Musing, mutterings and music: the blog

The Minor Crime at Christmastime 

Christmas songs. Love them or hate them, it seems like every artist has taken a crack at one, or one too many. And so, year after year, this interesting pile of musical tripe grows and grows.

But it's tough, I think, to write a song on such an artistically rigid theme and still land in the ballpark without being downright annoying. When I hear of bands and artists covering Christmas songs, I can't help but think its a money grab. Then again, why not? Though we can't all be Mariah Carey (who, as of 2017, has reported to have made $60 million on her 1994 song about wanting stuff for Christmas), give the people what they want. Right? 

I'm not sure what ignited my desire for dabbling in this space, though I can confirm it was not about the money. About 10 years ago I challenged myself to write an original song for The Season' and the result was 'The Minor Crime At Christmastime'. After cranking out some humorous-only-to-me lyrics, I recorded a few home demos (cheekily calling one 'Breaking TVs at the dump version'), and one demo even landed on a split 7" on the 51F label.

I went on a run in the ensuing years, writing a few original Christmas songs and even shooting a early-iphone video for a song loosely about mooching an ex's meal plan at University. If you're wondering what audience I was shooting for, well, there wasn't one. Well, maybe outside of my family and friends who incidentally make ridiculous appearances in the video and still (I think) look it up on YouTube every year. It was fun. 

So this year, with my increased interest in the evil beasts that are streaming sites, I took another crack at my Christmas track that got me started messing around in this nutty genre...when I have a whack of better original songs I should probably be spending time on instead. 

I wonder if that's what Mariah thought at the time too? Probably not.

Lyrics:  

I heard you slurring Christmas songs  
To plastic reindeer on the lawn  
But you make angels sing  
With Winter hopes of Spring  
And spirits lifting  

Snowflakes sting inside my eyes  
And I can't sing to save my life  
When its Good King Wenceslas  
And the crime is senseless  
Then I'm not dreaming  

They illuminate my street  
And throw an empty stare at me  
So you say  
Let it slide, let it snow, let it die  
This Christmastime

And while we're at it, here's "I Saw Santa Sliding On A Cafeteria Tray", 1 minute and 33 seconds of pure Christmas magic:

 

Decide to Stay and Swim - Song #5: Whisper Astrologics 

Part of an ongoing series where I revisit 2003's record, Decide To Stay And Swim

I have a very clear memory of this song coming together and playing that part on acoustic guitar in my apartment. I remember wanting to keep the song simple, but slowly build as it went on. 

The lyrics are about a single song during a high school dance. It's an imagined take on the thoughts of two teenagers, struggling to understand the point of holding someone close during those fleeting moments and what it all means; would the dance lead to something more, or simply be a moment, lost in time. 

For the record, the song was 'Drive' by The Cars. 

Lyrics: 

Hold on: I think this song is ending 

So will you drive me home the next 10 years? 

And I wait as we lay down in traffic 

For the sounds with the meanings insincere. 

As you plan for your thoughts with astrologics 

To be sure of the paintings on the moon 

And the smell of your hair these last three minutes 

Spent our eternity too soon.

Here is the original version:

And here is the new acoustic version:

 

 

 

 

 

Decide to Stay and Swim - Song #4: She Floats Like Dizzy Sunshine 

Part of an ongoing series where I revisit 2003's record, Decide To Stay And Swim 

When I write songs, I usually have a few anchor stories in my head to propel me along. I can honestly say I have no recollection of any anecdotes in my life that relate to this song. Almost all of the imagery is made up in this case, which I think is rare for me. 

For the new acoustic version, I've decided to leave out the bridge, as I was never a fan in hindsight. 

For this one, I'll let the lyrics stand on their own: 

Lyrics: 

She floats like dizzy 

Sunshine and empty 

Aerosol containers on the moon. 

Save for wicked sisters 

Vaseline on blisters 

I can't hold a candle to her bloom. 

She's autumn leaves 

And almost drown 

But I know how sweet landlocked sounds 

She's campy queen 

And never wrong 

I guess I'll miss her when she's gone. 

She destroyed the notion 

That caked on suntan lotion's 

The only way to beat the Summertime 

Now she's open pastures 

Silent film disasters 

Getting every word exactly right. 

She's autumn leaves 

And almost drown 

But I know how sweet landlocked sounds 

She's campy queen 

And never wrong 

I guess I'll miss her when she's gone.

 

Here is the original version:

And here is the new, stripped down, acoustic version:

 

 

 

 

Follow my Spotify playlist here:

 

Decide To Stay And Swim - Song #3: AV In The Sunshine, Man 

Part of an ongoing series where I revisit 2003's record, Decide To Stay And Swim 

It has been a long time since I've had this song in the set list, though I used to love playing it live. It was always a treat to dig into that opening riff on an electric guitar and really blast it out, Billy Bragg style.

When I was writing this song, I had just met Andrew Vincent and was starting to get into his music; especially his two brilliant LPs from around this time: "A Short Trip With the Pirates" and "Love The Modern Way" (I wrote about Modern Way for Ottawa Showbox recently). 

As I continued to write it, this song took on a Summer theme and "AV" ended up in the title as both a nod to Andrew, but also as a goofy play on "KC and the Sunshine Band", for whatever reason. Maybe it was the Summer thing propagating in my brain.

I love the instrumental ending of this song. I remember I had a riff idea, similar to the one at the beginning of this track. I envisioned singing a 'la-la-la' to that outro melody. I'm sure I sang it for Dave Draves as you can hear parts of that vocal under the mix. But Draves went above and beyond and built all those counter melodies and harmonies over the line. I love the way it builds and resolves out of a gorgeous climax of sounds. A pretty sweet and hooky moment on this record, I think, and one of my favourites. 

Here is the original where you can hear that intro and outro:

This is the new 2018 take, which is a much more stripped down version:

Spotify and other streaming services start August 28th. In the meantime you can follow me at the links below:

Lyrics: 

I'd trust my instincts too 

If I stared that long at my shoes 

But I’ve got these acres plowed

So we can hang around 

With Summer bleached-hair fads 

And turntables from our Dads 

Well I’ve got my Kelp Records on 

And we’ll engrave a song 

If I ever forget her 

In tank-top sunset blurs 

Will you neglect to call me Tom 

And we’re defusing bombs

New cover song: No More And No Less 

"Lambs to the Slaughter" artwork by meltingplastic

I've been a fan of Rational Youth since I was a teen and No More And No Less has always been a favourite of mine. The song was originally on their 1985 LP 'Heredity'.

I recorded this cover just after I finished the Volume Vs. Voice sessions, so if you're a fan of that record, you'll hear the similarities. It's taken me awhile to put this out, mostly because up until recently, it hasn't been easy to do digital licensing in Canada for an indie artist. I was in touch with Tracy Howe, who wrote the song, and wanted to be sure he got his share of any nickels that roll in as a result of me releasing this. Ha.

Though I chose to do a mellow version of this song, I must admit this track has ALWAYS made me want to sing at the top of my lungs.

I guess it's timely too, because Rational Youth are currently on a cross-Canada tour and play Ottawa this Friday July 27th at House Of Targ

Here's a video of the original song you'd see on Much Music back in the day:

Here's a new Rational Youth version of the song, released in 2014:

You can hear my cover version on Bandcamp here:

 

The track will be up on streaming services soon and I'll be sure to add it to my Spotify playlist here:

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