OK, I guess yesterday confirmed that people don’t take too kindly to hardcore punk and f-worded sentiments in their Christmas cheer. Their loss.
Today, we continue on a Christmas classic buzz, albeit a much more mainstream one.
One of the great ironies of Christmas music, in the pre-internet era at least, is that the songs tended to be written and recorded in the summer, such was the lead time required to prep for a December release. English glam rockers Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ – often incorrectly titled ‘Here it is Merry Christmas’ – is no exception, having been recorded at the tail end of the band’s 1973 summer tour of the US in a sweltering New York City in August.
The upbeat lyrical content – summed up by the line “look to the future now, it’s only just begun” – can be interpreted as more than just standard holiday season escapism. The song came about against a background of unrest in Britain’s mining and industrial heartlands and the lyrics reflected the need for a good dose of optimism. This explains why ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ is considered more than just a Christmas song in the UK. And if I can wear my Nick Butler hat for a moment, I’ll add that it was the UK’s Christmas #1 in ‘73.
Slade’s recording of the song is light and bouncy with a hint of abrasion in Noddy Holder’s gravelly vocals. By contrast, the 2000 cover by Noel Gallagher of…
When we think of classic Christmas songs, it tends to be the case that the older the song, the better.
In a sense, this is a natural reaction to the passage of time and our innate distrust of the present, but perhaps it also says something about how pop culture has captured Christmas. While much of what we now consider “Christmassy” we owe to Dickens, an awful lot of it is also dated to the ’50s and ’60s when “pop culture” properly began in earnest with the rapid spread of television and other visual media.
How refreshing, then, to have a Christmas classic from our own time. Perhaps this is a little too early for much of the Sputnik demographic, but it’s certainly within the timeline of our editors to remember a time when Mariah Carey was a) relevant, b) disgustingly beautiful and c) not world-renowned as a crazy person. In the early ’90s, Mariah still had her natural breasts and was quite comfortably the most successful pop singer around, and still she found time to write and sing one of the best Christmas songs ever produced.
Kanye West’s been neglecting his G.O.O.D. Fridays project as of late – no new updates since mid-November – but you didn’t really think he could let Christmas pass without another gift, did you?
The base track for ‘Christmas in Harlem’ “leaked” (in other words, Kanye sent it out) on Wednesday, featuring professional famous person Teyana Taylor, but Kanye confirmed that a version with more guests was impending. Barely 24 hours, he’d “leaked” it – the recording featuring Cam’ron, Vado, Jim Jones, CyHi Da Prynce, Pusha T, Musiq and, of course, Teyana.
Kanye West – ‘Christmas in Harlem’
Yesterday, we began our countdown with a classic from over half a century ago. Today, we focus on something much more recent – so recent, in fact, it was only released today.
The Popical Island Collective came together largely of necessity – Irish labels are overwhelmingly biased towards either commercial music or punk – but the common thread that unites the likes of Squarehead, Yeh Deadlies and So Cow masks the huge amount of diversity within their ranks. The collective has been buzzing around the Irish music scene for less than a year, but already they’ve made quite an impression on the local scene with a double of upbeat indie pop compilations, the second of which can be found below.
A Hard Old Station: Christmas With the Popical Island Showband is a six-track EP featuring four original numbers from lo-fi pop acts Yeh Deadlies, The Walpurgis Family, Tieranniesaur (solo project of Yeh Deadlies’ Annie Tierney) and Jonny Fun and the… Hesitation, as well as two tracks from the 21-member Popical Island Showband, made up of members from the aforementioned acts.
Though the phrase “Twelve Days of Christmas” traditionally refers to the period beginning on Christmas Day, we at Sputnikmusic are far more interested in the dozen days leading up to it, when the anticipation and excitement builds and builds until the inevitable disappointment kicks in on Christmas morning. Over the next twelve days, we hope to expose you to every facet of the Christmas music experience, from the impossibly earnest to the self-consciously ironic to the downright offensive and everything in between.
We begin, though, with a classic.
Montgomery Burns once lamented: “Smithers, years ago I blew the chance to buy Picasso’s Guernica for a song. Luckily, that song was ‘White Christmas,’ and by hanging onto it I made billions!” The story may have been fictional (although the Simpsons is otherwise 100% factually accurate) but the sentiment was right: Bing Crosby’s recording of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ remains the best-selling single of all-time and will likely never be beat.
For those of us who live in less than arctic climates, the “White Christmas” remains an annual fantasy, an ideal that belies the fact any significant amount of snowfall scares the shit out of us, destroys our infrastructure and sends us into varying degrees of deranged panic. Every year. It’s testament to the beauty of the imagery, and the song, that ‘White Christmas’ remains the season’s most enduring staple and the feather in the cap of one of pop music’s greatest ever singers.
Billy Bragg, M. Ward and Owen Pallett, amongst a host of others, have come together to record a Joanna Newsom cover record released digitally recently in support of the Oxfam America Pakistan Flood Relief fund. They’ve uploaded the album to Soundcloud, embedded below, and if you’re feeling particularly charitable you can head to their website, where a donation of $10 or more will earn you a high quality mp3 download of the 22-track album, cover art and liner notes. It’s for a good cause.
“Pakistan’s worst floods in decades are now affecting more than 20 million people. More than a fifth of the country’s cropland has been inundated, and 1.8 million houses damaged or destroyed. In the crowded temporary camps, waterborne disease is already taking a toll. In order to prevent more suffering and fatalities, Oxfam is rushing clean water, sanitation materials, and other essential aid to hundreds of thousands of those in need.”
Patrick Wolf’s new album will be coming out within the next few months or so, and I am incredibly happy because I love him more than words can express. ”Time Of My Life” is the first song released so far, and you can preorder the 7″ single here. Side B is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.”
Depending on who you believe, The Room is either the most unintentionally funny serious movie ever made or the greatest stitch-up of all time. Either way, nobody who sees Tommy Wiseau’s $6 million directorial debut is quite the same afterwards.
Now, the film’s most famous line – “you are tearing me apart, Lisa!” – has its own dubstep remix, and it’s bizarrely catchy. As far as dubstep goes, it doesn’t sound all that dubsteppy (the other, filthier mix sounds more like what I’d consider dubstep), but it’s hard not to admire the way its creator has taken a couple of errant lines and transformed them into an anthem.
Note: this probably won’t make any sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the film. There’s a lesson there.
03. After All
04. Terra Firma
07. The Way You Want It To Be
09. Flowers Become Screens
11. Incantation (encore)
12. Forgotten Worlds (credit roll)
Bill Leeb has had an exhausting, yet productive year. He released Improvised Electronic Devices with his Front Line Assembly project, an acoustic album with Delerium, and apparently he’s also just about finished with Delerium’s next full-length album. As if that wasn’t enough, he also managed to get a live DVD released of Delerium’s 2008 performance at Nightclub 9:30 in Washington D.C. with additional footage from Atlanta, West Palm Beach and Montreal. For those that are unfamiliar with Delerium and their music, a live performance might not sound like that big of an undertaking, but it certainly is. Thankfully, despite a few hiccups, Epiphany is an enjoyable experience that is punctuated by stunning visuals and a great clear sound.
Let’s be honest, Delerium’s music is not exactly built for a live setting. The band’s combination of world music, smooth new age and electronic pop is great for chilling out to, but watching stationary musicians for ninety-five minutes would be a tedious prospect. Fortunately, someone else was thinking the same thing and they incorporated a lot of great visual elements into the DVD’s presentation. The most noticeable…
Sarah Fimm has always been passionate about her music and sincere about getting it into the hands of as many people as she can. She is constantly making her music available to stream online, and isn’t above giving away albums – as she did a few years ago with White Birds. Even though she is known for trying to share her music whenever it’s possible, her latest endeavor still comes as a surprise for its forward-thinking and the sheer depth of the project. Karma Phala is thirty-one tracks of new and unreleased music that spans her entire recording career, including three tracks from her upcoming fifth album, Near Infinite Possibility. It covers everything from ambient electronics to soulful acoustic rock while maintaining a consistently high quality throughout. In addition to that large quantity of music, Karma Phala also includes a high-quality ‘making of Near Infinite Possibility’ video, a ton of pictures, a personal greeting from Sarah herself and more. As if that isn’t enough, she has been giving the whole thing away for free on 1-gig thumb drives (she is even covering the shipping). Included on this thumb drive is Sarah Fimm’s reason for giving this whole collection away; a mission statement:
My goal is to encourage you to share this music across the world. The livelihood of independent art relies on your consciousness to keep it alive. The only thing I ask is that you continue to use the Karma Phala drive to share…
Friends, family and complete strangers often ask me where the best place is to start discovering the work of Wildhearts frontman Ginger. Usually I’ll say something like “Earth vs. the Wildhearts” or “P.H.U.Q.” Occasionally I’ll throw out a “Valor del Corazon.” One time I even said “Yoni“!
There have been a couple of Wildhearts compilations over the years, and a raft of live recordings that could easily double for best ofs, but until now there’s never been an proper retrospective of the solo output of South Shields’ finest export since Phil Brown.
Celebrating a decade as a solo performer, 10 contains tracks from Ginger’s three solo albums, various singles and side-project Silverginger 5, as well as two brand new tracks: ‘No Way Out But Through’ and ‘This Too Shall Pass.’ Luckily, 16 tracks just isn’t enough, hence 10 (Two): a free digital compilation featuring ten tracks that didn’t make the cut.
Here’s my personal pick of the bunch: ‘The Drunken Lord of Everything,’ from 2005’s grammatically-dodgy Valor del Corazon.
10 is out now on iTunes and in record stores. 10 (Two) is free for download from Bandcamp.
Los Angeles indie rock quartet Warpaint will release their debut album The Fool on October 26, and record label Rough Trade have kindly made the full record available to stream in full via the delightful embedded widget below.
In addition to being a handy excuse to use the word “widget,” The Fool is a genuinely interesting record, running the line from folky indie rock to shimmering post-rock, with electronics and subtle orchestration a fleeting presence.
Warpaint have just finished a run of dates in the United States in support of The xx and will launch their first headlining tour of Europe on Thursday in Dublin, Ireland.
Mere mortals like myself tend to be mesmerised by beatboxers at the best of times, but Los Angeles rapper Red takes it to a whole ‘nother level. This video, filmed when Red was homeless on the streets of LA, shows him in full G-Funk mode, mixing chest percussion, throat bass and insane natural vocoder action in what already ranks as one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
There’s a hint of a commercial tie-in as Red wears a “Just Do It” shirt while dropping rhymes about Nike, but it could as easily be coincidence. The numerous references to Warren G, G-Funk Records and Snoop Dogg, not so much so. Sit back and prepare to just… wow.