November 27, 2015

Holidays with Brassland, Mx. Bond and Misters Bischoff & Lerche

If you spend any length of time in New York City, you'll be familiar with double happiness. Most urbanites learn the phrase from seeing it on a seemingly random assortment of Chinatown store awnings: bars, travel agencies, 99¢ shops, low-cost bodywork outlets, et. al. Traditionally associated as a good tiding in Chinese wedding ceremonies, there is even a character for the concept 囍 which is actually a doubling of a single character 喜 which, in turn, means joy.

Which is our (typically) roundabout way of saying: we wonder if we can make ^^ (double Christmas Trees) a thing?

Which is our still-more roundabout way of saying we have a ^^ surprise for you— new seasonally-appropriate music from both Mx. Justin Vivian Bond and the duo of Jherek Bischoff & Sondre Lerche. Let's jump right into streams of both releases. More specifics after the tunes...

Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff's "Surviving Christmas": for more info click here

Mx. Justin Vivian Bond's Christmas Spells EP: for more info click here

Mx. Bond will also perform at a number of holiday-themed events around North America this December.

03 San Francisco, CA - Second Floor Project Gallery (art show)
03 San Francisco, CA - Warfield ^
05-06 Montreal, Quebec - Maison Symphonique #
13 New York, NY - Town Hall @
16-19 New York, NY - Joe's Pub %
21-23 New York, NY - Joe's Pub %

^ Glide Foundation Annual Holiday Jam
#Rufus & Martha Wainwright's Noel Nights, taped for later broadcast on the CBC
@ with Gay Men's Health Chorus of NYC, sets at 3pm & 8pm
% Christmas show entitled "Angels We Have Heard When High"

Now for that backstory: Around this time last year we commissioned This Is The Kit's cover of "Christmas Time Is Here" and released it exclusively through Amazon. Known to most people as "that song from the Peanuts special," it has been a holiday standard since it debuted as part of the soundtrack to 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas broadcast. It was subsequently released as a bestselling standalone LP by composer/performer Vince Guaraldi.

This Is The Kit covered the song on a bit of a lark, but we were so happy with it, we began to think "Hey, maybe there is something with this whole holiday spirit thing?" And furthermore maybe our label pal Mr. Sufjan Stevens shouldn't have a patent on the December indie jams concept?

So, as the holiday season rolled around—and by that we mean, like June 2015, such is the timetable for releasing records—we began to consider a follow-up. This year we decided to widen the tent a bit, inviting some of our artists' closest collaborators to take part. How better to spread holiday cheer than by inviting friends of our friends into our label home.

Amazon offered to commission yet-another holiday tune from our family, and we were super-honored when Jherek Bischoff and his pal Sondre Lerche offered to write & record a new original. Jherek cites his musical inspiration as "those Christmas songs that are heavy but ultimately joyful and powerful from crooners of the 50's as well as the girl groups of the 60's." When writing the lyrics, though, Sondre looked to the headlines. He recalls: "The ongoing immigration crisis in Europe and Syria was erupting in the most gruesome ways, and I felt both shame and disappointment, both rhetorically and practically, with the way my government was responding the crisis home in Norway. Somehow this became the backdrop for my lyrics, although it could be about any family forced to leave their homes, looking for a future somewhere else, and how the way we greet immigrants, or any homeless person in the street, can mean so much more than we realize."

I think you'll agree that what they came up with—"Surviving Christmas"—is a simple song, projected in a big way, bereft of irony or cynicism. Ok, based on these pictures taken during the recording sessions, maybe Jherek was feeling a teeny bit of irony.

Next, aiming to channel that full-on ^^ feeling, we decided to commission Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman to make some holiday recordings with Mx. Justin Vivian Bond. Thomas had previously produced two full-length records by Mx. Bond, a multi-hyphenate performer we'd admired since we saw Kiki & Herb's Christmas show around the turn of the century. (In that duo, Mx. Bond vividly portrayed a geriatric, thoroughly-soused lounge singer named Kiki DuRane. It was as much a comedy act as it was traditional cabaret, and we can count on one hand the number of times we've laughed that hard in the 15+ years since we witnessed it.)

We were amazed when Doveman & Bond came back to us with an entire 3-song EP worth of tunes. Deciding we should pass on the generosity, we agreed that half of the profits from our Bandcamp edition of the release will go to support the Ali Forney Center's work with homeless LGBTQ youth. During a time of year when the entire Judeo-Christian-capitalist world seems to have shopping on its mind, it's also an apt a time to remember that no one should be without a community that shows them love.

To finish what we started: If ^^ takes off, how exactly should you pronounce it? Well, "double Xmas" rhymes (a bit) better with "double happiness," but we prefer the more secular "double holiday," because the point of all our new songs is to show how warm feelings can be extended to all of humanity, no matter they refugee or transgender or an animated character.

Come to think of it, the Brassland entire roster are animated characters in a way. But we digress, as usual...

Finally, if you're extreme enough to desire a ^^^ you can still get last year's selection by This Is The Kit because holiday songs are evergreen.

Pun intended.

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