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…
Stamp the Wax return with an alternative advent calendar that even the most grinchy can get behind
Right, Christmas fever has hit the nation and everywhere you go, you can’t help see Christmas jumpers, dogs wearing reindeer horns and the pubs and bars across the last is sell Christmas cheer. So some of this this level of gaudiness is a bit too much, but Stamp the Wax have an alternative. Namley their musical advent calendar.
This is the third year that Stamp the Wax have released an audible advent calender, and like previous years all the proceeds go to charity. This year it’s the Steve Reid Foundation that will be benefitting. The charity was started by Giles Peterson to support musicians both creatively and financially.
Stamp the Wax have promised that this year’s list will feature “More winter warmers from new friends and old, including the familiar bouncing groove from the re-emerged house gem Takuya Matsumoto, some brass-lead soul from multi-instrumentalist Bastien Keb, a soul reissue from Athens of the North and a journeying cut from Max Graef. Dark Sky and Glenn Astro return with more hidden treasures and a there’s even a special shelf dusting for the astral king Sun Ra.”
Today’s musical gift is by Hareton Salvanini. Laid back horns ring out, vocals croon over the top and soaring strings tie everything together. Think Serge Gainsbourg working with Swingle while Gunther Kallmann works out those delicious vocal harmonies!
So far Stamp the Wax is leading the pack as the best way to count down to the big day and it all goes to a good cause, so what’s not to like, eh?
So it’s been 1 year, 12 months, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds since thisyearinmusic’s last New Year’s (Dis)Honour list. The whole point of end-of-year-lists is to showcase things that the writer(s) have enjoyed and you, my dear reader, might have missed all the while showing themselves to be much more knowledgably and interesting than you are.
We would like to think that thisyearinmusic is different and we generally try and showcase things that have touched us and defined what 2015 was about, but sadly we’re just as bad as all the others, and this post is just an example of that. Last year’s list was ungainly and bloated, so we’ve tried to cut it down to the bare bones. We won’t be handing out prizes for art direction, production and such, but instead we’ll give you Album and Song of the year, and people to watch out for this year. We aren’t even going to waffle on for ages about why these songs are good and better than millions of over songs released this year, but we will say that each captured the feeling and mood of the year perfectly.
Song of the Year
10. Big Dope P-Still Hood
9. The Bug Zim Version
8. Django Django-Giant
7. Hunck-I’ll Wait
6. The Garden-HaHa
5. Courtney Barnett-Elevator Operator
4. The Death of Pop-Rayban Party
3. Ricky Eats Acid-Carnival of Souls
2. E B U-Dead of Night
Album of the Year
10. Warm Brain-Big Wow
9. Grubs-It Must Be Grubs
8. Sasha Siem-Most of the Boys
6. Death Grips-Fashion Week
5. Miguel Baptista Benedict-bedsores (regurgitations and loops)
4. Dave Cloud and the Gospel of Power-Today is the Day that they Take me Away
3. Kamasi Washington-The Epic
2. Binker and Moses-Dem Ones
One’s to Watch
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.
Christmas just got a little but surreal thanks to the Loose Tapestries
Right, we all know about Christmas songs and how they’re meant to be slightly melancholy, dripping with seasonal laments, and chocked full of lyrics that make you gag as much as they make you smile. The Loose Tapestries have decided to ignore this and, as they have written “a new kind of Christmas song”, in their own words.
But “”Who are the Loose Tapestries?” I can hear you ask. The answer is simple. Noel Fielding, him off the Mighty Boosh and Serge Pizzorno from Kasabian. They originally teamed up to write the music for Fielding’s Luxury Comedy TV show, but now they’ve written and released a Christmas song. As expected from Fielding things get a bit surreal “My wife’s a walnut, she’s a Christmas walnut” and “London town covered in snow. Which mistletoe. Ho ho ho”, but what really holds the song together is Pizzorno’s music. On Can’t Wait For Christmas, he’s created a song that doesn’t sound like his usual blend of dancey Oasis, but instead it taps into Christmas’ fun and playfulness, without sounding trite or cheesy. If this song played at any Christmas party, it would go down a treat! Oh yeah, Idris Elba is on it too. What more do you want? After hearing this I actually can’t wait for Christmas now. Cheers Loose Tapestries!
A very special alt Christmas
Right, so there is not getting away from the juggernaut of of Christmas that is bearing right for us. You can try and cocoon yourself in a bubble of work and alcohol, but you just won’t be able to escape it. Trust me I’ve tried. This year however I’m confronting Christmas, at breakneck speed. Basically it’s a game of chicken. The first to swerve or break eye contact loses. So far it’s worked out well. While they play the Glee Christmas album at work, I’m there grinning, but listening to alternative Christmas albums by Chas and Dave, Dolly Parton, Dylan and Cassie Ramone’s Christmas in Reno.
What Cassie Ramone has done, incredibly, is strip all the saccharine bullshit from these classic Christmas songs, and deliver something that sits between bedroom demo and a lo-fi masterclass. Take Wonderful Christmas for example. This is usually a bloated borefest, but through stripping it back to guitar, keyboard and an enthusiastic vocal, Ramone conveys the feeling of, well, having a great time and it makes you think more positively about Christmas. Run Run Rudolph is almost unrecognisable to the original, but that’s good, because we’ve all heard it a hundred times before, and I’m getting a bit bored it, this breathes new life into it. I’ll Be Home for Christmas is dripping in melancholy and longing. Ramone’s vocals shine through the murky mist of the backing track, just like headlights cutting through a December fog on your journey home. Rockin Around the Xmas Tree is almost an acoustic drone mantra. The nearest anyone of the songs get to sounding like the orginal is when Ramone covers the Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick. But this is fine, as it’s not overblown, it’s a subtle slice of lo-fi pop. The album is closed by the Christmas Song. It’s possible the stand out track on the album, next to Rockin Around the Xmas Tree and Little Saint Nick. During its duration you can almost smell the turkey cooking in the oven, the smell of a real tree and those scented candles your mum always buys.
Christmas in Reno is the Christmas album for people who hate Christmas albums. At just under twenty five minutes it’s over before its out stayed it welcome, which means it’s perfect for repeat listens. The only real downside is that Chris Rea’s Driving Home For Christmas wasn’t included, as I feel her vocal delivery and ear for composition, would have set the standard that all covers for this song would have to follow. If this is how Ramone does Christmas in Reno I’m booking my flight for next year!