It’s not always easy shopping for the music lover in your life. If they’re fanatical enough, they’ve generally already bought themselves the things they’re really dying for. The old fallback of a few records? Who knows what they want? Can’t go wrong with a gift card, I suppose, but what better way to say, “I dunno?” We’re here to help. Here are a few ideas for music-related gifts that might just pleasantly surprise that special, confounding consumer of music. Click photos for links.
1. The Gramovox Floating Vertical Turntable
For a while there, it was tough to find ANY new turntables. But with the resurgence of vinyl over the past 5+ years came the proliferation of turntables. Some of them are crap. The cheap-o portable ones at Target? Crap. There are luckily some good ones available from reputable manufacturers now, very much modeled on the classic turntable, with perhaps a USB connection for ripping digital copies. Then…there’s this. A whole new way to do it. Looks amazing, a piece of art, American made, with built-in speakers, and not that much more expensive than an average, quality record player.
It’s that magical time of year when we get to hear all of our favorite Christmas and holiday classics. In honor of this festive occasion, we decided to review one of the most popular and highly anticipated holiday albums that came out this season, CeeLo’s Magic Moment by R&B singer CeeLo Green.
By now you are probably sick of hearing all the same old carols over and over, but if there’s anyone to breathe new life into these standards it’s CeeLo. As you can imagine, he brings a certain element of class and glamour to each track, while also introducing some fitting originals. However, the first half of the 14-track record is about all you need to get into the Christmas spirit. After that, it gets a bit boring.
Though needless to say, CeeLo has captured this “magic moment” the one way he knows best, with nostalgic soulful 70’s style flair mixed with contemporary pop sensibility. His duet with fellow The Voice judge Christina Aguilera on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is surprisingly reserved and charming, whereas one might have expected the two powerhouse singers to overdo it. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of rifs and runs between the two, but they manage to balance them dynamically with the smokey jazz club vibe.
To continue this feeling, CeeLo follows up with a cover of Donny Hathaway‘s “This Christmas.” With smooth basslines, orchestral brass accents, and subtle strokes of clean guitar , the 70’s homage sounds like it was recored in the same era in which it was written. Of course, this must lead into a smooth downtempo version of “The Christmas Song,” which sounds like it easily could have been the work of R. Kelly. Yet, there’s something uniquely comforting about Green’s voice that makes this track an instant standard for holiday radioplay. In fact, many of these renditions are so respectfully executed that I am sure they will be welcomed into the ever-growing repertoire of iconic holiday classics. With the slick production quality and “sexy” R&B/jazz vibe, I can picture this album being the soundtrack to some high-class New York penthouse Christmas party.
There are plenty of fun tracks for the whole family, though. “All I Need Is Love” is an upbeat original featuring none other than the jolly old Muppets themselves. While the song is a bit awkward, upon listening, you can tell it was clearly made for the video, which is fun and hilarious. Believe it or not, however; the track that follows is probably the most interesting and unusual piece on the record. Green teams up with the all-male a capella group Straight No Chaser for a comically theatrical rendition of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch,” interspersed with excerpts from the original Dr. Seuss text.
This is about where the album reaches its peak. Some of the songs that follow are more obscure, like “River” and the heavily religious “Mary, Did You Know?,” both of which are beautifully performed, but just a little too solemn. Almost too typically, Green tackles Mariah Carrey‘s “All I Want For Christmas,” without straying too much from the original, making for a pretty blasé listen. Of course, not to be short on cameos, Green throws in one last duet with renowned adult contemporary singer Rod Stewart and the famous Trombone Shorty. Still, the impact is not nearly as lasting as the first half of the album. However, he elegantly closes with possibly the best cover on the record. Green’s version of “Silent Night” is soothing and poignant at first, building in dynamics with a marching rhythm, multiple modulations, and an uplifting orchestral and choral arrangement to finish.
Although there are plenty of Christmas albums that come out every year, CeeLo’s Magic Moment strikes just the right balance of fresh and traditional, without being too cheesy. Whether you like it or not, these songs are here to stay and will likely become a regular addition to annual Christmas shopping playlists.
If you like CeeLo Green, then you might also like Ourstage’s own Jasper Sawyer.
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The holidays are a time for friends, family, baked goods, and of course, the release of cover songs from some of your favorite artists past and present. From fun.‘s recent cover of Sleigh Ride all the way back to the days of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, our playlist has a little something for everyone.
Listen to our playlist below and let us know your choices for best holiday cover in the comments.
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Boston posi-core fans, dawn you now your gay apparel, for tonight Glamour Kills clothing company is hosting one of the biggest alternative/pop-punk shows of the season, A Very GK! Holiday Festival. According to the festival Facebook page, the lineup and estimated set times are as follows:
10:15 – END = The Wonder Years
9:30 – 10:00 = A Loss For Words
8:45 – 9:15 = Transit
8:00 – 8:30 = The Dangerous Summer
7:20 – 7:45 = Hit The Lights
6:50 – 7:10 = With The Punches
6:20 – 6:40 = Brian Marquis
5:50 – 6:10 = Hostage Calm
4:50 – 5:10 = State Champs
4:20 – 4:40 = Kid Jerusalem
3:50 – 4:10 = Premiere This is actually the third out of four dates in the U.S. this month. The first one, headlined by Set Your Goals, was on December 2nd in Oakland, CA, and the second was on December 8th in Chicago, IL, headlined by Chiodos. After tonight, the festival will close out the season with one last show this Sunday December 16th in Poughkeepsie, NY. The lineup will be very similar, with Matchbook Romance, Anadivine, A Loss For Words, Hit The Lights, With The Punches, State Champs, The Dangerous Summer, Kid Jerusalem, Young Statues, Brian Marquis, and Class Of 92.
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Indie label No Sleep Records have released the first of a series of compilations just in time for the holiday season. No Sleep till the Holidays contains five songs, four of which are by artists off their roster. Click here to listen now and download the compilation for free! Tracklisting is as follows:
1. Long Lost – “You Can Always Come Home” (Joe B of Transit)
2. Allison Weiss – “December”
3. TS and The Past Haunts – “I Eat You”
4. Major League – “This Holiday”
5. Young Statues – “I Don’t Wanna Know What’s Under Your Tree”
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When describing Christmas in the Sand, Colbie Caillat expressed the desire to make an album for those who don’t live in cold areas and can’t relate to songs about classic wintertime clichés like snow, chilly weather, and huddling around the fireplace. While the album does maintain a generally sunny disposition, it can’t help but feature standards like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and original lyrics in Caillat’s contributions such as “It’s not Christmas / If the snow don’t fall.” Even though Christmas in the Sand is meant to be a Christmas album for those who spend most of their time in the sun or on the beach, it still seems obligated to retread the same ground as past holiday releases. Of course, listeners instinctively understand this, but it is worth noting how Caillat’s motivation for recording the album and the way in which that motivation plays out, at times, incongruously with the original intent, highlights the difficulty inherent in recording a type of album that in its very nature defies innovation. (more…)