Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Ten Best Christmas Songs of Alltime

…heh heh heh…

 

10. Linda Draper – Merry Christmas

The New York acoustic rock siren is typically pensive and hardly festive here: play this one early Xmas morning, hungover. Merry Xmas, not.

 

9.  The Pretenders – 2000 Miles

A reader suggestion, thanks for this! The link is a nice live version on youtube.  

 

8. The Reducers – Nothing for Christmas

Bet these Connecticut mod punks never realized how prescient this snide holiday tune would turn out to be when they originally released it as a vinyl single in 1988. Still available on the excellent Reducers Redux compilation from 1991.

 

7. Stiff Little Fingers – White Christmas

The alltime best version – maybe the only good version – of the bestselling song of alltime, classic funny irreverent punk rock, 1978 style.

 

6. Ninth House – You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Back when they were an artsy, Joy Divisionesque band, the New York rockers used to have a great time with this one no matter what the time of year. Never officially released, although there are several excellent bootleg versions kicking around, particularly from Arlene Grocery circa 2000.

 

5.  Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

Spot-on. Words cannot describe. The youtube link above is a priceless live version.

 

4.  The Pogues – Fairytale of New York

Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl play dysfunctional drunken couple, trading insults and invective in perfect holiday style. This link’s a live version too.

 

3. Amy Allison – Drinking Thru Xmas

If this song isn’t universal, you find one that is. “Twelve shots of liquor lined up on the bar/You’ve got all my money and the keys to the car.” It’s vintage Amy. Nice to see the song up on her myspace again.

 

2. Florence Dore – Christmas

Although first recorded by the Posies in the mid-90s, Dore wrote it, and it’s her version from her lone 2002 cd Perfect City that really provides the chills. Xmas may not be suicide season, but this one makes it seem like it is.

 

 

1. Olivier Messiaen – The Birth of Our Lord

As we’ve noted here before, this piece isn’t titled The Birth of Christ. The great composer always put his Catholicism front and center…but maybe he was working for the other team? Nothing but brooding and hellfire in this macabre multi-part suite. The link above is a youtube clip from one of its quieter sections.

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December 16, 2008 Posted by | Music, snark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Victrola and Redhooker at Galapagos, Brooklyn NY 12/12/08

A night of rich, lush instrumentals. To try to pigeonhole all-female quintet Victrola or the evening’s headliner, Redhooker as classical, or minimalist, or downtempo wouldn’t do justice to either group’s quietly adventurous sensibility, although each utilizes elements of all three. One comparison might be American composer Leo Sowerby, who sixty years ago moved effortlessly between pop, jazz and the organ music for which he’s best known. Or Astor Piazzolla, if only in spirit. Esthetically both units are far more Romantic than Modernist, unabashedly favoring melody and emotion over any intellectual contrivance.

 

With violin, clarinet, two keyboards and upright bass, Victrola (now known as Victoire) reminded somewhat of Sigur Ros transported to a vastly warmer climate, maybe the Mediterranean. The thoughtfulness and imagination of their set foreshadowed what was to come with Redhooker, which isn’t surprising considering that they credit that group as an influence. Keyboardist Missy Mazzoli’s compositions are generally plaintive and often circular, catchy motifs rising and falling out of the mix and then returning to claim their turf, sometimes triumphantly as with the first song of the set which built at the last second to a rousing, noisy ending. Their second piece worked the idea in reverse, violin and clarinet shifting from providing rhythm to atmospheric washes of sound. Their most melodically interesting piece moved along steadily on a jaunty 4/4 beat, with just enough drama over a single, repetitive, minimalist electric piano motif to remind of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. Their last song was an ensemble piece with a big crescendo, one of the keyboardists holding it aloft with a roaring, fiery pipe organ setting.

 

An ever-changing cast led by brilliantly terse electric guitarist/composer Stephen Griesgraber, Redhooker tonight also featured violin, viola and bass clarinet. As another pioneering guitarist (Chuck Berry) was known to do on occasion, Griesgraber is fond of piano voicings, a technique that works like a charm in this outfit. Their first piece began with the guitar playing a piano riff against pensive violin washes and plucked viola, stately, haunting and so hypnotic that it took extra concentration to figure out who was playing what. Their second song featured (new and as yet untitled, Griesgraber told the crowd) was slow, sparse and almost baroque with all the tradeoffs between guitar and strings. A long, trance-inducing, absolutely psychedelic noise jam followed, a melody finally emerging after several minutes with an insistent four-note phrase slowly pulsing, the strings continuing to flutter. Their fifth and final song without words was all rich, lush beauty, vividly pensive fingerpicked guitar shining through the mist of the strings as the bass clarinet played a casual, matter-of-fact bassline. The crowd wanted more but didn’t get it, which was too bad because Griesgraber’s melodies are terrifically suited for improvisation, and the crew he had with him seemed like they’d be more than up to the task of stretching out and taking them to all sorts of new and unexpected places.

 

Sandwiched between the two bands were Twi the Humble Feather, whose overlong set drew in listeners with their warmly strummed guitars, their pseudo-operatic vocals pushing back in the opposite direction with far greater force.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, review | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 12/16/08

If you’re going out this week and wonder where our constantly updated NYC live music calendar went, it’s here. In the meantime our top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Tuesday’s is #589:

Paula Carino – Grace Before Movie

Her beautifully calm, stoic vocals sailing over the song’s bouncing rockabilly beat, New York underground rock siren Carino relates one of her characteristically lyrical, richly allusive tales. In this sardonic yet heartwrenching account of loneliness and alienation, a woman sits alone in a theatre, watching the sad story of a life that might be hers. Unreleased, and the bootleg versions that exist haven’t made their way to the file-sharing sites. Although it’s a big audience hit and a staple of her live show. 

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , | Leave a comment