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.
My favorite hymn rewrite project, Page CXVI, knows its strengths. On Lent to Maundy Thursday, the trio creates cohesive and enveloping moods through attention to musical detail. Page CXVI is led by Tifah’s expressive alto; she knows how to use her range and tone to great effect, and it shows on some powerful performances here. The bass tone is especially notable on the instrumental side; there’s a lot of thought going into those details, and it makes an overall better album.
The striking, pensive arrangements neatly guide the listener through the somber lyrics; even at the high, triumphant moment of “This Blessed Day,” there’s still notes of sadness and tension. This is an album of hard-wrought celebration, of praise in honor of that which was most difficult. The tone reflects both ends: Lent to Maundy Thursday never becomes overly gloomy or giddy. This is a measured, thoughtful work celebrating and accompanying a complex time in the Christian calendar.
I try to post videos that are interesting to watch, because that’s the point of a video. But some clips just have such beautiful songs that I have to post them, even if their visuals are less than mindblowing. Here are four.
“Song for Zula,” Phosphorescent‘s candidate for Song of the Year, just got better: here’s a gorgeous acoustic guitar version performed at the behest of Line of Best Fit.
Safe Haven’s studio vid for “Leave Me Where I Want to Be” has a lot of sepia going on.
I will post pretty much anything that Page CXVI sends me, because it’s always just stunningly beautiful. Here’s “O Sacred Head.”
Here’s a reminder: post-rockers Pan are a ton of fun. Here’s “John from New York.”
Nathan Felix is a bit of a staple at Independent Clauses: his band The Noise Revival (sometimes The Noise Revival Orchestra) made its first appearance at IC in early 2006 and has been in its pages ever since. Most recently, TNRO contributed a fully orchestrated version of “Brand New Colony” to Never Give Up. It’s his love of orchestras that propels this latest news clip: Felix, not content with having a rock band that is also kind of an orchestra, is composing directly for orchestras now. Along these lines, he was recently invited to the Levon Manukyan Collegium Musicum Summer Program for Emerging Composers in Bourgas, Bulgaria to record a new orchestral piece.
But he needs your help to get there! You can contribute via this page. He’s currently got about $3K more to go. Here’s a local news reel documenting Felix’s new-found love of composing:
They’re using IndieGoGo for the campaign, which closes at the end of the month. So far they’ve received $21,100 of their $60,000 goal. I jumped in the first day the project was open, because I believe in this project and really want this to happen. Check it out.
“Come Thou Fount”:
“Till Kingdom Come” (originally by Coldplay):
And more of that could be in the world. Let’s help make that happen.
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.