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Christmas Music Countdown

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Festive Odyssey, A Happy Death Cover the Sonics, and A PDX MAS

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Just a couple more days until Christmas, but there's still lots of local Christmas music to check out.

Ray Rude from the Builders and the Butchers has put together a new compilation called A Festive Odyssey Holiday Collection Vol. 1, enlisting local musicians from bands like Wooden Indian Burial Ground, the We Shared Milk, and Run On Sentence to contribute a mixture of originals and classic. There's Operation Mission's spacey take on "Silver Bells," Dream Physique's twangy "Christmas at the Bar," and lots more. Right now it's available as a free download on Bandcamp, although donations are warmly accepted.

• • •

A Happy Death offer their take of the Sonics' "I Don't Believe in Christmas," a fuzzed-out howler that A Happy Death take to the dark underground. For those tired of holiday schmaltz, this one's for you. It's also available on Bandcamp as a name-your-price download.

• • •

Lastly, it wouldn't be a PDX Xmas without A PDX MAS, the two-volume local compilation of Christmas songs that originally surfaced in 2009 and 2010. Produced by Typhoon cohort Paul Laxer, in includes tons of holiday songs, with contributions from Typhoon (twice), Onuinu, Wild Ones, Hosannas, Aan, Jared Mees and the Grown Children, and lots more. That one, too, is available on Bandcamp as a name-your-price download.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" - Chandler Strutz (of Just Lions)

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Chandler Strutz of Portland band Just Lions recorded this tender version of the World War II-era Christmas standard "I'll Be Home for Christmas," originally made famous by Bing Crosby. Strutz tells us he tracked this one quickly earlier this month, maybe after a drink or two. "Did it in one or two takes, then slapped a little reverb on it," he says. "Just me and an acoustic... trying something different for a change."

This version's clarity finds both warmth and sadness in the idea of a soldier overseas for Christmas; the simplicity of the take is reminiscent of a handwritten letter home.

Strutz's band Just Lions plays a free show on Monday, December 23 at Valentine's with Fanno Creek and Black Is Bright. Might be your last chance to rock out before heading home for your own Christmas.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hometapes' 2013 Holiday Compilation: A Ride to Anywhere

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM


We love Hometapes. Each year, the Portland-based label has a holiday gift for you in the form of their "Hometapes for the Holidays" compilation series, featuring end-of-year music specially made by Hometapes artists for the compilation. This year is no exception, and the fourth installment, titled A Ride to Anywhere, has arrived to fill your virtual stocking. The name comes from a line from an Everly Brothers Christmas song called "Christmas Eve Can Kill You," which is covered by Leverage Models—and the glowing, orb-like shape this new version takes sounds nothing like the Everlys.

It's a wonderful collection of Homestapes artists, whose roster runs the globe, including Slaraffenland from Denmark, J D Emmanuel from Houston, CYNE from Gainesville, and NYC's Helado Negro. There are covers and favorites (of course the Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" makes sense on a holiday comp) and some completely new sounds which might redefine what you think of as Christmas music. (In other words, there's not much in the way of jingling bells and Viennese boys choirs.)

As Hometapes' Sara Padgett Heathcott says, "For the past four years, we’ve created holiday albums that put the timely and the timeless right next to each other, offering a space for the Hometapes family to condense the spirit of the season—and the spirit of every single day—into songs that, always surprisingly and always without fail, carry us through the nights of winter."

Check it out over on Bandcamp—right now it's a pay-what-you-want download, and to again quote the good Hometapes folks, "Click Buy Now and feel ok about entering $0." However, any money that you DO decide to pay will go to benefit Megabolt, the Portland-based organization that helps terminally ill kids by involving them in art projects and workshops. So it's well worth giving.

Again, head over to Bandcamp to check the whole thing out, and give a listen to A Ride to Anywhere right here, thanks to the holiday miracle of embeddable widgets.

Also, check out all the previous Hometapes holiday comps: Star Over (2012), The Never Ending Beginning (2011), and I'll Be Hometapes for Christmas (2010).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Duover Have a New Christmas Record!

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Christmas-loving Portland duo Duover released their first Christmas album back in 2010, and Christmas Vol. 1 has since become a local seasonal classic. If you haven't heard it yet, you need to make it part of your holiday rotation. (Psst... it's on Bandcamp.)

Now Duover—that's Rebecca Rasmussen and Nathan Jr.—have released the long awaited follow-up: Duover's Christmas Vol. 1.5, a six-song EP that will undoubtedly please lovers of both yuletide and decimals. Like the first installment, Christmas Vol. 1.5 captures the spirit of the holidays with sincerity and warmth, and none of the treacle. That Duover pull this off with their own songs without relying on hoary holiday standards makes Christmas Vol. 1.5 all the more welcome.

Take a listen to "Ms. Claus Lament," a charming holiday torch song voiced by Rasmussen that I could easily see becoming a holiday chestnut in years to come.

Now head over to Bandcamp to hear all of Christmas Vol. 1.5. It's available digitally and makes a great gift.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Ages and Ages - "Christmas Time Is Here"

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Ages and Ages are spreading that holiday cheer and not leaving out the sorrow, with their new recording of "Christmas Time Is Here," from 1965's beloved A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special. Their take on the jazzily melancholic tune from Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson was premiered over on Paste today, with some commentary from the band:
“It is one of those rare holiday songs that doesn’t ignore the sadness of the season,” said band member Rob Oberdorfer. “It doesn’t feel like a cheap celebration of the consumerist rush, and there’s no overt religious references to alienate anyone. It’s just about the human experience of living through this time of year drawing close to family and loved ones, and the bittersweet nature of all that fleeting good will... With the Peanuts thing, it also brings back these memories of watching this kid’s program which didn’t feel like it was trying to sell us something. The whole thing has this clever rub of celebration and melancholy. The original has so much heart we didn’t want to take it too far musically, though we did de-jazzify it a little and add some pepper here and there.”
Take a listen below. Ages and Ages' new album, Divisionary, comes out March 24, 2014; listen to the first preview track from that at this earlier End Hits post.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Portlandy Holiday Compilation: <i>Holidays Rule</i>

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 11:16 AM


Is it too soon for Christmas music?

If you are the type that answers, "It's never too soon," you are in luck. The Holidays Rule compilation album came out earlier this season and it's jampacked with an impressive array of contributors, including lots of local musicians. This is due to one of the compilation's producers, Chris Funk of the Decemberists and Black Prairie, who roused the local troops for some Yuletide cheer. Along with nobodies like Paul McCartney and Irma Thomas, Holiday Rules has tracks by the Shins, Y La Bamba, Black Prairie with Sallie Ford, AgesandAges, and Fruit Bats (Portlanders all).

After the jump, I'll post complete streams of a couple songs—the Shins' take on McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" and Fruit Bats' "It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas"—plus a giant embed that has 30-second previews of all the other tracks on the record. More info here.

If it is too soon for Christmas music, you can wait to open this package until closer to December 25.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Song That You Should Know

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 10:42 AM

This is the great, great Clarence Carter's excellent Christmas tune, which also probably has the best title for a Christmas song of all time: "Back Door Santa." I could never figure out why Carter isn't regularly mentioned in the same breath as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, as his deep-fried Southern soul—sorry to use such a clichéd phrase, but it applies here—is certainly their equal. "Slip Away"? "Patches"? And this: "Back Door Santa," which also features the single greatest "Ho ho ho" ever committed to record.

And if that horn break in "Back Door Santa" sounds familiar, it's because Run-DMC sampled it for their (also classic) "Christmas in Hollis." (And fun fact! Run sports a Portland Trail Blazers jacket in the video.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Frohe Weihnachten von das Kinks!

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 10:22 AM

This is the best rock 'n' roll Christmas song out there. That's Kinks drummer Mick Avory in the Santa suit.

But what is up with the clock falling off the wall? Is that a German curse or something? A joke at the expense of the Swiss?

Ich bin konfüsed.

h/t: Ezra

Parenthetical Girls Save Christmas

Posted by Charlie Swanson on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 9:15 AM


Every holiday season, Parenthetical Girls get into the spirit by offering up some sort of seasonal fare. This year they cut it pretty close, but it's never too late to save Christmas. Over at their Bandcamp page, the group is giving out the download to the band's all new EP, Parenthetical Girls Save Christmas, for a pay-what-you-want price. If the spirit of giving has infected you this year, feel free to pay something, but for the rest of us Scrooges it's basically free. And, of course, it's lovely. Swooning and festive, the group puts together all new classics about the Christmas lore of yesterday and promises of tomorrow. Check out opening track, "Christmas Past," below and get the whole EP here right now.


Parenthetical Girls - "Christmas Past"


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anya Marina Wants a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Posted by Charlie Swanson on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 8:15 AM


As a kid, my Christmas wish lists were pretty standard; a football, maybe some comic books, a video game if I was feeling particularly good that year. Now, I've heard of kids getting puppies and I'm sure one little girl out there still asks for a pony every year, but Portland songwriter Anya Marina outdoes them all by requesting a hippo. Which is crazy if you ask me. I mean, do you know how hungry those things get??

Actually, Marina's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" is a version of an old novelty song, written back in the '50s and originally sung by a 10-year-old girl. Fun fact: That girl was actually given a hippo on Christmas by a local fundraising campaign, and donated the animal to the zoo! I'm betting Marina doesn't actually want a hippo, but her adorable take on the song is pretty convincing. Check it out below and look out for Marina's upcoming album, Felony Flats, coming out next year.


Anya Marina - "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"

Friday, December 9, 2011

Listen to Hometapes' Holiday Album

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 10:48 AM

  • cover art by Friends with You

Portland label Hometapes has unveiled this year's Christmas album, and as always it's a lovely collection of wintry tunes from the likes of Breathe Owl Breathe, Slaraffenland, Doug Paisley and lots, lots more. The Never Ending Beginning: A Hometapes Holiday Album is available for free download, and it just doesn't get any gift-givier than that. Of course, you also have the option to give a donation in exchange for the music, and all proceeds from the album will go to Heifer Project International. Label head Sara Padgett Heathcott had these words to say about the project:
This year, we asked Hometapes' family and friends to make a song for the holidays — whatever that meant to them. This is our third year doing this, and, undoubtedly, the most remarkable one yet. Over the past couple weeks, Adam and I have opened over twenty gifts: songs that push what it means to feel, and to feel Right Now. Not just those December vibes, but the experience of where we all are right this second: a world that's somehow more infinite than it's ever been. Maybe this has to do with our age (we're getting older) or the nebulous nature of our geographic borders (thanks to the machine you are reading this on). Adjacent to the tools that enable us is the perspective we carry — and our lens is polished, daily, by these artists. And it has been for a decade. Before that, it was the music on the radio, the LPs in our parents' record bin, the shows in that belvedere by the river that changed our lives, the views out the tour van window. After this, as we swim through that dark pool between December 31 and January 1 (yeah, I see a dark pool), we'll dry off, take a deep breath, and keep running.

Happy holidays. We hope you get exactly what you want. This can be your soundtrack.

Download it here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Music Countdown: Day 18

Posted by Dave Bow on Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 10:00 AM

A classic. Merry Christmas from Dave Bow, David Bowie, Bing Crosby and The Mercury. May dinner with your friends and relations be every bit as awesome as this video of "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (though a little less awkward).

For bonus cheer, you can see John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell recreate this classic meeting of voices almost note for note.

h/t to Jacob Schraer

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Music Countdown: Day 17

Posted by Dave Bow on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 10:00 AM

I dedicate today's entry to those scrooges who came down on poor Macca yesterday like a ton of bricks. I would rather listen to "Wonderful Christmas Time" on loop for an hour than hear the whole Fat Les album.

Fat Les was a supergroup(???) comprised of Alex James (bassist from Blur), acclaimed actor and father to Lily Allen, Keith Allen and artist/provocateur Damien Hirst. If you were to imagine what kind of music those three men would create together would it sound like "Naughty Christmas (Goblin in the Office)"? Really, be honest. I should also note that this song features guest vocals by Lisa Moorish, a singer/songwriter most notable for giving birth to children by both Pete Doherty and Liam Gallagher while married to another man. Plus she initially blamed it on Justin Welch from Elastica! Naughty, naughty woman.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Music Countdown: Day 16

Posted by Dave Bow on Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 10:00 AM

I previously asked if there was any pop songwriter as suited to Christmas music as XTC's Andy Partridge. Of course there is: Paul McCartney! Macca's shameless cheese is made for this time of year and, as a tireless McCartney defender, I feel obliged to include Wings' "Wonderful Christmas Time" in my countdown. Listen to Linda joyfully plunk that synth like it completely belongs in this song. She almost makes me go with it. Almost...

I also imagine that people who get super grouchy around Christmas begin to see everyone who is enjoying themselves much like Paul comes across at the start of this vid, poking his grinning face in everyone else's. Whatta goon!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Music Countdown: Day 15

Posted by Dave Bow on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate, here's the inimitable King Diamond with a lump of coal for you! Like a lot of true '80s metal, "No Presents for Christmas" manages to be extremely silly and kind of genuinely sinister. What else would you expect from the King?

PS, I love how, halfway through the making of this fan video, YouTube user flyingpigzjacob apparently ran out of pictures of Santa with skeleton arms and smoking blunts so he decided to include a jpg of Huey, Dewey and Louie excited to open a stack of gifts. Didn't you hear King Diamond, you stupid ducks? No presents for Christmas!

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