It’s Christmastime! And if you’re over Sufjan’s Christmas songs (but how could you be??), there are definitely some new options to love this yuletide.
I love Christmas almost as much as I love puns, so Candy Cigarette’s “A Whale’s Christmas in Childress, TX” is endeared to me in multiple ways. (The pun is a reversal of the terms in Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”) It’s a chipper acoustic-led indie-pop tune that has a heaping helping of Christmas cheer poured into it (and sleigh bells! always sleigh bells!). The unique direction of the lyrics make it even more fun. Awesome.
SHEL goes for a light-touch approach on “Sleigh Ride,” not deviating too far from the classic approach (because what would it be without sleigh bells?). That makes the warm lead vocals the star here.
IC fave Latifah Phillips (of Moda Spira and Page CXVI) has teamed up with Aaron Strumpel to create an album of vintage-sounding Christmas tunes called Heck Ya the Halls (awesome title, y’all). It’s surprisingly non-kitschy: plenty of jazzy trumpet, staccato piano, and smooth vibes to go around.
Jenny & Tyler, another IC fave, just dropped a Christmas album. Their recent folk-pop/indie-rock output has been pretty magnificent, so I expect this release to be no different.
Andrew Belle’s offering for this holiday season is a dense, moody electro-pop outing called “Back for Christmas” that may not end up sung around the yule log but has a lot of staying power. If you hear me kickin’ this one in July, don’t be surprised. Really tight work here.
So it’s May, but I didn’t get around to posting videos in April, because it was hectic busy. (Things are slowing down now, thanks!) Here we go:
A Tribe Called Red’s “Sisters” is visually impressive, sonically fun, and engaging for the entire duration of the video.
Andrew Belle’s “Sister” (did not plan that at all) is a moving, elegant song with a moving, interesting video. I’m reminded of Where the Wild Things Are, but … different.
Kris Orlowski has built from folk to cinematic folk to full-on cinematic indie-rock. “Fighting the War” pulls out all the stops on that last front, throwing up an infectious indie-rock anthem for your enjoyment.
Singer/songwriter Todd Kessler’s gorgeous, digitally-animated “Put You in My Pocket” clip is very worth your time:
Even though Todd Kessler‘s band is called The New Folk, the sound of Sea Fever is closer to the ornate acoustic pop of Andrew Belle and David Mead. Although some might balk at this, this is no qualm with me: I’m a fan of this style when it’s done well. And Kessler does it well, neatly balancing complex arrangements with a vocals-centric focus. At times this leads him into very precise, Andrew Bird-esque territory (“First Sip,” “Intangible”)–especially with the plucked violin that these tunes employ.
Tunes like “Zen Lunatics” and “Holes in the Floor” sit other end of the spectrum, employing crunchy distorted guitars and stomping rhythms. It’s not rock, per se–the theatrical “Holes in the Floor” employs careening, burlesque horns–but it’s certainly not delicate indie-pop either. The most memorable turns come when Kessler splits the difference, toning down some of the more intricate arrangements while also not going full-on pop blast. “Oh Brother” and single “Hallelujah” live in this space, and it’s a good one for him.
Kessler’s pop hooks and arrangements are both very strong, making Sea Fever a release that fans of thoughtful pop music definitely should invest time in. I look forward to seeing what Kessler comes up with next.
Since releasing Faint Not earlier this year, everything that Jenny and Tyler touch turns to gold. Or, in the case of this gorgeous music video for one of the album’s best tracks, yellow.
Google, not satisfied with controlling every piece of information ever, has announced a music discovery site (read: blog) called Magnifier. Excuse me while I go weep. All joking aside, it’s well-thought out, just like everything Google does.
The title track off Andrew Belle’s The Ladder gets the hand-drawn treatment.
Kickstarter, still one of the best ideas in a long time, now has some competition. (FREE MARKETS RULZ!1!!1!1?!) PledgeMusic cuts out all those pesky other arts that Kickstarter supports. The twist that makes it different than Kickstarter? You can designate some of the funds you raise to a charity of your choice. That’s pretty cool. Charming songstress Meiko brought this site to my attention. And if nothing else, you can hear “Boys With Girlfriends” at that site, which is hilarious/heartbreaking. And watch the pledge video, which is hilarious (without the heartbreaking).
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.