And to think, its almost Christmas…

a0024741739_16So we’re getting ever closer to wrapping up 2017, but first we welcome in the night where the guy with the red suit and all the reindeer has the world’s children in baited breath waiting for the 25th to come.

Of course, once you get to be an adult you realize there’s a lot more to it than that, but I think the best thing we can hope for is that when the meals are made and the people are together that it was worth the trip. And if I can pass along any advice when it comes to wandering through that minefield of decisions, its this: always make the days this time of year as worthwhile as you can. We only get so many, and with it being a very uncertain time in the world these days I think its all the more critical to appreciate everything that’s important to you.

Because you deserve it. Yes, you reading this. Just be sure to pay it forward where you can too, cause that… that feels pretty nice.

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But anyway, because this is a music site lets get back on topic and wrap up a few quick notes as we start to think about a new year.

  • Coming up next week, I’m very much looking forward to posting a music-themed collaboration from my day job on the radio that ties perfectly into something I like doing to close up a year in music. There’ll be five installments starting the day after Christmas, and I’ll explain more when it launches!
  • I’ve got a couple of really special reviews coming up soon as we transition to 2018. Both are still just a work in progress right now but there’s gonna be a lot of great elements as well as another audio interview in the mix. Everything is certainly subject to change, but I hope to get those out as I envision in my mind.
  • And as ever, I’m hoping to post here as much as I can and get out content every chance possible as we get into 2018, but I still don’t see a point coming where I can be consistent right now. Just a lot of busy going on everywhere, but regardless its going to be a lot of fun to chime in as much as I can!

Now lastly, while I could close this post by recommending Christmas-themed music choices ranging from Bruce Springsteen doing “Merry Christmas Baby” to John Lennon singing “Merry Xmas (War Is Over)”, I’m going to go with something a bit more recent. New York City product Megan Talay won a lot of praise from me this year for the snarling Joan Jett girl-rock sound of her latest EP, and with that formula in mind she went in the studio and recorded an original Christmas song that fits the mold just as well.

Now this is a song with a few curse words, so I will preface it with the NSFW label. But otherwise, get ready to dig in here.

And happy holidays everyone!

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Let It Snow, And Stay Inside Instead With Milky White’s “Christmas”

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It’s that time, Christmas time is here, everybody knows there’s not a better time of year…

So go the first two lines of the timeless Mavis Staples song “Christmas Vacation”, penned specifically back in 1989 for the Chevy Chase National Lampoon’s film of the same name. And while the truth level of such a lyric might be up for some contested debate (even though it is a classic song to a classic John Hughes favorite, FYI), it is indeed Christmas time once again and inevitably it’s time to hear songs about it everywhere.

The checkout at the supermarket, the aisles of Any Department Store USA… basically anywhere that has a roof and a working radio puts you at risk of getting a hearty dosage of holiday cheer courtesy of Gene Autry and Burl Ives. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that, but even after just my 25 years of life I’m ready to look for something new. Something… that doesn’t have that feeling of mainstream radio repetition lurking in the background.

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Luckily, if you’ve been reading OTBEOTB lately you may have noticed my last post featured an interview with Mikey Bar-Lavi, lead singer of the band Milky White. If you haven’t perused it yet I’ll give you a moment to back up and join the rest of the class (it’s highly worth the read), but to give you the basic cliff notes version in early December Mikey and his band were on the cusp of releasing a Christmas EP for charity entitled A Milky White Christmas. Along with several benefit shows all proceeds from the EP were going to a fantastic charity for sick 9/11 first responders called the FealGood Foundation, and all in all it was a wonderful story I was honored to cover with Mikey. Especially with the controversy that came along later involving the Zadroga Act and the US government’s inexcusable slowness in passing long term healthcare for these aforementioned first responders.

But that aside, a little over a week ago now Milky White released A Milky White Christmas into the world, and while it is an EP in every essence of the word (clocking in at three songs and under ten minutes)… I don’t think the band could have been drawn it up any better.

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Leading off with the lightly feedback-drenched simplicity of “Let It Snow”, Bar Lavi’s voice immediately plays attention captor with his Conor Oberst croon settling comfortably amidst lightly jazzy Tony Bennett-isms and imagery that puts you right in front of the fire next to the popcorn. It’s a rosy red sway of a track that’s at once fresh while still playing homage to the warmth of what good Christmas music is all about.

“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” immediately takes that warmth and ease and plays with it outside it’s comfort zone in a psychedelic mini-intro before launching into that more familiarized Brian Setzer twang-a-long shuffle. It’s a moment that’s a bit more peyote than pumpkin pie, but welcomed as a sort of…. non-traditional egg frying on an LA County sidewalk before the frostbite sets in.

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And “Baby It’s Cold Outside” makes for a fine closer as Bar-Lavi is joined on the duet by the vocal talents of Veronika Jokel. The two pair off well as Jokel’s nuanced tempo is a fitting swing partner to Bar-Lavi’s moon eyed-sounding innocence on the track. It’s almost Ben Gibbard-like in it’s simple charm while still keeping the often-questioned seduction of the song’s lyrics largely in place. Add in a little prairie cowboy harmonica and brushed in drum lines, and you have a song that keeps true to it’s jazz roots while toning down the often excessive grandeur used in many covers in the past.

And really all in all, if I could go back to a phrase I just used to describe this EP it would be simple charm. None of the arrangements here try to do too much other than highlight the appeal of these songs, while adding new spins and elements that don’t just make each track a note-for-note redo.

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It’s a highly welcome change from business as usual Christmas music. So if you’re looking to shake up your holiday playlist, make those Christmas family gatherings today just a little more interesting (AKA bearable) all while donating to a wonderful cause, look no further than Milky White and A Milky White Christmas. It still may not prove Mavis Staples right, but it’ll certainly please your listening ears.

For more about the FealGood Foundation, visit the link below: 

http://fealgoodfoundation.com/

And for more about Milky White, you can follow them here:

If you’re in NYC be sure to catch them at the Bitter End tomorrow night for their last show of 2015! And buy A Milky White Christmas here: 

milkywhite1.bandcamp.com

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Happy Holidays everybody, from me here at OTBEOTB to you and yours!