Free Download: Hill & Hale and their Merry Friends – Christmastime

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Traditions should not be taken lightly. Especially in many parts of Europe there’s some sort of cultural rift. Many people value the local centuries-old Christmas customs and those people are not very fond of the North American way of celebrating the holidays. They can’t stand the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, they prefer reindeers on the dinner plate rather than watching them pulling Santas sleigh. Here in Germany people don’t need mistletoes to start smooching. But because of Hollywood and Bublé and all the  American companies which are operating globally, Christmas traditions over here have changed gradually over the past 50 years. There are a lot of folks who embrace it though. You might love it or hate it! The one thing I don’t like about American Xmas style must be the omnipresent kitsch. I prefer the sentimental, festive but never exuberant character of Christmas. And that’s the reason why I don’t recommend drippy soulful Christmas tunes on this blog. But there are fine exceptions. Hill & Hale and their Merry Friends for example have made an upbeat album called Christmastime that mixes swing, big band sound, soul and pop. It’s sometimes jaunty, sometimes touching and it certainly knows how to spread holiday vibes. Dwan Hill and Missi Hale have made this record for their friends and family and because of this unstrained approach the whole thing never gets gooey. The result ist an American Christmas no one here in Germany needs to be suspicious of. Traditions should not be taken lightly, but sometimes it’s worth to take a look across the pond.

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Free Mp3: Judy K – X-Mas Song (Longing For New Year) (feat. Leo Bothén)

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This is the time during the Christmas season when my girlfriend and co-blogger DifferentStars usually raises the eyebrow and makes an inquiry about my progress of working through our Xmas music list. There’s always a track we somehow forget to mention. It’s usually my fault. Well, not this year! That’s why I promptly want to recommend you Judy K feat. Leo Bothén with their quite unhappy track X-Mas Song (Longing For New Year). It’s the kind of song which doesn’t come to terms with Christmas. There’s a sadness in this indie-pop ballad. Not taking part in the Christmas idyll leads to sighs and sorrows. The Swedish Singer-Songwriter Judy K creates a setting where all the Christmas joy and all the happy faces evoke tears and annoyance. So if you tend to count the days until New Year’s Eve, you will like this gentle anti-Christmas track! (via Stubby’s House of Christmas)

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Free Download: A Christmas Card from James Apollo

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Christmas is just around the corner. So we better hurry to make sure we mention all the good Xmas tunes that’ve been released. James Apollo for example is someone we definitely enjoyed this Christmas season. His song Trim Another Tree is very delightful, it reminds of the good old and stylish fifties with a hint of Nick Cave. So if you don’t like modern indie Xmas tunes, if you are fed up with Michael Bublé’s sugar-coating Christmas standards, you might like this particular track. Apollo even offers a second song, Ho Ho, Ho Hum. Popmatters described the mood of the whole single A Christmas Card from James Apollo very fittingly: „Grab a scotch, light up a cigar, and cozy yourself in the corner booth: James Apollo’s „Ho Ho, Ho Hum“ is the kind of holiday tune best suited for a ’50s noir bar.“. Both tracks provide us with a special kind of Christmas nostalgia. Trust me, you want to check them out! (via Christmas a Go Go)

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Stream: Danke – Natale al mare

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Natale al mare means „Christmas at the sea“. I bet you didn’t see that coming, me neither. Italo pop for Christmas. We’ve seen (and heard) a lot during Christmas time but never expected such a surprising Christmas single. Sadly I don’t speak Italian, not sure how christmassy the lyrics are, but there are santa hats in the video and hot chics of course, it’s Italo pop after all. Funny enough Danke means „Thank you“ in German. It’s probably one of the artist names you can’t find with Google if you are surfing through the web. I love the party atmosphere of the song, it’s definitely one of the most positive Christmas tracks this year. I’d love to see this song added to a lot of Christmas mixes. Lots of confused and amused Christmas music lover faces will be your reward. (Don’t forget to take photos of the surprised listeners). Enjoy!Read more: Stream: Danke – Natale al mare

Free Mp3: Del Bel – Christmas in Prison

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They are from the Canadian province Ontario and they seem destined to contribute the title track for the new Bond movie or any dark and stylish film you can imagine. They even describe their musical style as „cinematic/ film score with vocals“. In My Solitude, a song from their upcoming sophomore album, reminds me of the golden age of British grandeur. I’m looking at you, Shirley Bassey! This track offers panache, there’s plenty of drama, there’s chic anguish. If you haven’t heard of Del Bel before, you better check them out immediately. I’m bloody serious. I admit that it might be hard to stop listening to In My Solitude over and over again, but if you do so, you may like Del Bel’s rendition of John Prine’s Christmas in Prison. The song’s an outlaw classic and there are some fine cover versions of this particular track out there, but Del Bel transform it into an opera of desire and hopelessness. It’s available for free on Bandcamp. So I guess we all agree that Del Bel are definitely among the ones to watch for 2015! (via Nicorola)

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Free Mp3: Sam Halliday – Christmas Joy

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Seems guitar players do it better, at least when it comes to Christmas songs. One of my favourites this year is Sickly Sweet Holiday from Panic! At The Disco’s Dallon Weekes. Here’s another highlight: Christmas Joy from Sam Halliday, guitar player of Two Door Cinema Club. I must admit, I had to google him, I am really bad with names and hardly ever remember the names of the front singers. The first thing that came up on Google: „Two Door Cinema Club star Sam Halliday is homeless“, Read more: Free Mp3: Sam Halliday – Christmas Joy

Free Download: Sleep Thieves – November Christmas

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This Christmastime we’ve listened to a great variety of folk tunes. We’ve enjoyed singer-songwriter pop and some happy retro style tracks. That’s fine with me! Nevertheless I’m a bit excited that today I’ve a new genre addition to our annual Xmas special. If you are into new wave, if you love synth pop with a whispering and mysterious voice, you have to listen to the Sleep Thieves. The trio from Dublin gives away the fabulous song November Christmas. Our blogger friend from Christmas Underground describes the magic of this track very, very well: „The song’s verses trudge along with a deep synth bass, a flutter of melody and a beat you could set your watch to. So, when the tone lifts and the chorus swings in, it pushes you up just enough to pop your head above the water. It really is a great chorus, and worth the wait.“ I totally agree and I’ve already entered the band in my notebook. As soon as Christmas season is over I will definitely check out the album You Want The Night, which has been released earlier this year. You better follow my lead!

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Free Mp3: Roses and Revolutions – It’s Christmas Time

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As you might know, we are indie snobs. We do neclect almost everything that sounds „radio friendly“. Our mission is finding Christmas songs that don’t sound like typical Christmas songs. And now there’s It’s Christmas Time, a track that could easily entertain huge shopping malls and be the new choose-your-own-brand TV advert song. And I like it. Roses and Revolution make beautiful countryesque mainstream pop. With such lyrics: „The snow, the snow looks lovely as I kiss it off your nose/I love the feeling that no one can hear us.” the song would make the perfect soundtrack for a romantic comedy.

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Free Download: A polaroid for Christmas 2014

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We’ve mentioned it in the past and we definitely want to recommend it again. Each December an Italian music blog called polaroid offers a compilation with indie songs for the holidays. A polaroid for Christmas 2014 once again is as indie as Xmas can be. The Flying Vaginas deliver a garage cover of Santa Bring Me A Dinosaur, Barbados accounts for a lo-fi indie folk tune called The Fall, Skelets On Me charm with a daydreaming contemplation of John Lennon’s Love, Osc2x adds weird electropop to the mix (Dreaming Of A Wild Christmas). This collection consists mainly of Italian artists and proves that there’s a vivid indie scene in the south of Europe. Too bad there’s only one track in Italian! In fact A polaroid for Christmas 2014 celebrates the indie spirit with a bit Christmassy flavour. Trust me, you don’t need to be a Christmas music enthusiast to dig this compilation!

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Free Compilation: The Line Of Best Fit – Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada #6

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It’s here, finally, Ho! Ho! Canada VI. It’s one of the two big gifts we do get every year. The Line Of Best Fit never fails to offer some extraordinary Christmas songs. This year I am really pleased by Last Winter (The Burning Hell) from Great Lake Swimmers mastermind Tony Dekker. Some of you might know that we are great fans of the Great Lake Swimmers, in 2011 they contributed the beautiful Gonna Make It Through The Night to Ho! Ho! Canada III. Another highlight of this year’s holiday sampler is Chic Gamine’s Noel (au Coin De Portage Et Main). For some reason I love French christmas songs. There are many other amazing tracks on this compilation. It’s kind of overwhelming.Read more: Free Compilation: The Line Of Best Fit – Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada #6