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Showing posts with label song spotlight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label song spotlight. Show all posts


The Brantley Family Band - "Jingle Bells"

The Brantley Family Band have returned with their ninth annual Christmas album. This year it's just a one song single ("Jingle Bells"), but with good reason - their twin boys Bo and Sam were born on October 11, so they have understandably had their hands a bit full this year. Amazingly, though, Bo and Sam actually play a small but very cute part in the song, which continues the band's tradition of being a diverse and eclectic take on an otherwise familiar song.

You can download "Jingle Bells" and all the rest of their songs at the Brantley Family Band website. If this is your first time hearing about the Brantley Family Band, you can also read what I wrote about them in past years: when I first discovered them, their 2010 album, and their 2011 album.

Finally, if the band happens to read this, let me take this opportunity to say congratulations, Merry Christmas, and thanks once again for all the great music!

Happy listening!



Sofia Talvik - "One Last Wish for Christmas"

Longtime readers of this blog will likely know by now that one of my favourite downloads each year is Sofia Talvik's annual Christmas song. Every year since 2007 (the year this blog was started, coincidentally, although I didn't discover her first Christmas song until my second year), she has released an original, heartfelt, bittersweet, and thought provoking Christmas song. This year's song, "One Last Wish for Christmas" is "a story about love, loss, and afterthought at Christmas." It is heartbreakingly beautiful, and like many of her songs, it stays with me long after I've finished listening to it.

You can download the song using the little widget at the bottom of this post. If, for some reason, that doesn't work, you can get it directly from her website.

Sofia also has a Christmas calendar in the form of an email list, If you sign up for the list, you'll get a daily email with a little gift in it - for example, the first gift was actually this song, and today's gift is a video showing how to make a really neat looking gingerbread house, complete with a printable template. If that sounds like the kind of thing you'd be into, sign up now to get the rest of the gifts delivered straight to your inbox.

Happy listening!



A pair of country Christmas singles (Tim McGraw and Lonestar)

Oh my goodness, are there really only six days left until Christmas?  Time really seems to fly by faster and faster every year.  There was so much that I wanted to post about this year, and I'll try my best to get some more good stuff out before Christmas.  I really hope everyone has found at least something they like here this year - I know I've had more fun writing posts this year than I have in a long time, which is a good thing.

Here are a couple of singles from some popular country artists that you might enjoy:
Happy listening!



Song Spotlight: "Happy Xmas (War is Over)"

Today is the 31st anniversary of John Lennon's death, so I thought it would be appropriate to post some versions of "Happy Xmas (War is Over)", a song which I believe to be an absolute masterpiece and one of the best modern Christmas songs around.  Surprisingly, I didn't already have any new versions of it this year, so I took a few minutes to search Bandcamp and came up with versions from the following artists:
I think my favourite of these is the Itchy Sweaters version, which goes all out with a full band arrangement and background choir.  Others, like IQYSO and Joel David's versions, are a little more raw than most versions.  They're all pretty good, though, and worth a listen if you like the song.  Which one of these is your favourite?

What about this song in general - are there any versions you think that people should hear?  Besides Lennon's original, my two favourite versions are an instrumental version by Japanese guitarist Hotei on the first Merry Axemas album, and Sarah McLachlan's version from her Wintersong album.  I can't share those versions for free, although I'm sure there are plenty of places you can stream them online if you really want to.

Happy Xmas, and happy listening!



Sofia Talvik: "Winter Canon"

Once again, Sofia Talvik has released a free Christmas single (by my count, this is the fifth one), and once again, it has proven to be a very nice surprise.  This year's single is "Winter Canon", and though the AC/DC-ish cover artwork might bring other things to mind, the title comes from the repeated use of canon on many of the vocal phrases.  The musical accompaniment is very minimalist, which makes this a great showcase for Sofia's vocals.

As she does every year, Sofia has chosen to support a charity, and encourages her fans to support it as well.  This year's charity is ActionAid, an organization that "wants a world without poverty, so they work with local people to fight hunger, seek justice for women and education for children, and cope with emergencies."  In order to access the download, you have to "like" both Sofia and ActionAid on Facebook; there is a widget on the single's page that makes it easy to do both of those things, and I have attempted to embed the widget at the end of this post (hopefully it works).

So go support a good cause if you're able to, and enjoy some lovely Christmas music by a very talented artist while you're at it.  Happy listening!



A completely NSFW Christmas song from Brad Sucks & John Benjamin

The masses have spoken: the song will be posted!  In addition to the comments on the post, I received a few emails, and the response was overwhelmingly in favour of posting the song - provided, of course, that I make it quite clear that this is not the type of song you would want to play in most work environments, around kids, or anywhere else you wouldn't expect to hear profanity.  To anyone who would rather not hear this type of song, please know that this is nothing more than a blip on the radar - it's not the type of Christmas song I normally gravitate towards, and the chances of anything like this ever appearing on the blog again are extremely low.  In other words, please stick around, as we'll be back to more typical Christmas music (well, as typical as it gets on this blog, anyway) very shortly!

Anyway, here's "F*** You, Motherf***** (It's Christmas)" as performed by Brad Sucks & John Benjamin.  I think it's an insanely catchy song, which is the whole reason I wanted to post it here in the first place.  I've always loved the style that Brad Sucks has crafted for himself, and it's on fine display in this song.  As a bonus, there's also a link to the original version of the song by John Benjamin, which is more bare bones than the version with Brad Sucks.  Let me know if you prefer one version over the other, or what you think of the song in general, in the comments.

Happy listening (and remember, completely unsafe for work)!



Joel Rakes - "Wonderful Christmastime"

Well, it appears that my plan has fallen apart faster than you can say "Christmas vacation".  I've barely had time to listen to any music at all in the last few days, let alone write about it.  Rather than worry about it, though, I'm just going to enjoy my vacation with my family and get a few more posts up here if I get a chance.  I listened to a lot of Christmas music in the last month or so, and I'd love to share as much of it as I possibly can, so any remaining posts will likely be collections of links with brief notes about the music.  

First, though, I'd like to talk about latest song from Joel Rakes.  The penultimate track on this year's edition of festive.mood.inducing.music has been released, and it is a fun cover of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime".  The vocals are heavily Auto-Tuned, something I normally can't stand, but it works in a fun song like this (in fact, Joel himself seems to feel the same way).

There's still one more song to be released for this EP, and it will be coming out on Christmas Eve.  Although he hasn't been strictly using the results of his poll to determine the track list thus far, the top choice ended up being "more joel rakes original christmas songs".  We haven't had any original songs from him yet this year, so it's probably a good bet that the final song will be an original; no matter what, though, I'm really looking forward to it.  Happy listening!



Chanticleer - "Noël Nouvelet" [12 Days of HMVDigital #8]

Today's free download from HMVDigital is Chanticleer's "Noël Nouvelet".  Once again, I am completely unfamiliar with this artist (according to their website, they are the top male a cappella chorus in the world), but it's still a very beautiful song and is definitely worth a download.  Happy listening!



Julian Casablancas - "Christmas Treat" [12 Days of HMVDigital #7]

Today's free download from HMVDigital is Julian Casablancas' "Christmas Treat" (actually, I believe the song is called "I Wish it was Christmas Today", as that's what the cover art says, as well as what he sings in the chorus).  This one caught me totally off guard as it's an artist that I've never heard of before, but the song totally rocks!  It has a bit of a new wave or power pop feel to it and is unbelievably catchy.  I think this may be my favourite of all of the songs released by HMVDigital so far.

Further investigation (okay, I clicked on the artist's name on the download page) reveals that Casablancas is the lead singer/songwriter for The Strokes, a band that I am obviously not familiar with if I didn't even recognize his name.  If you're a fan of The Strokes, I'm sure you will love this song; even if you're not a fan of them, you may still love this song.  There's really only one way to find out, and (today, at least) it won't cost you a thing.  Happy listening!



Barking Classics - "12 Days of Christmas" [12 Days of HMVDigital #6]

Today's free song from HMVDigital is Barking Classics' "12 Days of Christmas".


At least it's free.  Honestly, that's about all I have to say about this one.  I might play this for my kids later and see if it gets a laugh out of them, though.  I also might try to recreate it in Mario Paint if I can convince my Super Nintendo to work for a little while.  Happy listening!



Twisted Sister - "O Come All Ye Faithful" [12 Days of HMVDigital #5]

Today's free download from HMVDigital is Twisted Sister's version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" from A Twisted Christmas, which was released in 2006.  If the arrangement sounds a little familiar, it's because you've probably heard it before as "We're Not Gonna Take It", which itself was inspired by this very song.  It's not an exact match, but it's very close.  Listen to the harmonized guitar solos to hear just how close - one of them plays the traditional melody, and the other one is the same as the solo in "We're Not Gonna Take It".  It's a very playful arrangement, and it sounds like the band must have had a ton of fun creating it; it's certainly a lot of fun to listen to.  Happy listening!



Joel Rakes - "O Holy Night"

The third song on Joel Rakes' festive​​.​​mood​​.​​inducing​.​music​​.​​vol​​.​​5, "O Holy Night", was just released today.  This is a really nice, mellow version of the song, consisting of a quiet guitar riff, vocals, and a cello.  I'm not used to this song sounding so quiet, so I think it really stands out as a very beautiful version.

I also found out that Joel has been writing what he calls "behind the song" posts on his blog, in which he shares details of how each song was arranged, produced, and recorded.  I love reading this kind of stuff (in much the same way that I enjoy watching all the behind-the-scenes extras on a DVD), so I think it's pretty awesome that he's sharing this information with those who enjoy "nerd-ing out" about it (as his email to me said).  Happy listening!


Mariah Carey - "The First Noel/Born Is The King Interlude" [12 Days of HMVDigital #4]

One of the things that I love most about free Christmas music is that it gets me listening to artists that I would otherwise not even bother with.  Case in point: Mariah Carey, whose "The First Noel/Born Is The King Interlude" (from her recently released, and cleverly titled, Merry Christmas II You) is today's free download from HMVDigital.  It's not my favourite version of "The First Noel", but it's still quite nice, and I really like the brief interlude section that's tagged on to the end of the song.

Any guesses as to what else will be coming our way from HMV this month?  I'd love to see Lady Gaga's "Christmas Tree" given away, since there was such a huge deal made about it last year when Amazon gave it away for free; other than that, though, I'm just sitting back and enjoying this unexpected windfall of Christmas music.  Happy listening!



Josiah James - "Heaven Came Down"

It seems to have become a trend at this point: it's Saturday, I've been busy, and a single song is about all I have time to write about.  However, this is a song I've wanted to post about since the first time I heard it; I was just waiting for the right time.  This morning I woke up with the song stuck in my head, and it has stayed there all day, so I believe this is the right time.

"Heaven Came Down" is an original Christmas song written by Josiah James and released just under a month ago; it is free for anyone who signs up for his mailing list.  The song is written and performed absolutely beautifully, starting with simple strummed guitar chords, piano, and vocals, and gradually adding drums, strings, electric guitar, layered vocals, and hand claps.  The sound continues to build for the duration of the song, until it abruptly stops and fades out quietly with a Joshua Tree-like electric guitar sound.  James has a great voice as well, sounding a bit like Chris Martin and Bono at times.  Happy listening!



"Vive le Vent" [12 Days of HMVDigital #3]

Since it appears that the 12 Days of HMVDigital MP3s previously mentioned in this space are available to more than just Canadians, I thought it might be a good idea to put up a quick post about each song as it becomes available.  I thought about doing that yesterday, when Sheryl Crow's "O Holy Night" was the free download, but I figured that there would only be a few hours left to download the song by the time I posted about it; it turns out, though, that the downloads have been changing over closer to midday EST, so there would have been ample time for anyone interested to grab the track.  Oh well, live and learn!

Today's download is "Vive le Vent" as performed by Les petits chanteurs d'Aix en Provence, Santa Claus Light Orchestra.  "Vive le Vent" is a French song that uses the same music as "Jingle Bells".  This is a cute version of the song sung by a children's choir.

I have to say, these downloads have been a very nice surprise so far.  I'm impressed with the variety shown in the first three songs, and I'm really looking forward to what is to come.  Happy listening!



Bayside - "Angels We Have Heard on High"

Short post tonight - 'twas my birthday and I didn't have time to listen to or write anything.  Fortunately, though, I've been staying ahead of the game and have listened to tons of music and made notes on much of it, so I can put together a few posts pretty quickly.

Bayside have made their version of  "Angels We Have Heard on High" available for free to anyone who signs up for their newsletter.  Actually, you don't technically need to subscribe to anything, as the download link appears after you hit the submit button, while you only get a confirmation email in your inbox; however, I tend to give bands the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this and subscribe anyway.  I get free music, and I also get to learn a little more about the band from their emails - that's a win-win situation in my book.  The track is a really excellent rock version with muscular drumming and guitar riffs, and also some brief harmonized guitar licks.  This is a band I might like to know more about, so I'm actually looking forward to seeing what shows up from them in my inbox.  Happy listening!



Sofia Talvik - "Santa"

For the past couple of years, one of my favourite downloads has been Sofia Talvik's annual free Christmas single.  This year's single, "Santa (can you bring me someone else this year)", was just released today, and it's every bit as good as I expected it to be (which is a relief, because I often worry when my expectations get too high for something).

Musically, "Santa" is a fun, synthesizer-based pop song that would not sound out of place on a mid-80s Madonna album.  Lyrically, as I have come to expect from Sofia, it is not so fun and lighthearted; the line "Christmas time, the hardest time, the best of times" really says it all.   It's easy to picture the narrator decorating a Christmas and trying to smile through her tears, all the while hoping for someone to come along to "make [her] laugh and spin [her] 'round and dry [her] tears."  If you're a fan of songs like "Last Christmas", this song is a must hear.

It's possible that you have to become a fan of Sofia's on Facebook to access the download; I'm already a fan of hers, so the link was active for me as soon as the page loaded.  Also, anyone who downloads the song is encouraged (but not required) to support The Body Shop and ECPAT’s world-wide campaign “Stop Sex Trafficking”; The Body Shop's website has a petition that can be signed, as well as information about a number of other ways to support the campaign.  Happy listening!



Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "Dream Child (New 2010 Version) (U.S. only)

Full disclosure: I feel rather conflicted about writing this post, because the download is only available in the United States.  Being Canadian myself, and thus unable to access the download, I completely understand if anyone feels slighted in any way.  However, it is a weekend, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a proper post up today, so this will have to suffice for now.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra have rerecorded "Dream Child", a song from their 1998 album The Christmas Attic.  This version of the song features Tim Hockenberry, who sang "Believe" on last year's Night Castle, on vocals.  I really love the vocals on "Believe", so I really wish I could hear what he has done with "Dream Child".   If anyone who reads this manages to download the song, please leave a comment letting the rest of the world what we're missing out on. :)  Happy listening!


P.S. David has posted a free Christmas download over at Feedback, but you may need to act fast, as he believes it will only be available for four days.  Keep an eye on his blog, as he's planning to put up more free Christmas downloads on the four Fridays leading up to Christmas, and his excellent taste in music means that they will all be worth checking out.


Sean Wright - "Child Within"

"Child Within" is a new, original Christmas single by Sean Wright.  I love hearing original Christmas songs, and this one is very well done.  It starts off with acoustic guitar and vocals and gradually builds in intensity until the final chorus, when it explodes with a rocking drum beat amidst the repeated cries of "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah -- let the child within rejoice, let the child within be free."  It's a really difficult song to categorize, and that is probably where a lot of its appeal lies - it really has its own unique sound.

The second song on this release (the B-side, if you will), is a nice live version of "Silent Night" done on acoustic guitar and vocals.  I would really love to hear more Christmas songs from this artist, both traditional and original.  Until that happens, though, these two songs should make a great addition to your Christmas music collection.  Happy listening!



Auld Lang Syne 2009

Another year over, and a new one about to begin.  A new decade, in fact.  I find it hard to believe how fast time has been passing.  It certainly doesn't feel like it was ten years ago that I was sitting home with my parents watching a "top 1000 videos of the millennium" countdown on CMT (yes, the top 1000 videos of the previous 1000 years, even though television itself had only been around for a very tiny fraction of that time - I guess everyone had to get in on the millennium hype!).  My life has changed immeasurably in that time (for the better, by far), and I'm really looking forward to what the next ten years (and beyond) will bring.
One thing that definitely hasn't changed, though, is my love of music.  That is what keeps me blogging about music, and I'm always glad to hear from people who appreciate the music I post about.  Thank you for reading this blog for yet another year, and I'll see you again sometime next November (of course, you are more than welcome to check out Totally Free Music for some excellent non-Christmas music throughout the year; as always, I have no idea which direction that blog will take, but it is sure to be an exciting one).
Before signing off for the year, though, I'd like to point you to the new versions of "Auld Lang Syne" I came across this year, just as I have done for the previous two years.  Most of these versions were just included on Christmas albums that I downloaded, but I also took a quick look around for a few other versions this year, which is something I never did before.
First up is J.E.L.L.i.'s  "Happy New Year" from A Jolly J.E.L.L.i. Christmas (which I already covered in my Christmas Day post).  After a countdown, complete with party sounds, and a brief acoustic prelude, the song kicks into high gear with a truly rocking arrangement.  It's barely more than a minute long, but anyone who loves instrumental guitar rock should definitely check it out.
Another version that I already covered this year comes from Corbin Watkins' Incarnation album.  It is the second half of the medley "Do You See?/Auld Lang Syne", and it is one of the quietest, most minimal versions of this song I have ever heard.  Very nice for quietly contemplating the end of the year.
The last version that I came across during my normal Christmas music search this year is on the Lawrence compilation The More the Merrier Christmas.  Sam Billen, who organized the compilation, closes the album with a very laid back version of "Auld Lang Syne", which features some beautiful vocal harmonies.
A quick Twitter search turned up a few more versions, including a punk version from MxPx, a fun dance mix from DJ Josh Fernandez, a beautiful mellow version from electro-pop duo Measure, and a great country version from Vandaveer that starts as a duet but builds up into a full singalong in the second half.  As I've mentioned before, this is the first time I've ever gone looking specifically for this song (a sure sign that it's really becoming a favourite of mine), and I'm glad I did, as there are some excellent versions to be found there.  
And that's it.  Whatever you decide to do tonight, I hope you have a safe and happy end to 2009, and that 2010 will bring you everything you want and need.  I just can't wait to start saying "twenty ten" - I'm tired of pronouncing years starting with "two thousand". ;)  In all seriousness, though, this has been a really trying year for my family and me, and I'm hoping that the symbolic turning of the calendar will end up being a real turning point for us.  Happy New Year!