Do You Know It’s Christmas Time?
glamglare newsletter #25: get ready for holiday music
Have you already heard your first holiday playlist, perhaps over a store’s PA while shopping? Did you feel a joyful anticipation, or did you roll your eyes and wish it would be over as quickly as possible? I hope the former because the holidays are here and they will last at least until the end of the year whether you like it or not.
Growing up in Germany in the 80s, there was no holiday music. Instead, there were Christmas songs (Weihnachtslieder) – “Silent Night” is maybe the only internationally known one – mostly reserved for the holiday proper. Recorded Christmas music was typically a children’s choir singing in a church.
I remember hearing “White Christmas” for the first time in the car while driving to my grandparents for the holidays. I liked it, but my dead scoffed - pop music did not belong to the season. Even obvious Christmas songs like “Last Christmas” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time” were more seen as pop stars cashing in (for charity in the latter case).
In the 90s, this changed when Elke and I bought a compilation CD called “Rock Christmas.” While it did not contain much rock aside from Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody,” it pretty much offered the entire American holiday songbook. My favorite is Alexander O’Neal’s version of the “Christmas Song,” which instantly gets me in the mood.
Interestingly all holiday music is dated these days. Artists still do new holiday songs - originals and covers of old favorites – but nothing really seems to stick like “Last Christmas” or “All I Want For Christmas.” But, of course, that may be in the nature of the season, which includes more nostalgia for the childhood days the older one gets.
However, we would not be glamglare if we gave in to that! So it’s time to dust off our holiday playlist and add some new sparkle. Over the following weeks, we’ll look for new irony-free holiday songs that brighten the season. So please give it a spin when you need a palate cleanser after too many holiday standards, and let us know about your personal favorite.
Song Pick of the Day
Listen to all our daily song picks on our playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.
Ishani – Powertripp
After a year-long hiatus, India and UK raised, London-based artist Ishani releases her new fascinating single “Powertripp.” The song unfolds slowly and tenderly like you might pluck petals from a plum, lush peony, one by one, admiring the flower’s beauty and enjoying its luscious scent. Asked about “Powertripp,” Ishani says:
This is a song about self-love and how you can overcome being in a toxic relationship where negative patterns repeat. You have to come to a point where you let go of the rope of that power struggle and choose yourself over the endless loops. Take off your mask and veil and walk away.
“Powertripp” is accompanied by a music video directed by Yolanda Barker and shot by Beatriz Delgado Mena, alongside an all-women base crew, which you can watch here.
Listen to “Powertripp,” our Song Pick of the Day:
Connect with Ishani here.
Jenny Bakke – He’s Too Famous Now
We dug Jenny Bakke‘s sound already when she made music under the moniker Helven and gladly featured her single “u my homie.” Now, the Liverpool-based Norwegian producer, songwriter, and musician releases new work under her real name but other than that, nothing has changed. Her sound is unique and edgy, with velvety vocals and a soothing, mellifluous production. As the title hints, the song reflects on a failed long-distance relationship and explores feelings of loss and sentimental bitterness, hence the track’s overall vibe is dark and whistful, yet utterly alluring.
Listen to “He’s Too Famous Now,” our Song Pick of the Day:
Connect with Jenny Bakke here.
Ellen Krauss – Tie Me Down
True love is hard to find, and sometimes you can be blinded by the obvious. That is the situation that Swedish singer/songwriter Ellen Krauss finds herself in her new song “Tie Me Down.” as she comes back again and again to the same person. However, the upbeat track comes with a light-heartedness that suggests that no hearts have been broken – yet.
“The song is about not wanting to commit to someone because you’re convinced you’ll find someone even better. But you still stick around just because it’s good and exciting. I wrote this song this fall, I was out and about, dating round and it was great but it was always like ‘she’s not you.’”
Listen to “Tie Me Down,” our Song Pick of the Day, on your favorite streaming service or below on SoundCloud:
Rose Gray – Promise Me
British pop singer/songwriter Rose Gray is on a roll, and there’s no stopping. Not only did her super catchy “Prettier Than You” make it into the FIFA 23 Official Soundtrack playlist, but she backed up the playlisting honor with the just released equally stunning and oh-so-irresistible “Promise Me.” When asked about the vibey track, Rose says:
“Promise Me” is about giving someone one more chance. I think you can hear my inner dilemma I’m having with myself. The production is my dream soundscape ravey anthemic bliss. Little nod to my Queen Donna Summers. Co- produced by Nick Sylvester (aka godmode) the king of cool LA house records. It’s a little more leftfield than some of my other records but a world in which I think is important to my project.
The song is accompanied by a vibrant music video shot on 16mm film and directed by frequent collaborator Rauri Cantelo, who says about the clip:
Highs and lows blur into an overstimulating sensory mush as she [Rose] reaches for a moment of clarity and a means of escape.
Listen to “Promise Me,” our Song Pick of the Day, and watch the video too:
Connect with Rose Gray here.
Una Rose – In The Garden Digging
“In The Garden Digging” – with that Montreal-based musician Una Rose means her mother, who picked up a new pastime during the pandemic isolation. But in the bigger picture, gardening can have a deeper meaning. This is what Una Rose muses about in this lighter, shimmering track. “I think that in gardening, writing, and loving, you’re creating something that exists outside yourself,” she says, and she has a point here.
“In the Garden Digging” is on Una’s ethereal debut EP Myth Between, out now. Listen to our Song Pick of the Day below:
Sam Himself – Mr. Rocknroll
It’s a very fine day when a song like “Mr. Rocknroll” drops. Add an aesthetically pleasing and entertaining music video, and your day is made. “Mr. Rocknroll” is the new, absolutely brilliant single by songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Sam Himself. When not touring, Sam can be found in his home country Switzerland or his chosen other home in Brooklyn, NY.
The beauty of “Mr. Rocknroll” lies in its catchy hook and irresistible vibe that draws you in from the very first beat and keeps you engaged throughout the song. Sam’s smooth baritone vocals possess just the right edge to lure you in and stay interested in what’s coming next. The song’s off to a grandiose start with a lyric like:
What doesn’t kill you
Might not get you outta bed
But would it kill you to brighten up
Just a tiny bit
But what pushes the song further into the territory of ‘genius’ is the actual music video, directed by Raya al Souliman, filmed by Horatiu Sovaiala of Romanian-Swiss Carnation Studio, based on a script by Sam Himself and YVY founder Yvonne Reichmuth. It sees Sam prancing through an empty Zurich café, his reflection in the mirrors the only feedback he receives.
The video tells a visual story with a fantastic flow and could become the gold standard for being the only star in a music clip, plus some -admittedly- very sexy leather pants. We also get a vibe that sits somewhere between mid-80s Bruce Springsteen and early-80s Billy Idol, with Sam having the body and perfect dance moves to pull off what he set out to do. He makes this look real and convincing. Bravo!
Sam Himself announced the European leg of his tour in support of his upcoming album Never Let Me Go; pre-safe the album here. We don’t even need to wait until next year to see Sam Himself because he’s playing Brooklyn’s Sultan Room on December 4th, hosted by Swiss label Taxi Gauche Records.
Watch the video for “Mr. Rocknroll,” and enjoy our Song Pick of the Day:
Connect with Sam Himself here.
Abbie Ozard – ford (drive)
Manchester-based indie pop musician Abbie Ozard loves driving. In “True Romance” two years ago it was a symbol for never-ending freedom. Her new song, “ford (drive),” is about being driven around by someone special and listening to music together – which indeed comes with a special kind of intimacy.
“I wrote this song before I passed my driving test this year, and I thrived off being a passenger in the front seat of the car. ‘ford (drive)’ is subjectively a love song but with a twist of angst (a recurring theme I seem to have in most of my songs).”
Abbie Ozard will be on tour in the UK this winter. Listen to “ford (drive),” our Song Pick of the Day, on your favorite streaming service or watch the video directed by Charlotte Rudd below:
Two years ago, “Angels” by Beirut-based indie rock four-piece Sandmoon was one of my top ten favorite tracks of the year. Now the band offers eight new thoughtful and carefully crafted songs on their third full-length album While We Watch the Horizon Sinking.
Listen to the album below and meet Sandmoon singer and songwriter Sandra Arslanian in our Q&A below:
When did you start with songwriting, and who was your first inspiration?
When i was around 12 or 13, i used to write melodies on the piano, taking a break from Mozart menuets or Bach : )
My first musical love was Prince. Not sure if he really was an influence though. There was a mix of inspiration from Dylan to protestant hymns (like Amazing Grace), Suzanne Vega to Armenian folk songs, Radiohead to Bach.
You are the main songwriter of Sandmoon. Is the song fully finished when you present it to the other band members or do you develop it together at some point?
The song as in guitar/vocals or piano/vocals, its structure and chord progressions are pretty final. However, there is always room for improvement, especially when you are surrounded by great musicians (Sam Wehbi, Georgy Flouty, Dani Shukri), it’s exciting to push the songs further, add the other band members’ ideas, touch, nuances; each one bringing the expertise of the instrument he masters. And ultimately, the producer’s (Marwan Tohme) vision and arrangements.
Your videos are often like artistic short films. Do you already have a visual idea in mind when writing a song?
Songwriting happens spontaneously, automatically. It just comes out. I play a few chords, one word follows the other without too much thought or images. It’s an expression of what spirals within i guess. Visuals don’t come to mind, only emotions come to the surface.
I prefer working with filmmakers and let them visualize what they hear. I sometimes give them some direction or brainstorm with them, but I prefer to let them develop the full idea.
The first single “Wake Up” of Sandmoon’s new album While We Watch the Horizon Sinking is more synth-heavy than your other songs. How did it come to this?
Wake Up was written on the piano, like Silent Leaders. It had been a while I hadn’t written on the piano. However, after discussing with the other band members, we decided to go for a synth-sound rather than an acoustic piano sound. We wanted it to be ‘modern’. Then, in the studio, we pushed it even further with the producer.
What can a new fan expect from While We Watch the Horizon Sinking?
It’s different from past albums we’ve released. There is a consistency, a smoothness throughout I find. To my ears, it sounds unexpected, novel. A painting of the past two years’ tornado that spiraled out in the world and even more so in Lebanon.
Please tell us a bit about the music scene in Beirut!
I don’t want to sound too nostalgic or grim. The indie music scene a few years ago was bursting with life, new bands were emerging; festivals, events, radio shows were a great support to channel all this creativity and bring it out to the audience. Like so many other aspects of our life here, things slowed down or came to a full stop due partly to Covid restrictions and to the socio-economic deterioration of the country. Many young people emigrated too. However, I prefer to finish on a C major note: I have the impression that things are re-emerging, coming back to life slowly – i hear of new bands, festivals and events doing a come-back, new venues…
Do you have plans for a tour?
We are currently planning on a small tour in Europe. Let’s see
What is next for Sandmoon?
There’s a new music video coming out in December, very festive, very happy. Different from the usual melancholy…
And hopefully many beautiful surprises in the new year…
Thank you, Sandra. The new album is a wonderful experience, and we cannot wait for your festive video!
On Our Turntable
Last Friday was a slow release day for us, but that gave us more time to enjoy the brilliant debut album “The Word” by London musician Liz Cass. This is smart and engaging pop music at its best.