Sunday, January 17, 2021

Phil Spector is dead

'Phil Spector, the influential rock ’n’ roll producer known for the “wall of sound,” has died. He had been serving a prison sentence for murder.' As we all know, Spector also oversaw one of the most brilliant Christmas albums ever recorded. He's flawed, he's a convicted murderer, but on a blog like this, we just gotta pay tribute:

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Christmas, not in December (3)

Final post in a series on songs about Christmas (or mentioning Christmas) not set in December. We had the first half of the year, including summer, plus June and July, so here's the rest of the year.

No clue what this is about, but it sounds nice with the choir, gentle indie pop from 2018:
Dutch rocker JP den Tex from 2012, with a song about a relationship gone sour:
Irish folk, very christmassy, from 2016:
Maybe if your from Seattle, you'll understand:
Very good song about Christmas coming real early (from 2008):
Just can't wait for Christmas (on ukelele, from 2015):
Same vibe, but as a happy indie rock song: (2013) 'I'm not a scrooge I just can't get used to Christmas in November'
Dreamy indie, good 80s vibe (from 2014):
Handkerchiefs ready? Slim Pickens is singing about a dad who's son isn't going to make it past Christmas (from 1980):
Do we really need Christmas in November? Hmm..
OK, well, maybe not, from 2020:

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Christmas, not in December (2)


To continue the short series about Christmas songs (or songs mentioning Christmas) set outside of December. Yesterday songs set in June and July, today song set in the first half of the year.
Probably the most famous non-Christmas song set in the beginning of a year, is this one by Lou Reed, about a Vietnam-veteran:
Too mainstream for this blog really, but on point in this series, Christmas set on Valentine's Day:
From this year, like the latter, but released in November and definitely seasonal: "Yeah, I'm writing this song about Christmas in April this year/So I'm not sure what to think about that/And I'm hoping these words don't ring so hollow when you're here/They say, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year":
Three months in one song! April, May and June. That those are women's names is probably not a coincidence.
Swing about feeling lucky in love (because that's how Christmas feels, even in spring):
From Australia, just a guitar so it sounds like Billy Bragg:
It's GWAR so I'll just post it (though it starts at saying 'Twas the night before Christmas'):
Many moons ago, on a weblog far far away, I posted tracks by this Brussels singer. Can't remember how I got this, or where Marine ever went. Still, it's a song about Christmas in summer:

Friday, January 01, 2021

Christmas, not in December (1)


Every day is Christmas, to quote either Sia or Charles Bradley. In the past years, I've posted several songs in which Christmas celebrations were moved to another month (than December, obviously). In this series, I want to take a look at Christmas songs, or songs that mention Christmas, not set in December. Recenlty, those song were covid-themed, i.e. 'if we cannot celebrate it now, we'll do it next summer'. Best example, this track by Joe Mitchell:


Celebrating Christmas in summer is a real thing, as this article on the origins shows. Of course, songrwriters took that as a starting point for a song:

"You and I are about as finished as a Christmas tree in June", Lauren sings in a gentle folksy track
From 2020, and actually awesome, this song by Alex the Astronaut, who uses CiJ as an expression of getting really lucky:
From 2018, posted earlier here, a song about homesickness and wanting to celebrate Christmas in better temperatures:
A spy movie-soundtrack with a long intro that fades in a loungy Carpenters-like duet, from 2010:
You were waiting for this one, weren't you? From 2006:
Grrrreat indie by Teflon Beast (love that organ):
Schmaltzy waltzing about waiting, "cause waiting for you is waiting on Christmas in July" (2020):
Funny, oddly groovy track about Yuletide in summer, from 2013:
Dunno if the kid in the back wailing was intentional, it sure is charming (catchy song too) from 2020:
How 'bout some foul-mouthing, blackfaced Christmas punks? Somewhat related, the shortlived duo Christmas in July (=Adrianne Lenker & Buck Meek) who made a seasonal covers EP in 2012. This is Howard Blake's Walking in the air:

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bye 2020, happy 21


2020, that was quite a year, wasnt' it? Next year will be better, we hope. 2021 will also bring the 15th season of Christmas a Go Go, and we're gonna make sure that's going to be special. Details on that later. On behalf of all the writers and guestposters, thanks for stopping by, thanks for your tips and commments. Have a healthy new year. Oh, and tomorrow, a small bonus series starts!
Here are five kinda great covers of This Will Be Our Year (orig. by The Zombies):

Gentle, dilligent:
More joyous, uptempo:
From this year, with a slight jazzy, New Orleans touch:
Very minimal (guitar, rhythm box), but very charming:
RE VERBBBBBB:

Saturday, December 26, 2020

December 26

Three years ago I made a big post on Boxing Day tracks, yesterday I did one on December 25-songs. So why not find more songs about December 26th?
From this year, Micah Edwards does a soulful number on the day he does not like: 'One double two six/I can wait for you/No matter what I do/I'll wake up feeling blue'
Same vibe, but as a Tom Waits-ian piano ballad:
The song you could write when not everything you took on Christmas day is out of your bloodstream:
Pastoral ballad by a guy who didn't get a Lexus or diamonds, so he's glad Christmas is over:
Same vibe, but as a very happy folk singalong: 'I wish I could just sleep until December 26th, lalalala!'
Paul Dickinson talks in his sleep. Since 1986, he has documented this phenomenon with the aid of voice-activated recorders. The 'album' contains 99 'hits', everything he said is in a 12-page transcript. Fascinating? Odd, for sure:
Power pop about Christmas and not wanna fight tonight:
The Pissed Alpacas made 12 albums this year consisting of song that last about 40 seconds, about every day of 2020. On a punk beat. I kid you not. Calender core, anyone?
ZUT is a French brass-rockband, this ode to December 26 is sung by Didier Wampa of French rock band Les Wampas:
And of course, this classic

Friday, December 25, 2020

The 25th of the 12th


Hello. It's the 25th of December. Christmas day. Or, the birthday of the sun, if you're a pagan. So here's a few songs about this day/date.

A cover version of a song you may have heard on the Queen's Gambit soundtrack. Original by Bill Compton
Oh, Roberta:
Still a great track, after more than 25 years:
Not a song but a very good drum & bass dance track:
Very tender folksy song about this morning, very Christmassy; the longing is strong in this one:
Modern (yet pastoral) jazz from a very interesting project, 50 short compositions about, well, the weather during October 27th 2014 and April 28th, 2018
Weepy ukelele folk:
Calm and collected jazzy croonersong (funny how lyrics about 'a good year' sound really odd)
Hiphoptrack from the great Blackwatch III compilation
Lo-fi, but a great GREAT song this! Wild style R&B, handclaps, guitar solo, a bit messy but exciting! Crank up the volume. From 2013:
More? You want more? Try Silent Winters' Christmas Morning. Find Nick Piunti's power pop track here. Listen to Sloan here. Don't forget the utterly fantastic Lyle Lovett (and the cover by Rick Buur). Or this grand version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Shoeshine Pickens & Hospital Bombers. That one is not on Spotify, but these 30 versions (by Beau Jennings, Frank Sinatra, David Bazan, Carpenters, etc) are. HERE

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Non traditional (?) christmas

Almost as long I can remember every year a strange Dutch band pops up around Xmas: That Band From Holland.  I guess they started around 2007. They're based in Rotterdam and like The Unicorns, Grandaddy and Sparklehorse. We started writing about their Christmas music in 2009, read here . Since a couple of years they have an offshoot called The Non Traditionals who took over their Xmas music. We discovered The Non Traditionals in 2017, read here. Their 2020 holiday track sounds acoustic and folky, with a bit of jangly organ. Typical Dutch sound. This is what they say about the track: "24 hour project. Writing, recording, arranging and mixing the song in 1 day. Rich kids are more spoiled by Santa"

On Bandcamp:

Funk santas

Canadian funkers The Brooks are, according to a Quebec newspaper "the best kept secret of Canadian funk". So we are very happy with their special (digital) holiday single: 'Merry Christmas Baby', a cover of  the 1947 song best known in the Otis Redding version from 1968. The Canadians play it Otis- wise with lots of bells. Enjoy!

The Soul Santas


You've probably heard about this album, 'cause it's doing the rounds on many music blogs. If not, and you like soul- and funkified Christmas instrumentals, yer in for a treat.
Christmas Crackers, Vol 1 sees funk-laden soul versions of hymns like ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘Away In A Manger’, alongside more secular yuletide classics like ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer’. The Soul Santas = Portishead-honcho Geoff Barrow on drum duties, while fellow Beak> member (Barrow is also part of this band) Bully Fuller plays bass, alongside Ben Salisbury (keyboards) and guitarist Shaun Snook, a regular in the band of Portishead signer Beth Gibbons.
The Soul Santas apparently came together to play a Christmas School Fair in 2014 – their one and only show, despite being, in their own words, “a roaring success”. The project lay dormant until earlier a host of rehearsal recordings surfaced on a band member’s phone, inspiring them to record Christmas Crackers Vol.1 over two days at Invada Studios in Bristol in October 2020.
All proceeds from the album received this year will go to feed the homeless of Bristol.

Barrow and Beak> are not strangers to making Christmas music, this track is from 2017 and (with a little effort) you can hear the old funk 'n soul influence already there:
A totally great video for this:

Ballad of the Harp Weaver


The night before Christmas
I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
Like a two-year-old.

One night you're clicking away on your laptop, listening to old Christmas albums, and all of a sudden the world goes misty, there's salt water on your cheeks and it seems the song you're listening to is making some kind of impression.
That was the case with Johnny Cash's version of 'The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver'. which is on his 1963 'Christmas with Johnny' album. It's a poem by Edna St Vincent Millay an acclaimed writer, with a very interesting life story. For the book in which the poem was published, she received the Pullitzer Prize in 1923.

The sonnet is about a mother and son, both live in extreme poverty, the boy has almost no clothes and cannot get out. There's also an extreme bond between the two, culminating in the death of the mother on Christmas Day and the start of a new life (with new clothes) for the boy. It feels medieval, yet could easily have taken place near Dolly Parton's home in the mountains. When you read closer, you'll find the feminist layers. Read an analysis HERE. Hear Edna recite lines from the poem HERE. Full text HERE.

Lyrics, poems, movies, anything really in which parents leave (or die) their children always strike a nerve in me, and when Johnny Cash tells this tale, YOU try and keep a a dry eye.
Cash is probably the first popular artist to set this poem to music on his 1963 Christmas album. As I understand it the ballad was a staple in American education, I've read many comments about having to learn this poem by heart.

There are many recitals of the poem to be found, but only a few versions where the words are sung. This one is very good:
Also beautiful, sung like a ballad from the 17th Century:
Video:
Of course, because it's about a harp, harpists made the poem their own too:
A version by harpist Bonnie Whitehurst, with very touching drawings:
Harpist Maeve Gilchrist, who used selected lines from the poem for her almost 9-minute version. She writes: 'My first impression of this poem, from the 1923 Pulitzer-award-winning collection by the American poet Edna St Vincent Millay, was not of a tale of bleak circumstance but of the power of maternal love and the symbiotic relationship between instrument and player.' There's a video for this too:

Les BB also saw mommy kissing Santa

Les BB, a popular Québécois 1980s band from Montréal you couldn't avoid on the radio, also gave us their version of 'J'ai Vu Maman Embrasser Le Père Noël' ('I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'). Just this week someone admitted they hadn't realised that mommy was kissing daddy dressed up as Santa Claus, which still makes this song fun because I bet others have yet to figure it out. Lead singer, guitarist and bassist Patrick Bourgeois, also the band's main songwriter, died of cancer at age 55 in November 2017. This November, the band's drummer François Jean sadly died with no reason given. This song is very much on brand for them, with a nice sythesizer drive and crispy clear vocals. Vive les BB !

freaky electronic Xmas

 Dutch musician Truus de Groot is a real phenomenon. Around 1980 she was part of  the Dutch post punk band Nasmak. She started her own band Plus Instruments and moved to America. Here she still makes more or less experimental electronic music, with self-made synthseizers. This year we already found her back  with two tracks on the very difficult to trace down Xmas compilation cassette 'Here's To Y'All, Snowflakes!!'. But now she is also on Youtube with a very appropriate and a bit freaky tune: 'Pandemic X-Mas Disco'. With this tune she hopes " to hopefully cheer up your Christmas during this dreadful pandemic". Oh yes and the video is also made by Truus de Groot. More covid/pandemic/social distancing songs? Go HERE, or find all our other posts on the theme HERE.

dropkick xmas

American folk-punkband Dropkick Murphys recorded a more folky than punk version of the Phil Spector production 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)', sung by Darlene Love. It's only available as a very limited 7 inch flexi disc.
Certainly not the only seasonal song by the Murphys:

Dj Oscar Xmas style

DJ Oscar is one of the frequent contributors to CAGG. Normally he does a few Xmas DJ-sets in his hometown Amsterdam. This year he does a lot on line. If you want to see him live in action online, check out his coming DJ set on Thursday, dec 234, 15.00 hour (CET), live from the (closed) recordshop & coffeeclub Black Gold. Tune in here on Facebook. His weekly online radioshow, Beautiful Extremes, had his Xmas Special. You can hear that here

 He also did a few blogs on Xmas music, most of it you could also have seen and read here first.

- 15 nice & special Christmas songs from 2020 

- 10 quaint Christmas songs from 2020 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Death Hags and other females

OK, so a few quickies before it's really Christmas. Lola Jean (or Lola G.) = Death Hags, 'instellar psychedelic noise pop' from L.A. (by way of France, or Quebec, I don't know, I do know that Lola can speak French, maybe she picked it up at school, we'll never know). She made a, yes, noisey Christmas album, with very strong songs. Including a Roger Miller cover (will add that one HERE). If Melody's Echo Chamber or Moodoid ring a bell, DH swims the same pond. This one's the killer track:
In French, which I love:
PET Wife is a NYC based duo that, for this very catchy song, got inspired by the Wall of Sound/60s girl groups, but check out the more electronic, sexy music they usually make. Ask sounds carefree but that's deceptive - read the lyrics on the Bandcamp page. PW are very involved in the queer/trans scene. The couple's romance began 'as a creative tête-á-tête sending playlists, poems, and art back and forth, ultimately culminating in a multi disciplinary concept project incorporating elements of fashion and performance art along a musical journey.' Dive in HERE.
A very sweet, very hopeful song by Maiah warmed my heart and cheeks:
Also sweet sounding, but a bit darker in lyrics is this 'waiting in vain' track by Little Cloud:
And how 'bout this song? We had dog-themed Christmas songs before (this one, this one), so it's not that rare, but the ukelele (I guess) making that woof-noise is kinda great:

It's Christmas, so we'll stop (RIP Scott Hutchinson)

'One reason Frightened Rabbit are so important to so many people is because of the overwhelming mutual empathy in the room when they played live. The joy and force of the music, juxtaposed with the sadness and candour of the lyrics, created a sense of a crowd and band with their arms around one another.'
These lines come from a beautiful, heart-wrenching piece on the surviving bandmembers of Frightened Rabbbit, a Scottish indie rock band. Singer Scott Hutchinson took his own life two years ago, after years of struggling with depression. Scott and FR leave a beautiful legacy of songs.

There's two Christmas songs I'd like to share. 'It's Christmas, so we'll stop' is an intense seasonal song with a hopeful message, but only just.
So forget the names/I called you on Christmas Eve/In fact forget the entire year/Don't reflect just pretend and you won't feel scared/You won't feel a thing

Not a song to cover lightly, I'd say. I found a few, none of them as intense as the original, but good nonetheless. Cincinatti-band The Bell And The Hammer made a very sweet cover version on their brand new Christmas EP:
Butt Cashier (from 2018) is pretty good too:
This one's close to the intensity of the original, very sparse:
Not a real cover, it's the b-side to the original single. Powerful stuff:
Scott himself, covering Fake Empire by The National, and mixing it with It's Christmas so we'll stop:

Here's Scott himself again with another Christmas song (from 2012), written to raise funds for his niece Morven. Live version HERE:
This song got covered too, and very well too:

90s Christmas

When you google on 90s Christmas music, you're likely to find playlists with boybands like 'NSync, R&B heroines like Destiny's Child and TLC, and of course Mariah, Christina and Britney. The alternative to that was less prominent. There were Christmas compilations like the (very good) Happy Birthday Baby Jesus volumes, Just Say Noel (most famous for Beck's Little Drummachine Boy track) and 1991's Yuletunes. There were more, but not many more. And of course, the Fountains of Wayne tracks, the Red Kross single, this Harvey Danger track.
I fell into a nineties xmas rabbithole on internet when I suddenly found out (it says so on the Bandcamp page, so it wasn't a big revelation) that Melkbelly's Hating You For Christmas from the recent Father/Daughter compilation is a cover of a 1997 Everclear song.

Then (I can't recall how I got there) I heard the Sun 60 song Mary Xmess, from 1993. Still a brilliant, really fresh song. Love the vocals by Joan Jones. It's got Jack Irons (then RHCP) and Dave Navarro (then Jane's Addiction) on drums and guitars. What a song.
But wait, it's gets even better. From Boston, 1996, Fuzzy. Vocals: Hilken Mancini. Very much in the loud-quiet-vibe of the era (Pumpkins, Pixies, etc). Very depressing lyrics too, of course.
Less loud, but also very good, is this 1991 song by The Accelerators from Raleigh, North Carolina. Produced by Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, big names at the time, but the band didn't became a household name. Still, there's this:
I also reconnected with this song by Juliana Hatfield. From 1994, for the series My So-Called Life, breakthrough of Clare Danes. The song has no reference to Christmas, snow is mentioned and every Christmas enthusiast will recognise the melodic nods to Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful. I read that she was inspired by Joni Mitchell's River.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Freezepop

This EP by Bostonians Freezepop (making electropop since 1999) really surprised me in a good sense. As far as I can tell, it's the first Christmas EP by the band, they wrote two originals and had those, blitz pop style, remixed. It's 80s-for-the-zeroes-pop. I love the 'Night Sleigh version' of Glitterstorm. References: early Duran Duran, early OMD, Zoot Woman.
Two covers complete the EP, an almost unrecognisable version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and this. An electronic 'No Presents for Christmas' version, originally by metal legend King Diamond (see a post about that song HERE)
This track isn't a Christmas song, it's from their 2015 Covers EP, but you could call it seasonal because of the electronic arrangement and the lyrics about ivy, frostbite and warm jackets. You could easily hear this in an 80s, Christmas-themed teen movie, no? The original is by Parks(from 2012), this is a lovely, OMD/Billy Idol-ish cover:

Stubby's Stocking Stuffers

The mighty Stubby, he of the House of Christmas, the one who's an example (a demi-god, really) to us all when it comes to collecting & promoting the bestest Christmas music, Martin for friends, THAT maestro, he made a new Christmas mix. Two cd's stuffed with the songs we couldn't find, the ones that come to only him. On his blog he writes that the site will be gone later this year, that's just like saying that...I can't think of an analogy that quite fits here. Let's just pray it don't happen. And let's all download the Stocking Stuffer's, mmkay? HERE.
If you're somehow unconvinced, here's a handful of hits on this year's compilation.
This is the track Phil Spector forgot to write:
This is just great:
Quality Americana: