Silber Records and Nonconnah skew Christmas and show its darker, eerier side
Zach and Denny Corsa, them from Lost Trail, are back under the guise of Nonconnah. After moving from Tennessee to North Carolina they decided a change was in order. Luckily for us the music isn’t that dissimilar but it’s different enough to warrant a name change.
They’ve just released their debut EP through Silber Records. It’s part of Silber’s Christmas series, but before you start worrying, this isn’t just a load of Wizard, Slade and Wombles covers, its twenty minutes of slow, calculated post-rock. The music goes as fast as glaciers, and is as warm!
Snowplows and Icicle Tracks are the stand out tracks. Snow Plows feels like a Twin Peaks outtake that has been slowed down and manipulated until it ends up sounding all spooky and eerie. While this might not sound like a classic Christmas song, it does play into the Victorian Christmas ghost story vibe. There is something spooky and eerie about Christmas and this is a musical interruption of it. Icicle Tracks is made around a backwards loop that slowly undulates. It’s as trippy as it is chilled. As with Snowplows it’s conjures up dark rooms, candle lit vigils and a general feeling of unease.
Given Lost Trail’s prolific output, Nonconnah seems to be on the right tracks, but only time will tell. Let’s hope that the rumour of a long player in 2017 isn’t just a hoax, like an escaped mental patient dressed as Santa on a rampage. Oh wait…
Art is Hard end their Hand Cut Record Club in style with I Love Your Lifestyle
So that’s it then. It’s all over. Art is Hard Records have completed their Hand Cut Record Club. Over the last few months they have released a slew lathe cut 7” singles that have run the gambit of indie, synth pop, garage rock and bedsit soul. I would be lying if I said the release of this final record has been met by joy and sadness. The Hand Cut Record Club was something to look forward to, as you never really knew what it was going to be. But now it’s over there will be a slight hole in my months until it is filled by another singles club, or a good run of football results.
The final release is by Swedish band I Love Your Lifestyle. Their distinctive brand of emo is unlike anything that had been released in the HCRC, yet its inclusion works perfectly well everything that has come before. At just shy of two minutes it’s one of the shortest releases in this series, but don’t for a second think that I Love Your Lifestyle have nothing to say. They lyrics are filled with insightful motifs and a slight hint of existentialism that all great music should have.
“Everybody’s got a broken heart, to hang on the Christmas tree”
Christmas isn’t just about presents and peace on Earth. Sadly bad things happen at Christmas too. For one reason or another the Christmas period has a high percentage of break up’s. While this has never really been written about, Adam Easterbrook thought he’d have a stab at it on his 2012 break up album Love Letters, Hate Mail & the Haunted Self. The album is a revamping of Blood on the Tracks. While it was a difficult listen at times, it is, sadly, the most honest album Easterbrook has written and is the closest thing I’ve found that sums up going through a break up.
Christmas Distance was a hidden track after the final track Love Letter. This was a clever thing to do. If Easterbrook had done a Melanie, it would have been that track you immediately jump up to skip because it would sound out of place the majority of the year, but through putting it as a bonus track, after you’ve faffed about splitting them up using Audacity, you can select not to play it as part of the album/put it on you MP3 player. Which is a shame as Christmas Distance is an absolutely amazing song, that sums up Christmas when you’re not in the best frame of mind.
In classic Easterbrook fashion Christmas Distance is chockful of lines that make you laugh and cry. The standout line is “Everybody’s got a broken heart, to hang on the Christmas tree”, but “It’s a chance to remember, places and face that make up your life” and “I can’t see the lights for crying” come close though due to their emotional context. While this might not be the best Christmas to play at work or the office party, it is perfect for quiet contemplation about the full spectrum of Christmas.
Last a little known bedroom musician released a Christmas EP. It was called A Winter’s Evening with John Whiles and consisted of four songs and lasted for eleven minutes. It was one of the most intriguing and interesting seasonal releases in recent years. No Whiles has returned with a follow up.
Originally titled The Second Christmas: Another Winter’s Evening with John Whiles: Were Our Hearts Ever so Cold?, it picked up where the first volume finished. In the past year Whiles has obviously been getting to grips with his equipment, as its far more diverse ambitious than volume one. First Snow is a mournful introduction that brings to mind Salvation Army Bands warming up on a cold high street. Just Like Chrtistmas isn’t a Christmas song per say, but it tells the story of a trip home form Stockholm, and when it starts to snow an unnamed character said it reminded them of Christmas, but actually it wasn’t anything like Christmas. Musically it’s a slow burner, melodic guitars and a 4/4 beat do most of the work, while Whiles’ vocals croon pleasantly along, then in the last thirty seconds when its goes all Flaming Lips on us and the mood changes and everything comes alive.
Wenceslass MKII’s intro sounds like Miike Snow, but instead of becoming an post-pop banner, skewed vocals start to get manipulated and layered until the beat subverts itself and everything goes a bit Warp circa 1997. Time signatures jump about, instruments start to sound like vocals and then back to instruments again, while a funky bass tethers everything together. After this produciton workout Blue Christmas is a much more standard affair. Guitar, vocals and what sounds like a Theremin. Due to its intimate nature, it is one of the stand out tracks on the album. Hey Santa is a lo-fi power pop gem, chocked full of ad hoc guitar lines and wonky rhythms. Streets if Rage sounds like a Prince demo. It oozes sleaze, but after a few listens it makes you question the sobriety of the main character. This could easily be thoughts going through a co-workers head at the Christmas party after an afternoon on the company in the pub. Queen of Ice closes the album as First Snow opened it, with mournful melodies and haunting memories from a Christmas long ago. Ultimately the album follows a slightly melancholic vibe, low tempo numbers with haunting vocals remind us that Christmas isn’t just about the good times. Its interspersed with rejection, heartache, hangovers and indigestion. Saying that let’s hope Whiles releases another instalment of this series next year, as it’s starting to feel like a tradition.
Lost Christmas gem from folk’s golden girl
Back in the day Melanie Safka was a pretty big deal. She played Woodstock, and during her set the audience lit candles, which she wrote about in the monster of a song Lay Down (Candles in the Rain). She released ten flawless album from 1968 – 1972 and then started her own label. If you are in to your folk music from the 1960’s and 1970’s Melanie is a name you have to check out. What does she have to do with Christmas, I can hear you saying. Well on her debut album Born to Be she recorded and released a song called Merry Christmas.
While you won’t find this song on most Christmas compilation albums, but it is a song that deserves to be revisited again and again. On one hand Merry Christmas isn’t anything that ground breaking, Melanie basically just wishes everyone a merry Christmas and mentions things that she likes about it, but on the other hand, this is forward thinking. At one point Melanie wishes it could be Christmas every day, a full five years before Slade released their ode to the holidays. While Slade’s take on the saying is a pretty accurate description of what Christmas actually feels like, with a bombastic riff behind it, Melanie’s is more poignant, wishing it could be Christmas every day as it means people will be a bit nicer to each other and thus spreading peace and love all over the world.
What can be better than a Christmas song from Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer? A Christmas song from Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer that has a Star Wars reference? Well this is exactly what Mr. B has done. All I Want For Christmas Is An Original Jawa With Vinyl Cape is the song in question.
What Mr. B has done is effectively shoehorn in Star Wars to Christmas far better than Disney or Maco could ever have dreamed of. The song, as the title suggests, is Mr. B talking about all he wants for Christmas, and sadly it isn’t you, but an original Jawa action figure with the actual vinyl cape. This is a choice item and I remember how delighted I was when I was given it as a reward for learning to ride my bike without stabilisers, are they even a thing now? Anyway, after discussing how the majority of children’s toys, and Christmas lists are just full of stuff that the kids are either brainwashed into wanting or so badly made they break after a few plays, Mr. B then regales us what he wants from Santa this year and a heart breakingly touching story about how he almost obtained his Holy Grail.
As with all Mr. B songs, his brand of Chap-Hop is full of and longing for a bygone time and nostalgia. However, like all Mr. B songs, are his lyrics rose tinted for an era that never really existed, apart from being hinted at in old Kodachrome photos and have remembered memories. This being said, All I Want For Christmas Is An Original Jawa With Vinyl Cape is by far the most original and addictive new Christmas song I’ve heard all year, and with its jazz inspired backing track has jingle for your bells!