiful song by Katie Malco and I remembered seeing the name over at Christmas A Go Go. "Be Good At Christmas" is truly beautiful, if a bit meloncholy. But hopeful at the same time. Now that I've heard it, I have to post it. It'll run you £2 GBP on Bandcamp (which, right now, is about $2.50 American), but its worth it. Also, let this serve as a reminder to check in with our festive friends early and often, lest you miss some great stuff.
Match Party are fellow New Jerseyites, though their exit was a bit north of mine (but I worked in Randolph; that's gotta count for something. No, not Rudolph--Randolph...whole different thing entirely). Anyway, the group takes Charlie Brown out for a spin and give us a "Christmas Time Is Here" that starts out normally enough...til the Shoegaze kicks in. I've been to lots of parties like that, though not recently.
I kinda dig the flip, "Gravity", though I'm not entirely sure what's going on. Sounds like Christmas dialog over an atmospheric music bed. Or maybe it's Sandra Bullock and George Clooney at one of those parties I was just talking about. But it's kinda cool in its own special way.
Also cool is that you can get the single on CD, if you like. Limited edition of 300, $6 postage paid within the continental United States. The digital version is the usul price and the magic all goes down via Bandcamp. Just so you know, for party conversation or whatever, Match Party's musical mastery isn't limited to Shoegaze. They're more than capable with Metal, New Wave, and Punk, so long as they're having a good time. Remember kids, if you're feeling good, you're supposed to and, if you're not feeling good, then you ain't doin' it right (all credit to Big Joe Turner for that fabulous line).
I'm feeling overly pleased with myself right now. I was looking at the cover art and listening to "Santa Sees" and I'm thinking "There's something very familiar about this." It took me a while to track it down but, HA, I was right. This Emily Conway is the same Emily Conway who has been singing and playing Celtic music with her family and, specifically, her brother Tommy for a while now. Very, very talented young lady. You don't have to be familiar with the Conway family to hear how advanced she is as a vocalist. But she plays a mean fiddle, too. That's not all she plays, either, but I'm not going to dwell on it because it's starting to make me feel like a failure. I'm an old man and I can't play anything. I even suck at maracas. How tough are maracas, for Pete's sake? And, when I try to sing in the shower, the shower shuts off the water on me. On purpose. Talk about a bad review.
No bad review for "Santa Sees", though. It's good to see Emily stretch her wings a little bit beyond the Celtic (though I still love that stuff). "Santa Sees" hews a bit closer to Radio Disney territory (which, when I say that, I mean it as a good thing. Bubblegum Child, remember? I love that Radio Disney sound.). "Santa Sees" is a snappier and less creepy way of getting to the Santa Claus is Coming To Town theme (He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake....Eesh! Just creepy). Now in "Santa Sees", Santa still, you know, sees. But whether its the music or the lack of the "you" pronoun after, the song doesn't have that creep factor. Plus, the song puts as much energy into promoting good behavior as it does in pointing out the bad (sometimes, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" sounds like a guy reading a criminal rap sheet). Good song from a very, very talented individual. Keep an eye on Emily Conway. She's a special talent. And grab "Santa Sees" wherever fine downloads are sold, including Amazon and iTunes. And look for an album from Emily and Tommy Conway this coming spring. She's 14? Oh, man, I really have to figure out some way to pad my resume. I'm more than 4 times as old as she is and what have I done? Stupid Christmas blog.
What I really love about "Love For Christmas" is the combination of fifties Pop Soul with mid-sixties Girl Group Soul (there's a touch of Supremes, but it's not really a Motown sound). And I wondered a bit about that until I saw Etta James in the mix. Now it makes perfect sense. I wish the Hybiak Sisters luck in their journey. Based on "Love For Christmas", I think they're going to do quite well. Look for it on Amazon and iTunes.
Richard Marks (not to be confused with Richard Marx) was a funk guitarist, singer, and songwriter from Atlanta. Artists who worked the Southern Soul circuit--including the greats like Eddie Kendricks and Al Green--all knew Richard and his talents, but Marks had trouble breaking through as a recording artist. A small handful of 45s on local labels, recorded between 1968 and 1972, is all he left behind--most of which you probably couldn't afford today if you could even find them.
By no means could you call Richard Marks a failure. He was a husband and father who kept his family together while working and playing poor hours in any venue he could find six nights a week. That's a success in my book. Richard died of cancer in 2006, never having released an album in his lifetime. His complete known works, including two previously unreleased tracks, were released as "Never Satisfied" on vinyl in 2014 and on CD last year. "Never Satisfied" includes 2 sides of a Christmas single. Not having bought the record (yet), which includes extensive notes and photographs, I don't know what year saw their release (or if these were the previously unreleased tracks). "Home For The Holidays" is a soulful slice which should have been popular with fans of southeastern Beach Music. But "Mr. Santa Claus (Santa Claus Helping Hand)" is a pretty awesome Christmas Blues. And, if you're a fan of the Funk, you really need to check out the rest of this album. Take my advice and check out "Funky Fingers" and you'll be hooked. You can purchase the Christmas tracks a la carte from Amazon.